You’ve probably been in a class where the teacher invites you to empty your mind and let your thoughts fall away in Savasana (Corpse Pose). As you lay on your mat, you let the chaos of the day remove itself from your mind. It’s so easy to do in the surroundings of the studio with the darkened room, with your body relaxed and your thoughts already quieted.
You may not have that kind of time to devote to meditation every day. Or you may find you can only commit to five minutes a day during the work week and longer, deeper sessions on the weekends. The point is, just do it. A meditation practice — however long or short — can become an island of calm in your day. It’s a place you know you can go regardless of what’s going on in your life to get grounded, to stop the noise, and to just enjoy “being.”
Meditating can seem daunting. Trying not to think isn’t as easy as it seems. But, there are a lot of ways to start. You can meditate on a mantra. You can picture an object or image. Or, if it does work for you, you can try to drain your mind of any extraneous thoughts, letting your mind rest on one concept. The metaphor teachers often use is to think of your mind as the surface of a placid lake. If a thought comes along, think of it as a ripple. Observe it, but let it go. Whenever there is a distraction — and there will be — just note it and return to that calm place.
If you feel like it’s easiest for you to use words to set your intentions, there are many chants and mantras to try, both in Sanskrit and in translation. You can try saying them out loud or silently. You might also, if you’re a music or literature buff, try meditating on lines from your favorite song or book to help create a centered place in your mind.
If you’re more attracted to visual focus points, trying to create a devotional atmosphere. You can visualize the image of a deity, especially if you feel you need empowerment. Meditating on an image of Shiva, for example, may be a useful tool to help you feel stronger and more able to clear the clutter in your own life. Or maybe you need the back-up of Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity who helps remove obstacles.
Maybe you’re looking for a less metaphysical approach. Remember, it’s all good. Only you know your objectives. So, if you are working toward a specific goal, see yourself in the process of doing what you’re just dreaming of. Say you are looking to change jobs -- picture yourself getting up and getting dressed for that job, doing the work, feeling satisfied at the end of the day. Or maybe you are in the middle of making over your physical self. Focus on a vision of yourself running or playing with your kids or grandkids. Then, as you meditate, engage your senses in that image — what does it feel like, what do you see, what do you hear? And, finally, release all sensory perception and just float. Yes, it’s fine to want to achieve something but you need to remember that life isn’t about metrics and numbers; it’s about doing/being what makes you happy and whole.
If you want to meditate without a fixed image or words in your mind, start by trying to bring yourself to a place of stillness. You don’t have to empty your mind of all thoughts, but do try to get rid of ones that stop you from relaxing or focusing on deeper issues. Worrying about the groceries won’t help you meditate. Maybe try visualizing ripping up your to-do list. Whatever method you choose, walk your mind down that corridor that leads away from stress, anxiety and striving toward a place you want for nothing — where just “being” becomes the ultimate pleasure. When you return from meditation to the awareness of your surroundings, it’s almost like coming out of a theater. You’ve lost sense of time and place — maybe the room is cold now or a storm has come and gone. But you feel energized, stimulated, totally alive.
How you meditate can be different every day. Your needs will set your meditation practice. Feel free to experiment with different ways of finding your mental center. There is no right or wrong here. Just do it.