Archives for the month of: October, 2012

The Inner Roommate is the second chapter title from a great book on meditation I just started, recommended by an acquaintance at a dinner party, called The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.  I was inspired to read it because this lovely woman who doesn’t meditate and has expressed how much she would like to but how hard it is said this book really spoke to her, described her and made sense to her.  This to me is the ultimate in teaching meditation, to make sense to the very people who need it the most, everyday folks like us whose lives are crammed with activity, plans for more activities and memories of activities past.  This is not another book of ancient philosophies that requires translation to begin to read let alone understand, it is modern day meditation to soothe the ordinary soul.

This chapter especially jumped out at me, as I love to think of the mind as if we are carrying around another head, a two-headed monster, a siamese twin that won’t leave us alone.  This chapter describes the busy always-chattering mind as a sort of “inner roommate”.  Imagine, it goes on to say, if your mind was an actual person and everywhere you went, everything you did it was constantly following you around and talking.  This would get tiresome to say the least, especially if you were trying to take a bath or watch a movie or get some work done!!  This is a truly brilliant metaphor as it tells us that if we imagine this incessant chatter lives outside of our present experience that we might simply tell it to be quiet or to kindly leave us alone.

It reminds us that we have a CHOICE!!!  This is the root of meditation for me, knowing that I always have a choice about how many thoughts (chattering inner roommates that follow me around) I will allow at any given time and whether or not to listen to them, believe them, and define my life by them.

The Practice:

Find a nice quiet comfortable place to sit for a little while, if this is impossible, than find the next best thing, perhaps locked in your car in the driveway!

Take three deep inhales, exhaling through the mouth like you are blowing on a candle.  Let the breath become a little longer with each exhale as you feel yourself begin to slow down.

Begin to breathe deeply through the nostrils at first and then allow yourself to settle into the gentle natural flow of breath in and out of the nose.  Feel your body settle in to the space around you, letting the muscles soften around the bones.  Lengthen the spine, lower the chin slightly and let the neck and shoulders grow soft and relaxed.

As you continue to breathe become aware (or at least try to imagine)  that you are sitting in a quiet place, there is no music, no TV, the lighting is perfect, and you are very comfortable where you are.

Give yourself permission to rest there, to be present and quiet and listen to the soft rhythm of your breath.  When your “inner roommate” enters the room and starts talking, you notice how your body becomes tense and you lose the sense of rest and the peacefulness of being present.  Take a deep breath in and out of the nose, tell the roommate to be quiet, that you will chat later, and return to your awareness of the quiet room around you, the way your body feels and the soft flow of your breath.  Keep practicing, after awhile your chatty inner roommate will get bored with the silence and go find somewhere else to play!

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Hoarding the Stuff of Life – We are hoarders of experience, thoughts, ideas, past and future concerns and are in serious need of an intervention!!

Imagine when we were born we each had a vast and open mind, like a big empty storage space. No worries or thoughts crowded our existence and we experienced everything we sensed and saw and tasted without comment or criticism, feeling good made us smile and feeling discomfort made us cry. But it was all transient, impermanent. Then we got reactions from those around us, we were taught language and judgment and felt fear. Then all the layers of experience began to get stored there and all we could do was distract ourselves from it by getting busier, working harder, complicating things more so we didn’t have to notice the enormous pressure and stress building up in the storage space until every nook and cranny was overflowing with the stuff of life.

Meditation is a process of emptying the storage, throwing out what is no longer relevant, processing something of use and passing on something that would better serve others. It is the process of letting go of all the clutter with a little attention every day, creating a new healthy habit, like brushing your teeth. With a little practice we begin to see the actual organic empty space that has always been there. We can breathe in this space and linger a moment feeling good, lighter, comfortable…if only for a moment. Like all habits, they require repetition to stick and without attention and a little discipline we will accumulate and hoard again.

When we practice the simple act of sitting, taking our imagination inside we find a space in there that is completely empty, peaceful and open, it still exists underneath all the clutter. Out of habit we want to fill it, but with practice we can say no, not now, not yet, I like this space empty. We can begin to look around and empty some more, and if everyday we practice to empty a little bit of space where we can rest, the body and the mind begin to be soothed by it and like all our habits that make us feel good, we seek more and more of it! Maybe eventually we will be hoarders of peace!

Practice –
Try this practice for a few minutes before going to bed at night, imagine emptying out the stuff of the day and clearing your mind for a restful sleep.

Take three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth like you are blowing out a candle. Slowing each exhale down feeling your mind and body start to settle in.
Breathe now in and out of the nose and let the breath begin to soften, follow it with your imagination, saying, “inhale” to yourself as you breathe in and “exhale” to yourself as you breathe out. With each breath allow your body to relax, let go of tension and imagine that you are sitting comfortably in your storage room and your thoughts are lining up to be sorted through. You don’t have to DO anything but sit and breathe and observe as each one presents itself.
When a thought arises label it, “not now”, “throw out” etc. Allow it to move into the background or dissolve into space. Trust that the next thought, worry, concern will move into your awareness, look at it, breathe in, label it and let it go with the exhale. Actually imagine it floating away with each breath out and leaving only light empty space in its place.

Notice if you are in a rush to deal with each thought or if you can give yourself permission to rest in between, enjoy the empty space for an extra breath or two. Life is full and soon enough an experience will come rushing in to replace the ones you just threw out, so enjoy the space you are creating and know you can go there and rest anytime!