I was listening to an audiobook that is a staple in my library now, “Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation” by Professor Mark W. Muesse Ph.D. The lecturer eloquently describes our exhibitionist media’s stereotypical image of a meditator: young, scantily dressed woman, on a beach or in a lush garden. He artfully explains this image makes meditation seem relaxing, easy, and fun. However, Muesse goes further to explain how polarizing this is–if you can’t sit criss-cross applesauce, if you’re not young and lithe, and if you’re not a sexy woman you may feel excluded from the club.
I’ve got news for you: meditation is not necessarily easy (in fact, at times it may be difficult). Furthermore, with an untrained body and mind there will be discomfort. But, like an athlete systematically trains for a marathon by consistently increasing their running on a weekly basis, a consistent practice will unfold in the ability to sit, reasonably comfortably, in meditation.
The Himalayan Tradition prescribes sitting in meditation four times a day! Yes, that may be daunting. Furthermore it may not be your reality. I have to maintain flexibility in my practice schedule. But, I sit every day!
The Yoga Sutras explain, if one wants Realization (if that is what you want), this requires committment. Realization is the greatest undertaking of a Human Life– it is not to be taken lightly. If you want to lower your blood pressure and zone out, then you should meditate sporadically.
All the Masters prescribe a relationship with The Silence, from Jesus to The Buddha. So I guess the real question, before we determine why so many people don’t meditate regularly–is, what do you really want?
Classically, in Raja-Yoga (the path described in the Yoga Sutras), one does not start with meditation. One begins with getting their house in order.
Perhaps you attracted to the idea of meditation, as stated it is recommended by The Best. But, you don’t know what you want for your life. Perhaps, you don’t have a goal. The aforementioned runner does not only hit the road to prepare for a marathon (meditation), they also use weights, they stretch, and they modify their nutrition. The Himalayan Tradition affords adjunctive practices to prepare and enhance meditation. One such practice is internal dialogue (atma vichara).
Internal dialogue is just that: having a two-way conversation with the mind. Don’t let that seem schizy to you– we do it all the time. Sometimes it is more that a two-way conversation– Muesse describes it as a committee meeting! Internal dialogue is a practice which allows you get to know your own mind, to befriend it, to learn your true deepest desires, and to have a goal for your life.
If you’re already meditating, but not using atma vichara consider adding it to bolster your practice. If you’re meditating inconsistently, understand your level of effort will yield fruit accordingly. If you haven’t begun a meditation practice, and you feel an aversion or hesitation, start with atma vichara (internal dialogue) to learn why.
Then meditate, meditate, meditate. As my beloved Swami J says, “May your meditation today bring you peace, happiness and bliss…“.
P.S. USE THE LINKS IN THE ARTICLE TO DEEPEN YOUR UNDERSTANDING!!! LOOK AT THE GUIDED PRACTICES CATEGORY FOR MORE ASSISTANCE.