Is Meditation for Dummies or for Wise People?

There was a time when meditation or no meditation was a serious question for me. I come from a Protestant background where in my view (which is admittedly biased) prayer was a practice of reciting important-sounding words. I struggled for years with the concept of prayer. It did not make sense to me that in church other people should pray on my behalf, but then I thought that was just me being the rebel again, and I kept quiet about it.

Outside of church I read books about prayer, and the prayers of other people. Still, there was this feeling inside of me that it is not quite right. Eventually I gave up on figuring out what prayer is about and just got on with life.

Of course I had conversations with God in my head, but none of the books that I read described these conversations as prayer. The conversations were also quite one-sided, because I told God what he/she needed to know about my life. Listening to God did not even cross my mind, because at the time I thought “If I cannot see God, then I also cannot hear God”. I intuitively knew that there must be something or someone out there, but the thought that this someone or something was able to actually speak to me was too far-fetched for me to accept.

You will agree with me that having a one-sided conversation is quite lonely, especially when you want reassurance in times of need and encouragement in challenging times. All the time I felt a need to confirm that there is someone on the “other side” that was hearing me.

I kept searching and was introduced to meditation. I tried it initially because it was not recommended in my culture – the church was there to take care of my religious needs and that should have been enough. However, sometimes the way to get me to do something is to put obstacles in my way – especially if the obstacles are based on fear and misconceptions that I can expose.

I found meditation to be quite an interesting experience. It definitely helped me to relax. I always felt calmer and more secure after meditating.

I was surprised when I discovered that meditation does not mean losing your consciousness. I had this perception that when you meditate you actually leave your body, only to discover that during meditation I am still fully in charge of the process. I could compare it to driving a familiar route every day. I know exactly where to slow down, where to turn, how long it will take me to get to my destination, and I simply drive.

If you show me detail pictures of buildings or other landmarks along the route, I might not be able to recognise them, even if I have travelled the same route every day for a year. The reason for this would be that I in fact go into a meditative state while driving when the route becomes familiar, and my mind gets occupied with other things like planning my day or having a conversation with a passenger.

The same happens during meditation. This is because meditation is an inner journey. I still remain in charge of the route, and I can return to “reality” any time I want to.

I initially found that guided meditations work much easier for me. Meditation requires a still mind, but at the same time meditation stills the mind. Getting the balance right is not so simple when your life is in turmoil or when finding a quiet place to meditate in a busy household is a challenge.

Saying to yourself that you must clear your mind of all thoughts so that a meditation can be successful is like saying to yourself that now is not a good time to think of a yellow elephant. Guess what picture just popped into your mind? Yes – the same happens when you focus on having no thoughts in your mind. Suddenly all the thoughts tumble into your mind.

This is where guided meditations made a huge difference to me. Rather than focusing on clearing my mind, I was able to focus on the guided meditation. As a result I experienced the benefits of meditation much sooner.

Before I got to understand that I create my own reality and my own future, I experienced fear, anxiety and even depression. These also disappeared with meditation.

Probably the biggest surprise for me was to discover that while in a meditative state I have access to images, thoughts and information that made a massive positive difference to my life. Initially I thought that these images, thoughts and bits of information are just my imagination, and I was surprised at how active my imagination was.

But then I discovered that what I received during meditation somehow had a either a direct or a subtle link to what I experienced when I was not meditating. I tried to ask questions while I was “awake”, and found that I received very interesting answers while I was meditating.

Eventually I realised that meditation is probably a form of prayer – but meditation is about listening rather than about talking.

I am still working on this, but I think that prayer is a way of asking, whereas meditation is a way of getting answers. This definition works for me, because I get many answers during meditation – and it works even better when I first ask the questions and then do my meditation.

Not all the answers come during meditation. I have discovered that there are more coincidences and more synchronicity in my “waking” life, and often things just happen around me that make me feel “yes – there is another answer”.

The fears, anxieties and depressive feelings have disappeared, and instead I am much more at peace with myself, especially during uncertain times. And I believe that I have found a way of listening to God. It is quite comforting to know that my communication with God is no longer one-sided.

I have decided to use my experiences and provide guided meditations to other people who may want to try meditation but are not sure how to do it. I still benefit even from recording the guided meditations. Every time I do a meditation, I feel more in control of my life and my thoughts.

An link to an example of a guided meditation, as well as guidelines on how to practise meditation, is available on my purple blog.

I wish you a lovely journey, and trust that you will benefit from meditation as much as I do.

Elsabe Smit is the author of http://www.newspirituallife.com for downloadable guided meditations, and of the blog http://www.mypurpleblog.com , Spiritual interpretations of everyday life.

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