Guest blog by Jim Barrett – Serenity Community Member
We Sit because it is what we do.
We Sit without thought of goal or gain.
This is the beginning of my morning meditation and has been for longer than I can remember.
This is the Way I was taught, many years ago. Meditation is something I do because I am a meditator. It requires no other justification. I am a meditator for reasons even I don’t understand. I know only that it is a part of me. It is what I do.
However, while this attitude is wonderful and embraces meditation as a pure practice, the fact of the matter is that my Way is not the only Way and many people would like to have a reason, a goal if you will, for doing something on a daily basis. Even if the reason for Sitting is simply to enrich the spiritual aspect of one’s life, many people feel that if they invest several hours a week in a practice they should get something more out of it.
And, yes, even as I speak the words, I understand that if I have no other purpose my meditation completes me and that is a goal and/or gain.
So, let us move from the ideal to the practical.
True meditation, on a regular basis, often brings insight, patience, and balance to one’s life. Just sitting quietly in the Now can cause one to see and feel things in ways that most non-introspective people don’t understand.
When we have made that connection between our conscious and sub-conscious mind by using meditation there are many places we can go and things we can do with this connection.
After the phrases mentioned above my meditation turns to my affirmations, those things I wish to emphasize in my daily life. Experience has taught me that affirmations should typically be short and positive in their wording:
“I live a life of kindness and compassion.”
“I recognize and accept that all creatures wish to experience happiness and avoid suffering.”
“I enjoy making healthy choices.”
Affirmations of this nature can remind you of what you want your life to look like and when you start or end your day with these positive statements they often stay with you as you move out of the zendo and into your world.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of reacting with anger and outrage, your remembrance of the fact that you live a life of kindness and compassion is an antidote for the negative emotions you might otherwise feel.
When faced with the unexplained actions of someone close to you, remembering that all creatures wish to experience happiness and avoid suffering might help you in your search for the true context of the actions that puzzle you.
If, when ordering food in a restaurant, you are reminded that you enjoy making healthy choices, it becomes easy to order a salad rather than a burger. It’s been my experience that if I’m going to argue with myself about such a choice I might just as well make a good choice, and even if I choose the burger I’m doing it mindfully and the next time I will most likely make a good choice simply because I’m aware of what I’m doing and know that making healthy choices is better for me.
And so, after a while, the affirmations become a part of you.
You don’t have to try to live a life of kindness and compassion, it just happens. And when you engage in thoughts or activities that don’t reflect this pattern you recognize it and realize that you are acting in a manner that is not normal for you. This often leads one to contemplate, perhaps in the next meditation session, why you reacted in such a manner and, when coupled with the gentle persistence we use in meditation, could allow you to identify a larger issue or situation that might need to be dealt with.
There are many sources for meditations that use a variety of affirmations. The easiest is your own mind. Decide what your affirmations will be and recite them to yourself on a daily basis during your meditation. If your desired affirmations are common you might be able to find a generic meditation recording that will allow you to absorb them as you listen. If your affirmations are unique to you or your situation you might wish to find someone who can make a recording that is tailored to your specific needs.
When I craft a custom meditation for a client I always start with an interview, either in person, by phone, or via email. Questions are asked in order to understand what the client wishes to accomplish with their meditation. I am also searching for phrases, attitudes or experiences that will help me craft the message in a way that makes the most positive connection possible. I explore when and how the client meditates, including what they are usually doing both before and after Sitting.
Once this interview is completed I create a recording that is specific to the information gathered. A custom meditation typically has three components: the affirmations, background sounds, and brain entrainment beats.
Affirmations have been discussed and often the client provides some or all of the affirmations, they need only be tweaked to place them in a short, positive manner. While affirmations can be made sub-audible, or subliminal, recordings provided by my label, Indigo Sangha, usually have audible vocals
Background sounds, usually nature or environmental sounds, are crafted to help the listener relax and connect with themselves in a comfortable manner.
Brain entrainment beats are designed to help the meditator move into a receptive frame of mind, usually leading them to a mental state that helps make the connection between the conscious and subconscious mind. If one meditates in the morning, after hearing the affirmations, the mind might then be led to an active, engaged state. If meditation is done at night, before bedtime, the mind might be led, instead, to a sleep or pre-sleep state. Entrainment beats can be audible or sub-audible and their construction is determined by information gathered in the initial interview.
It should be noted that this process only suggests to the brain that it go into these states. It is still necessary that one be receptive to the entrainment and a proper time and place should be provided. Entrainment beat recordings should never be listened to while driving a car or operating machinery.
Whether one uses generic or custom meditation recordings the technology should always be seen as an aid to our Way and not a substitute for proper practice or contemplation. Even with the use of this remarkable technology one should still remember that the process of being mindfully in the Now is what separates meditation from all other activities.
Jim – Serenity Community Member