Meditation - The Pathway to Presence
There’s a gift waiting for you.
This gift will allow you to find out who you are.
Not who you think you are. The real you. Beneath your name, your job, your family and your bank account. Behind all the labels which your peers, friends and society have assigned to you.
The real you is untouched by your past or your future. It is free from the taint of any belief-systems or ideologies.
You may perceive these things as being you, but they are not. They are merely constructs of your ego. False selves which fade into insignificance in the light of the real you.
Before I tell you how to claim this gift, let me give you a bit of background.
“CONTENTMENT IS THE ONE TRUE WEALTH”
I truly believe that if we trace the root of all our desires, that at the heart of every one of them we will find the longing for contentment.
Money is a prime example. Nobody wants money for money’s sake. They want the contentment they believethe acquisition of money will bring. The same can be said of relationships, power or any other yearning.
As far back as I can remember, I was a person who was discontented, constantly seeking and never satisfied.
I instinctively felt that something was missing from my human experience. “There must be more to it than this?” was a constant and unrelenting thought, and discovering what that ‘more’ was become one of the primary driving forces of my life.
I followed the path of study and research, reading hundreds of books on arcane and contemporary belief systems, psychology, anthropology and countless other fields.
I tried distraction. At various times I’d attempt to lose myself in hard exercise, hobbies, sex, work, relationships and innumerable other diversions.
I’ve been down the experiential route. I’ve dabbled with mind-altering drugs, travelled a lot of the world and fought in martial arts competitions in front of thousands of people. I’ve acquired in-depth, first-hand knowledge of social dynamics, business and several other aspects of the human experience too bizarre to even mention.
Exploring these manifold paths was rewarding in its own right. I had many interesting experiences and learned much along the way. But although some of them seemed to provide glimpses of the peace I was searching for, none of them provided any lasting contentment.
“IF YOU DON’T GO WITHIN, YOU GO WITHOUT”
When I was in my early twenties, a mentor of mine gave me the following advice: “Nic, for one month try sitting quietly for five minutes each day.”
I considered it but lacked the discipline or concentration to attempt it. After a short while I forgot his advice and continued searching for understanding through various other avenues.
Finally, certain circumstances in my life led to me a point where I realised that my mind was hurting me far more than it was helping me. Out of sheer desperation, I began to sit alone in the dark for a few minutes each night before bed, trying to alleviate the torment my thoughts were inflicting upon me. Today, I consider that the single most important decision of my life.
Somehow, I found the discipline to continue this quiet ritual for a couple of weeks. Towards the end of one of these sessions, something unusual happened. Everything became silent. The mental chatter I’d been hearing my whole life ceased completely and I felt true peace for the first time. It only lasted an instant, but I’d seen through a window into a new way of being.
In that moment I finally understood that true joy is not something that you can get from a person, an achievement or a possession. It’s something that comes when you discover your connection to the source of all life. When you cut all distractions and touch the eternal void from which everything came, and to which everything shall return, then and only then will you know peace.
Meditation freed me from searching for answers from the outside. Instead, I had discovered what I had lookedfor by going within.
THE INSATIABLE MIND
For many, the mind does not stop. It’s is constantly engaged, analysing and judging – never allowing its owner any rest. The mind always looks ‘outside’ for love and fulfilment – through money, sex, achievement and even knowledge.
The distraction precipitated by the modern world compounds the problem. We are constantly bombarded with information, rapid change and noise. If you want an example of this, just watch television for a few minutes. Notice how the image changes, on average, every 4 seconds.
And dissatisfaction is the nature of the mind. It always wants more. How many people do you know who have the things that you want and are still completely miserable? When they do finally acquire the objects of theirdesire they are often left with a tragic hollowness, as what they had grasped for did not bring them the fulfilment which it had seemed to promise.
