Sitting twisted like a pretzel, humming OM

For many people, meditation is something that half-naked gurus do while sitting twisted up like a pretzel, humming OM, and it all seems just too hard. I have had lots of fellow pilgrims say to me that they tried meditation but “it didn’t work” or that they just couldn’t find the time in their busy lives to take a half an hour out of the day to sit and “do nothing.” Well, this one sentence reveals just so many common misunderstandings about meditation that it’ll take a lot of blog entries to address them all! Over the coming weeks I’d like to look at just a few of them and see how we go from there.

For a start, in our Western society we are very goal-oriented and have a very outcomes-based way of thinking; that is, we set a goal and we have a clear idea of how to go about achieving that goal and how we will recognise it once we’ve achieved it. So let’s say we set out to “do meditation”, what does that suggest to you? For many, it means finding half an hour a day to sit in full lotus position, forcing your mind to “think of nothing,” and you’ll know that you’ve succeeded when your mind goes completely blank and you can still get up and walk after half an hour in pretzel mode. Well I suppose if you did yoga for hours every day and you lived in a remote cave where you wouldn’t ever be disturbed and you practiced like that for about twenty years… then, yes, I guess it’s possible.

But what about the rest of us who have tendons like piano wires and spend our waking hours rushing from home into the car to work and home again and grabbing kids and meals on the way before crashing in front of the TV exhausted? What about Mums who have the 24/7 job of taking care of the kids? Sure, I could say to you, “You must nurture yourself… take half an hour every day that is just time for you… just tell the kids, ‘Mummy’s going to take some time out’, and close the bedroom door, light a scented candle and sit quietly for 30 minutes practicing meditation.” In your dreams! No sooner will you have lit the candle and you’ll hear a knocking on the door, “Mum…. Mum….. MUUUUUUMMM!!!” It’s so unrealistic! So does that mean that meditation really is just for single yoga freaks and mung beans?

Of course not! I can’t even sit cross-legged on the floor for five minutes without the pain becoming the dominant sensation (and I don’t believe pain is necessary for any spiritual practice – more on that later). And although I have managed over the years to build up the time I can sit quietly in meditation, I am basically a Type A person and this path has been very challenging for me. So over the years, the way I teach meditation has changed as well, and now I believe that you can get just as much benefit from a one-minute meditation as you can from half an hour. And it is this one-minute meditation that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few blogs.

However, in the meantime, I do have a thirty-minute guided meditation with beautiful shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) accompaniment that I recorded in a studio some years ago, which I am happy to send you via an email attachment. It is a big file though – 26MB – so please ensure that your email can receive it. You can learn more about this deep relaxation meditation on the Guided Meditation page.

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