The Art of Meditation – Exploring the Landscape
Meditation is one of those things we all know we should probably start doing at some point in our lives. We have read about it, likely been told by a well-meaning yoga friend it would be good for us, maybe even tried it a couple of times, but if you are anything like me, you don’t do it often enough. Having said that, I have meditated a fair amount in my life. It has not always been so, and even as I write this, I have let my practice slip in the last week. I wanted to write a series, not about how to meditate, but about the art of meditation, of taking time to find meditative moments in our days and to understand better how meditation can be used for health, creativity and peace of mind.
I first started exploring meditation about 25 years ago. As a teenager, I was predictably wild, yet was constantly on the search for deeper meaning. I would sit and stare into space, question reality and read about consciousness. I was exploring books such as Illusions, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and the work of Edgar Cayce. All these teachings alluded to accessing unseen energy, controlling our thoughts, emptying our minds and contacting our inner self.
I discovered yoga in my twenties and that set me on a more structured path of meditation but it never came easily even though I tried it every now and again. Somehow partying was higher on my list of things to do. Had I have known the benefits of a calm mind back then, I may have avoided a few anguishing situations. Even my educational psychologist at University recommended I meditate before I begin each new task. This was his method of clearing and focusing the mind and was good advice I didn’t take often enough.
Growing into a Practice
By the time I hit my thirties, I had moved into a more focused approach to yoga and meditation. I could see how it could benefit me, but I was always focused on enlightenment and the escape from samsara, our illusory world. Having read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, I sent off for the weekly lessons from his organisation. I dutifully read them each week, practicing daily. I even went to a Yogananda centre in London to attend a meditation workshop. The thing was, my focus was wrong. I was hoping to get somewhere that I never reached. I was doing all the things required, watching videos about creating reality, meditating as hard as I could and nothing was changing. My life was still full of pain, anguish, heartache and challenge.
Yet in amongst my personal whirlwinds, there was a great amount of learning, even if I couldn’t keep a regular practice, or focus my mind in the right way. I was still dealing with old trauma and emotional patterns from childhood. I think we all are in a way. One thing that really changed in me during this period of my life was the amount of time I put into self-discovery. My reading increased and I began studying Reiki and Munay-Ki. I completed my teaching qualification in Reiki at 33 years old – a year after a long-term relationship had broken down. In the same year, I also completed a tarot course and was initiated in the Rites of Munay-Ki, which are energetic transmissions that heal the wounds of the past.
Throughout this time, I explored various styles of meditation – a Reiki meditation called Hatsurei-Ho, meditations focused on love, guided meditations, Zen meditations, meditations to music, Kriyayoga meditations, Abraham-Hicks meditations. I was sporadic. Jumping from one thing to another. Sometimes sitting for five minutes, sometimes half an hour, then forgetting to meditate for weeks on end.
Looking back on that time, I can see that I was misunderstanding meditation and that misunderstanding kept causing me to stop. The expectation of a destination was the very thing that eluded and frustrated me. I have always been too harsh on myself and that judgement and criticism of myself, my creativity and my spiritual pursuits ultimately held me back from enjoying the simple joy of just relaxing into the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some amazing experiences with meditation, they were just few and far between. I kept missing the simplicity of giving the mind and body a little break. I kept missing the joy of breathing in the moment, flowing with all that surrounds me and accepting everything as it is for just that small moment in time.
Life back then seemed an all or nothing adventure. I was riding the wild waves of my emotions, either meditating every day or partying and playing music. I either had no time to do anything because I was too busy, or I made too much time and nothing happened. Needless to say, my art, music, creativity and emotional health suffered for it.
There are a few pitfalls in meditation that we must be aware of. Constantly wondering if we are doing it right, getting frustrated with the lack of results, expecting too much from the practice, or even entering into a pious ego-driven state of spiritual superiority. Knowing these pitfalls, we can step back a little, be more kind, and just enjoy moments of peace whenever they present themselves.
In the next part, I will explore what shifted me to relax a little, enjoy life more and meditate with a more balanced approach to life. I will also talk about how regular meditation has improved my emotional and physical health.
With much love
This blog series is inspired by Matt’s work with Freedom Scent, a company that makes meditations and lockets infused with essential oils for healing, relaxation and positive change. Matt and his wife have been helping to record different versions of the meditations and Matt is working on some future music for them.
Matt Rivers is a singer, songwriter, musician, poet, teacher and writer of words. He is passionate about rediscovering our inner creative flow, adding love and beauty to society and looking after our wonderful, amazing planet. If you are interested in attending one of his Soul Writing sessions check out the workshop page.
Grab a copy of his new book Note to Self: Writing to Reveal Your Soul exclusively on Amazon Kindle.