How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically
Free E-Course Lesson 29
Chapter 10: Meditation
Part 2: Simple Meditation
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Before you can learn to practice poetry-writing as meditation, you need to know what meditation feels like. You need to practice letting go of your props and your crutches and your manners and your disguises and to discover that at your core — within your soul — you are already perfect. Insofar as meditation can be said to have a goal, it is complete acceptance of your “true” self and your present circumstances.
Through meditation you are, in a sense, born again every time you choose to be. Let go of the past, let go of the future. Give them to the Almighty. Everything is Right Here, Right Now, and it’s all okay, it’s all fine, because it’s the only way it can be, right here, right now.
Begin meditation at whatever pace suits you: one minute, several times a day; a half-hour, twice a day; whenever you can steal some time away from the hubbub and find a comfortable, quiet place.
Some meditation instructors will tell you to take a shower or a bath first, to clean up your mess, to create a “special” place for meditation, to sit in a certain way, and to not fall asleep. These suggestions might work well for you. In my case, they make meditation a chore, just another project, like going to the gym, rather than a way of life, a way of being. If I followed all the rules, I’d meditate maybe every third leap year. As it happens, I can meditate on a city bus during rush hour.
Meditation step by step
Start with a simple “sitting” or “breathing meditation.” This is as basic as it gets — breathing.
Get as comfortable as possible, in as quiet a place as possible. If you can get comfortable sitting with your back straight on a pillow on the floor, or on a chair, not slouching, with your head tilted slightly down and your feet planted firmly on the floor — great! If you want to lie down, for Dirty Gertie’s sake lie down.
- Relax. Just saying the word relax to yourself is immensely powerful.
- Close your eyes. Don’t scrunch them closed — just an easy-and-relaxed closed.
- Inhale and exhale through your nose, comfortably, rhythmically.
- Breathe from your diaphragm (or abdomen), so that your in-breaths are deep and lung-filling. Abdominal breathing is, in itself, relaxing. (If you can’t get the hang of it, place your hand flat across your navel and inhale so that your hand moves outward.)
- Mentally place yourself in a sort of porous cocoon of pure white light. You can think of it as your “energy field.” I see it as God’s loving, healing light. Breathe in the light.
- The more senses you engage during your meditation, the less likely it is that you will get distracted. See the healing light being inhaled. When you exhale, feel the healing light permeate your body with warmth, like a caress: to the tips of your fingers and toes and the top of your head; through your skin, muscle, bone, all the way to your internal organs and every cell in your body.* Smell and taste the light. Hear the ebb and flow of your breath, like an ocean tide.
- If you can’t manage all that, just let your attention rest on your rhythmic breathing.
- Don’t worry if your mind wanders. If a thought or a feeling intrudes, notice it, but don’t follow it. Jack Kornfield suggests you bow to it. If you do get tangled up in thoughts and emotions, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. As Susan Piver says, it doesn’t matter if it’s been ten seconds or an hour. Don’t beat yourself up. Show lovingkindness to yourself. Do not get discouraged. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche reassures us that “the intention to meditate” is enough. If you genuinely intend to meditate, you can’t mess it up.
- If you are distracted by pain or discomfort, let it be, for a time, the focus of your meditation. Take your attention away from your breathing and settle it on your pain. Alternate between focusing on your breath and on your pain. Don’t be surprised if the pain disappears.
- Meditating ten to twenty minutes at a time, twice a day, is a good guideline. Start by meditating for a few minutes every day. Set a timer, if you want to. Gradually, steadily, add to your time a bit, or to the number of times you meditate per day. But if a week goes by, or a month, without your meditating, you haven’t failed. Just start again. You get an eternity of second chances.
In a nutshell
- Get comfortable and close your eyes. Relax.
- Rest your attention on the sensations of comfortable, rhythmic breathing, from the diaphragm, in and out through the nose.
- If thoughts or emotions break in, notice them but try not to follow them. (I think of this process as a scuba diver’s watching through goggles as fish swim in and out of view.)
- As soon as you notice that your mind has wandered, gently, lovingly bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Always, in meditation, treat yourself with love and gentleness. When you are through meditating, the lovingkindness will remain, and you’ll be kinder to yourself and others.
Other ways to start meditating
- Take the excellent free meditation classes from the Meditation Society of Australia.
- Try some of the 60 free guided meditations on the Zero Gravity website.
- Listen to Jack Kornfield’s free Meditation for Beginners on the Zero Gravity website.
* Warming your fingers and toes is actually a common form of do-it-yourself biofeedback for relaxation. Use an instant-read thermometer or an old-fashioned mercury thermometer. Hold it between your fingers for a while, until it reaches your body temperature. (An instant-read thermometer will do so immediately.) Then focus your attention on the fingers holding the thermometer. You can try to warm your fingertips, or you can just “notice” them. Either should do the trick. You’ll feel a tingling in your fingers—that’s the blood flowing in. The temperature recorded on the thermometer will rise.
When you’re stressed, your system goes into “fight or flight” mode and the blood rushes to your heart. By consciously directing the blood away from your heart, toward your extremities, the heart slows down and you’ll relax.
Adapted from Sister Alma Rose Has the Last Word
Continue with your meditation journal. Send your new journal entries via e-mail to Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net. I will not grade your assignment, but I will return it to you with comments.
You’ll also find hours of music for meditation and relaxation, nature sounds, meditation instruction, and other meditation resources at Zero Gravity’s website, www.LifeIsPoetry.net.
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