Meditation 24/7: Practices to Enlighten Every Moment of Your Day
Selections from the INTRODUCTION to Meditation 24/7: Practices to Enlighten Every Moment of Your Day
• Awakening from a deep sleep and lingering in that blissful state before getting up.
• Drinking your morning tea or coffee with intense pleasure, as if it were an elixir of life.
• Hugging someone you love with fervor, as you would after a long separation, even if it’s only been a few hours.
• Walking and feeling the simple joy of movement as you stride along.
• Eating a simple meal and taking great delight in each bite.
• Being aware of all the people you love, and feeling your heart melt into openness.
• Lying down and relaxing so deeply that in a few minutes you are rested, refreshed and ready for action.
Sound familiar? These experiences are accessible to anyone, in the course of an ordinary day. When we take an ordinary moment and pay extraordinary attention, magic happens. It's these magical moments that create a rich and meaningful life.
These experiences can often flash by without being appreciated. And yet these moment-by-moment happenings make up the texture of our lives. If we miss too many of them because we’re distracted, fatigued, or stressed, then later we may feel that we have missed out on our real life.
Extraordinary attention can be cultivated. We can learn to be open to what life is offering. When we practice giving full attention to the motions of life, this is meditation. You don’t have to go anywhere, or change yourself at all. You can start right here and now.
What is Meditation?
You might be surprised to hear that meditation is a built-in ability we all have. But it’s true, and you can do it. You are always breathing, for example. If you sit down, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath in a restful way, that is meditation.
Life is full of tiny pleasures: the feel of the sun on your cheeks; the sound of the wind; the color of the sky and trees; the expressions on the faces of the people around you; the smells of food cooking; the sensation in your heart when you see someone you love coming toward you. If you pause in the midst of any such experience, and give yourself over to appreciating it fully, you are entering the realm of meditation.
You can use any or all of your senses – touch, hearing, vision, smell, taste, and even your sense of balance. The more senses you use, the more sensual meditation will feel. It’s OK to enjoy it immensely.
Consider that meditation is the practice of falling in love with life. In love, we pay attention with heightened appreciation. We are open to experience and our heart is moved. Meditation is the process of intentionally cultivating our capacity to pay attention in this exquisite way. All the disciplines and techniques of meditation amount to cultivating what we do naturally when we are in love.
To practice meditation, select some quality of life you love, and restfully pay attention. When you love someone or something, you want to hang out, be with them, and give and receive appreciation. You want to be in the flow of give and take. Meditation is the restful, inward, accepting part of the give and take of love. The key to meditation is that you set things up so that you are restful. When you rest in loving attentiveness, the vibrating silence that’s underneath outer activity can emerge.
You can meditate on the simplest aspect of life, such as a breath. Each breath can seem like a great gift, the universe itself flowing into you and giving you life. When you do this, it is as if you draw energy out of each breath and each sensation, and any fatigue just drops away. In the space of a few minutes you are refreshed and ready to engage fully with life again.
Breath is, after all, one of the main ways that life is renewed in your body, moment-to-moment. You should be delighted that you are breathing. Spiritual people the world over say that breath is a gift from God, an immediate, ongoing, free gift of the Holy Spirit. Each breath of air you take is created by the entire ecosystem on Earth, including all the trees, plants in the oceans, and the sun that provide the energy for photosynthesis. Biologically speaking, breath is a gift from the whole world, the solar system, and all of creation.
Right now, for example, start to pay attention to the feeling of the breath flowing in through your nose, down into your chest and belly, and then turning to flow out again. Exhale with a quiet whoosh or soft sigh for ten or fifteen breaths, which is about a minute. You are on your way.
CHAPTER 2: PRACTICES
These meditations are designed to be done at certain periods around the clock, but feel free to adapt them to your own schedule. Start anywhere you want, and then add others when you are ready.
Many of the practices can be done whenever you like. Move It, for example, is placed in midmorning, but you can do it anytime you are walking or exercising. Likewise, the Feast Your Senses practice is featured at lunchtime, but of course it applies to breakfast and dinner as well.
When doing these meditations, take a casual, explorative attitude. Be curious, play with the practices, and find out how they can work best for you. Experiment with the length of time. Once you get the gist of a practice, you can feel the benefit in a minute or two. Conversely, you may find meditations that you love so much you want to extend them to a full 20 minutes. And then again, sometimes you may want to do only a part of the practice. There are no rules. Well, maybe one: enjoy yourself.
