Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Two Kinds of No-Ohm Meditation
For a civilization as advanced as this one, we certainly have lost a lot of great ideals, practices, and ideas. One of the reasons that we keep losing ideas as a society is that each generation has to re-learn everything that the first one learned--then retain something new. One very precious practice that’s all but forgotten is meditation.
I’m not talking about sitting on a lotus blossom in the middle of a stone garden, legs crossed, repeating “Ohm” over and over for hours. As it turns out, there are at least two distinct kinds of meditation--both are extremely beneficial for stress management, mental exercise, and regaining perspective.
We push our minds every day to think a billion things--sometimes all at once. After a while, my mind is an endless hurricane of random, distracting, unhelpful thoughts. The first kind of meditation is somewhat related to the cross-legged “Ohm”-sayers. What they’re doing is clearing their minds of thought by concentrating on something simple--like steady breathing, the repeated “ohm” sound, or staring at a candle flame. The first 10 seconds are easy, but as attention drifts, all the other thoughts come blustering back in. It’s hard to focus on only a candle flame for 10 minutes, but the more often you do it the easier it is to bring your mind to a quiet place of peace instead of having to constantly distract yourself from the hurricane between your ears.
Here’s how to peace-meditate: Find a place where you won’t be distracted--I’m distracted by random noises, people, and technology. Unfortunately for me, that leaves my living room before anyone in the house is awake. Set a pleasant sounding alarm for yourself so you won’t be checking the clock. Get comfortable, but not comfortable enough to fall asleep--that means no laying down or back support for me. Close your eyes and take a few deep slow breaths. Focus on the one thing and discard all other thoughts. I focus on a mental image of a candle flame--I’m still a little weirded out by the “ohm” thing, but whatever works for you. Be patient with yourself--it will take time to focus for an extended time. When the alarm goes off, take a few more deep breaths and open your eyes.
With the internet at our fingertips, there is very little need to do deep thinking on our own. When we have a question--any question--we just type it into google and browse the top two or three most popular answers. We leave the hard stuff for the politicians, philosophers, theologians, and bloggers. The second kind of meditation isn’t for clearing the mind but focusing it. Focus on a simple phrase, truth, or idea and think about it from all directions. Is it true in all circumstances? If so, does it effect how I should interact with the world? Take it to the extremes and then remember moderation. Be sure to keep the same focus--it’s hard to keep from wandering off into the daily to-do list or what’s on tv Thursday. Focus is such a lost art, let’s get it back.
Here’s how to focus-meditate: Find a short phrase that you want to explore--I use the words of Jesus or the proverbs of ancient kings. Go to that place without distractions, set your alarm, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Consider who the phrase was spoken to. How does it apply to government, family, work, friends, money? Do I live it out, should I? How would things be different if everyone lived this out? How would my life be different if I lived it? When the alarm goes off, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes. It would probably be useful to write down your thoughts.
Like I said earlier, it’s not easy. It’s frustrating. Why should it be so hard to clear my mind for 5 minutes--but I can’t make it past 30 before I fall asleep or catch myself thinking about how awesome it would be if I had a flying suit. Be patient, take a deep breath. It’s hard to focus on a thought and consider the full ramifications without jumping to what’s for dinner or that email I forgot to reply to. But peace, clarity, and focus are totally worth it.