Step by Step Introduction to Meditation for Beginners
Holmes Place, has been working with the Sadvidya Foundation for quite some time now, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote people’s health and well-being. This is achieved by learning and using meditation techniques, and by leading a healthy lifestyle.
The word meditation, generally triggers a variety of thoughts and feelings. Some people have a certain sense of fascination and have already had their first experiences of meditation. On the other hand, there are other people who feel that this may well suit some people, but that it doesn’t fit with their own type of personality or lifestyle. So, who is meditation intended for? What exactly does it involve? The following introduction is designed to give beginners especially, a brief first impression of what meditation is, and how it relates to our lives.
Introduction to Meditation: The First Steps
The world of today, more or less forces us to adopt a fast-moving or even hectic lifestyle. From morning to night, we find ourselves in constant interaction with the world outside. Our job, our family, our relationships, we ourselves and our own health: all this requires our full attention. We try to deal with all the burning issues in our life, and we do that as best we can.
If we allowed more space for our reflectiveness and our curiosity, we would probably soon ask ourselves: Why do we behave like this, and why do we live like we actually do?
Why do we do our best to be successful at our work? Why do we pay the most attention to our children and their well-being? Why do we invest time in establishing and maintaining relationships with others? Why do we make the effort to train our bodies and to follow a healthy diet? Why is going on vacation and a sliver of free time so important to us? The list of questions, which might seem banal at first, can end up getting quite long.
Happiness – But Naturally
If we begin to try and establish the roots or the purpose of all our actions, then we automatically take the first steps towards understanding and finding out what and who we really are, and what human nature basically comprises. The answer to the many questions which arise in the process is amazingly simple: all of our many actions and initiatives serve our desire and our basic need for happiness. Think it over for a minute.
The health and happiness of our children, recognition at work, a raise in salary, a journey to a worthwhile destination, a film, a book, a workout, a meal, a romance, a day out in the countryside and many more things: these all serve our basic need for happiness. The world around us and even our current daily life definitely have something wonderful about them – in the sense that they are simply there every day, and offer us such an abundance of good things. Within this exterior richness, we find a variety of ways to satisfy our desires and meet our responsibilities. Assuming that our happiness depends on the fulfilment of our daily tasks and desires, we can move on now to describing the next step: the limits which apply to this assumption.
How can we achieve a lasting feeling of happiness?
You’re certainly all familiar with the feeling of ups and downs, or that something that was within our reach is suddenly not there anymore to make us happy. If this is the way things are, how on earth can we achieve a lasting and secure feeling of happiness and satisfaction? Before we continue with our investigation, we should pause for a moment to get to know and understand the nature of a very special tool, which is available to us as people: the human mind.
Our mind, which encompasses our intellect, our thoughts, desires, memories and feelings, can be equated with our brain for our purposes. With the help of this instrument, we are able to evaluate, to function, and altogether to experience the world. It is the spirit and its connection with the five senses with which we can rejoice in this world. We feel, react and understand: with our eyes and our visual perception, with our nose and its ability to register and take in smells and fragrances, with our ears and our aural perception, which enable us to take in words and sounds, with our mouth and tongue, which enable us to taste food, and on the other hand allow us to express ourselves, and finally with our body, which enables us to touch and feel.
The Mind of the Monkey
In order to understand the nature of our mind better, we’ll use a simple example. Nature often provides us with examples that reflect our inner self and therefore our true spirit. Many species of monkeys which inhabit tropical forests, find most of their food in the trees, and also sleep and relax there. So what is the nature of the monkey? You can often observe how these monkeys sit on a branch, look around in various directions, then reach out for a fruit, take a bite, drop it again, then hop onto another branch, look around, pick another fruit, chew on it for a while, and then throw it away again. This pattern of behavior is repeated until the creature gets tired.
Do you recognise the monkey’s behavior pattern in your own mind? In that, you skip from one thought to the next, without any recognizable logic or structure? In that, you “chew over” an idea and then move on to the next one? This is undoubtedly one of our characteristics. But why does our mind make us do this?
So that we can examine the subject more closely, let’s look at another example. When you visit the zoo, you see animals in captivity. Not always in open enclosures, but also in cages: gorillas, lions, bears … If you take the time to observe one particular animal, you’re bound to notice a definite pattern of behavior. The animal moves from one side of the cage to the other, touching the outside of the cage each time, until it gets tired of this. After a rest, the animal resumes this behavior pattern: moving from side to side and touching the cage’s sides in the process. The animal won’t stop doing this, even though it remains in captivity and is aware of the cage’s limits. It’s searching for something. It’s searching for freedom.
Meditation and the Waking State
So far, we’ve been able to understand man’s attempts and longings to be happy. We’ve also now identified the dependence on temporary interactions with the outside world, which are defined by the five senses.
Now we can begin to look into the uniqueness of our very own tool, the human mind, and also to recognize why we constantly seek happiness and search for the “fountainhead of happiness”.
Armed with this intellectual know-how, we can now focus on the basic concept of meditation. This is also the practical starting point for you as a beginner, to be able to learn how to meditate successfully.
Our basic quest for happiness and our interaction with the outside world take place in a natural, physical state of consciousness, the so-called “waking state”. During our waking hours, we fulfil our desires and attend to our duties, while perceiving the outside world constantly via our five senses. The waking state is when you walk, do sport, speak, laugh, read, write, think and relax, among many other activities.
Another natural state of consciousness, which we experience daily is the “dream phase”. This natural state enables us to experience a kind of peace and tranquillity, which is not possible in the waking state. And in this state, we can free our senses from the outer world and sustain them only in dreams, which leads to a deeper relaxation than is possible in the waking state. A third natural state, which we experience daily and which is most important our health, is “deep sleep”.
In this state, our senses practically come to a standstill. Profound peace, tranquillity and relaxation pervade our body and our mind. If we could attach electrodes to body and mind at the same time, and measure the level of happiness and regeneration during the waking state, the dream phase and deep sleep, the readings would be at their highest during deep sleep. However, there is one more state of existence! But it is not automatically accessible.
The Meditative State
This is the state in which you can reach the highest levels of happiness, satisfaction, regeneration and health which are humanly possible in this world. It is the meditative state – or as it is often also called – the transcendental state. If we could go back in time and visit certain parts of the planet, we would encounter people for whom this was a perfectly natural state, just as we experience the waking state, dream phase and deep sleep every day. On closer examination, this state is just as natural as the other three states, which have been more familiar to us until now, and an equally integral part of the human organism. Under ideal conditions, we would experience this state like a new-born baby which experiences the dream state and deep sleep after birth quite naturally.
“If that’s the case”, you might ask, “why don’t we experience it?” The answer is quite simple.
Charles Darwin explains it by referring to the use or non-use of organs: if we don’t use our limbs or organs for years they lose their ability to function, and eventually wither away. This special fourth state of consciousness lies dormant within us, but it has been neglected for a long time.
For many generations, from birth until death, we have neglected to invite this special guest into our lives. The transcendental state, is part of our being and just as natural as the other three states of consciousness. It simply requires the right conditions and the right kind of assistance, so that it can re-emerge and take up its old position once more. In the same way that we look after guests in our daily life, we have to give it the attention it is due.
Your powers of concentration increase during meditation, so that your mind can separate itself completely from the outer world, while the five senses come to rest and you experience a feeling of happiness rising up from within. You can soon experience this inner feeling of happiness, after you learn how to meditate. This creates another level of happiness, which knows no bounds and is not connected to any person, action or material thing from the outer world. A whole new world opens up for beginners when they begin meditating, which has a lasting and positive effect on both, body and soul.