Some days you might even drift off to sleep and wake up very refreshed a few minutes later. If you get so tired that you fall asleep instantly, your brain will do its best to sort through your experience while you are asleep, through dreaming.
Have the general intention to accept your experience each day. Everyone is different, and every day is different. This means that each time you do a practice, your needs will lead you in a different direction and to new discoveries.
You will have a learning curve unlike anyone else. You may take to a meditation instantly and require very little instruction other than to give yourself the space to do it. Or you may want to just take one tiny step at a time.
Whatever your experience, call it a win. If you spend one minute just feeling yourself, good – that is a victory. If you fall asleep, good – you needed the rest. If you get absorbed in the process and attain enlightenment, that’s okay, too.
Whenever you approach any of these meditations, take the attitude, “I welcome all parts of myself. I welcome all of who I am into this space.”
When you meditate, it is like returning home, or seeing a friend after a long absence. You will spend a while just catching up with yourself. Anything you haven’t had time to feel – all the grief, anger, tension, fear, and also love, joy, and laughter – may come up. This is a healthy process. Whatever emotions come up, demanding to be felt, are already there inside you. Do not fear these experiences; learn to embrace them.
When you get quiet, you can hear the voice of your heart. You may be surprised by the intensity of your feelings. Meditating is sometimes almost like having a near-death experience, where your whole life flashes before your eyes. You become aware of unfinished business - longings unfulfilled, actions you regret, communications left unshared. You feel the disparity between your heart’s desire and what you have manifested so far.
You never know what you are going to get when you open the door to your inner self. Your most tender longings are right there, as is the depth of your love and your fear of feeling so much. All of us have some version of fear, ways in which we hide from the immensity and intensity of love. We need a space and time to let love gently transform our fears into excitement about life.
Meditation allows you a sense of relaxation underneath the excitement, a restfulness that supports and energizes you. In any given moment, you will feel the interplay of different desires – for example, the urge to jump up and take action, to go out and use your talents, along with the craving to rest, to give in to the fatigue that comes from using your nerves and muscles. You may long for more adventure, and simultaneously long for security.
This is the nature of meditation. It is through the play of these apparent opposites that your nervous system comes into balance and integration. There is a saying, "Opposites attract." They even love each other. Meditation is the quality of attention that allows your inner opposites to come into relationship and work toward consummating a marriage. Here are a few you may experience:
Closed Eyes Open senses
The peacefulness of meditation does not come by editing or trying to numb yourself out. It comes from including and embracing all of who you are.
Meditative experiences are ever-changing, a total emotional symphony that is never really repeated. Similar themes may come back again and again, but what happens moment-to-moment is always varied. The essential skill of meditation is accepting and cooperating with this process. Inner peace, it turns out, takes some getting used to! So when you are exploring these practices, remember to:
Welcome your yearning and longing.
Welcome your worries and woes.
Welcome your plans.
Welcome your pains and fatigue.
Welcome your jumpiness and speedy thoughts.
Welcome any anger or hurt you feel.
Welcome falling asleep if that happens.
Fill Your Cup Practice
When: Drinking your morning beverage.
Where: A spot that feels safe, peaceful, inspiring, soothing, or beautiful. If possible, sit where you can see the trees outside.
Position: Sit comfortably in a relaxed attitude. You can place your feet on the floor, or curl your legs up – whatever is most natural to you.
Time: 5 minutes.
In this meditation, enjoy your regular morning tea, juice or coffee with an extra bit of awareness.
Get comfortable, holding your cup. Notice its shape and weight, its temperature against the skin of your hands.
Bring the cup closer to your face. Inhale the scent for a couple of breaths. Notice that even the smell can be nourishing and stimulating. If the liquid is warm, you will be able to feel steam rising as you inhale.
Take a few sips, savoring. See how much pleasure you can take in the aroma and taste. Hold the liquid for a second in your mouth. Let it roll around your tongue before swallowing. As you drink, notice the sensations of gratitude in your body and heart.
Give yourself great leisure. Sip and pause, then take another sip.
As you continue drinking, sense the symbolism of taking in this liquid. You are receiving life-sustaining elements into your body and heart. Now think about the day ahead. What quality of energy do you need today? What kind of alertness do you want to manifest?
Choose a word, such as love, peace, harmony, power, wisdom, clarity, joy, or balance.
Breathe with your word. Meditate on its essence.
Hold your cup in your hands and say your focus word softly. Your word has a particular physical and emotional tone. With every sip imagine you are drinking in that quality.
Listen to Fill Your Cup
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