REGAINING CONTROL OF THE TOOL
Consider the following analogy: The mind is like a fire. Now, a contained fire can offer light and warmth and facilitates many tasks. But if control of it is lost, it becomes a destructive and dangerous entity. For manypeople, the fire – their mind – is raging out of control. The slave has become the master.
The unprecedented levels of stimulation in our environments is fuel for the fire. And this fire is insatiable. It may be temporarily subdued, but no external event or object can ever grant any lasting peace from its cravings.
Meditation is a way to ‘starve’ the fire. To deprive it of the oxygen it needs to burn and attempt to bring it back under control.
“THE VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY IS NOT IN SEEKING NEW LANDSCAPES BUT IN HAVING NEW EYES.”
I often tell my friends that I was asleep for the first 30 years of my life. Sure, there were a few, brief moments in which I was present and completely engaged in an activity, but they were fleeting and rare occurrences.
It was only after starting to meditate consistently that I awoke to reality. Prior to that I was living almost exclusively in my head - always projecting my own thoughts, fears and beliefs onto my experience of the world. And I was almost never in the moment, but instead perpetually dwelling on past events or preparing for future ones.
The strangest thing is, once I started to go within, the outside world was given new life too. After a few weeks of meditation you will start to notice some profound changes. The world will become a much more interesting place, and even the most mundane and insignificant events and objects will take on new depths and beauty.
You will begin to notice more of the world. Food will taste better. Several of the things which used to motivate you might suddenly seem inconsequential or even ridiculous.
You will start to understand that life is not something that happened in the past, or something to expect after some condition has been met. You will realise that life is happening right now.
You will start to feel alive.
HOW TO START
There are many methods used to enter a meditative state. I have not tried all of them but I have developed a method that works for me.
It’s not important which method you choose. The mind has a tendency to complicate things and the simpler you can make the process the more likely you are to stick with it. I do however feel that these three elements are important for those who are new to meditation:
You must commit to at least 28 days. If you miss a day, start your count over at one.
Elimination of Distraction
Choose a quiet, preferably dark place where you will not be distracted.
Awareness of the Breath
Whenever you become distracted and your mind starts to race, come back to your breath. Gently focusing onthe sensation of the cycle of inhalations and exhalations will bring quiet to the mind.
FOUR SIMPLE STEPS
1. Prepare your Environment
Choose the time and place which eliminates as much distraction as possible. Personally, I prefer to meditate just before I go to bed each night, because I find that the world is naturally quieter then, especially in urban centres. Ensure that you switch off your mobile phone and all electronic gadgets.
2. Position your Body
Sit with your legs crossed and your back straight. If your muscles in your back are especially weak and this causes you great discomfort it will be easier to sit against a wall. Whatever you do, don’t lie down, because this will usually make you fall asleep.
Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your body. If you find any tension, allow that part of your anatomy to soften. Areas that usually need special attention are the eyes, face, jaw neck and shoulders.
Start to slow your breathing down. The slower and more rhythmic your breathing pattern becomes, the easier it will be to enter a meditative state.
4. Become ‘the Observer’
Watch your mind. Don’t try to ‘stop’ thinking. Simply watch your thought process. Don’t judge or engage with any of your thoughts, but don’t resist them either. Think of them as ripples on the surface of a pond and let them gently dissipate. As always, when in doubt, just watch your breath.
CONTINUING YOUR JOURNEY
Although meditation has several mystical connotations and complex definitions, your practice should remainsimple. Understand that a meditative state is ultimately not something that you do, but rather something that you get out-of-the-way of. Don’t be too hard on yourself or try to force anything to happen.
If you practise with consistency, there will come a point when your mind will switch off and you will experience the gift of presence. But whatever you do, don’t grasp for it. Expectations of any sort can only hinder your progress.
I recommend that you begin with 5 minutes each session. Do this for the first week, and then add a minute with each subsequent week. If you can reach 20 minutes, you will be astounded by the changes you will see in your life.
Nic Gabriel – London 2012