I’ve often heard that meditation should be a source of joy (and that if it isn’t, we should try a different way), but it has often felt like a ‘have to’, a duty, something that is good for you but you might not really want to do – like eating vegetables you don’t really like as a kid.
Now it occurred to me this morning that there actually are quite a few meditations, or ‘present moment practices’, which I do really enjoy, so I’m just going to do those and enjoy them (and forget anything meditatively arduous or complicated!)
1. Jin Shin Jyutsu – a sort of Japanese acupuncture using your own hands (no needles) which I came across maybe a decade ago and have done on and off over the years. I particularly like the Main Central Flow and do it once or twice a day at the moment lying on the bed (often before getting up). It’s a lovely bit of rest and recuperation and I have no doubt that it is good for me. (If you try this flow, remember to keep your right hand on the top of your head all the way through until the final step when it moves down – observing the body’s pulsations is quite interesting!)
2. The first four exercises of mindful breathing, as described perfectly in this audio (or video version here). I use these as a deep relaxation to remove tension from the whole body. Can be done over a 10 or 20 minute period lying down, or a brief version standing at the kitchen sink! Also very customisable, you can alter the steps as you like, or try variations like this one (shorter video, see full notes below the video).
3. 10 minute sitting meditation – sit (in my case on a chair), close your eyes, follow your breath, observe where your mind wanders (and learn a lot about it in the process!)… come back to the breath again when it wanders… continue… This is very recent, I’ll see if it lasts. Also can be done anywhere. Very resting.
4. Simply looking at, or listening to, nature – a tree, a garden, birdsong, even just observing the sounds of the house. A few minutes at a time.
5. Listening to calming music with careful quiet attention. The other day, lying down, listening to Bach’s Cello Suites, led to pure, relaxed joy!
6. Walking meditation. Can be done pacing the house. Or outside. A version I like is to move the glance from one beautiful thing to another with each breath (or few breaths) as I walk – so, a nice walk looking at beautiful things! Sometimes I just pace, counting 8 paces at a time, and a lovely, calming rhythm develops.
7. Drawing, playing the piano (improvising with very little actual knowledge!), making clay things with the kids. All calming and good.
Well, 7 things I enjoy that increase my presence and relax me – and I thought I wasn’t all that keen on meditation!
Two more things occur to me…
Firstly, that all of these are first of all about stopping, stopping the non-stop rush and input, which is already a great achievement.
Secondly, this is a very personal thing. Buddha became enlightened when he gave up learning from the great masters of his day, saw he wasn’t getting where he wanted, and resolved to sit under a tree without moving until he found what he was looking for. He explored his own, personal path. And supposedly his last, dying words, were ‘Be a lamp unto thyself’ – find your own way.