by John Doherty
Meditation is a state of mind, from which a person can feel completely at home in themselves and let go of all thoughts and emotions that are obstructing this viewpoint. It is a state that is always present yet because of the busy lives we lead we cannot always reach that part of ourselves. The practice of meditation uses various techniques to move back into that place in ourselves and feel the clarity, stillness and love that naturally arises. There are so many types of meditation, practices and traditions it’s often very hard to tie down what meditation in it’s simplest form actually is? People often confuse relaxation exercises, contemplative prayer, or guided visualisations with meditation.
I like to define meditation in its essence as a ‘State of Being’, a ‘State of Mind’ or a ‘State of being with…’. There are many practices we can do that can enable us to move into that state, and many that do not. So when you sit in the morning or evening you are not meditating as such, rather you are doing a practice that enables you to move into this state of Being. There are a number of qualities which can describe this state: Containment, Grounding and Stability and Openness and Connectivity.
Stability means that there is a basic ground to your practice. Thoughts, emotions and feelings come and go and you can remain without losing your centre or ground. For many people this is a new experience as we often live lives as slaves to our thoughts and emotions or physical sensations.
Movements in Meditation are divided into three categories with a fourth level being offered as an integration of the first three. They are as follows:
Containment (working with the thinking mind)
In the first movement we create a container in order to allow all the thoughts to return carrying the energy that we want. Each thought is energy and has energy depending how charged or strong it is. So if I’m thinking about my sick aunt and worrying if she will get better then I need to re-claim this energy. This is the energy that allows me to know I am in the present moment. So if I’m not in the present or find it difficult it’s a sign I’m living in the past or the future.
As the thoughts return with the energy it’s important to ANCHOR strongly so that the thoughts don’t become stories and take us away again with them. Rather see them as depositing their energy back with you, thank them and let them go always returning to the anchor. That anchor can be based on any of the senses, looking at a candle or image, listening to music, sensing the body, chanting a mantra and so on.
Grounding and Stability (working with empathy through the gut)
When this energy has returned to the body through anchoring it generally needs to ground or earth itself. As it does so you can feel sleepy and often if not anchored people will fall asleep at this stage of the practice. Psychologically as the energy grounds it moves through the different life stages of your psyche. It moves through the adult, the young adult, the teenager, the child all the way down into the womb and beyond. If any of these aspects of yourself are out of sync then they will present in the meditation practice. For example, if the teenager part isn’t integrated the energy can go no further and you will probably feel bored or angry or experience whatever the teenager aspect needs to release. And release is an important word here, can you stay anchored while these emotions release thus re-integrating the teenager and allowing the energy to ultimately find its ground?
You will know the energy is earthed because of the qualitative experience this presents. There is a stability of mind, emotion and body where you feel solid and rooted. There can also be womb like sensations of floating, warmth and safety in this place.
Openness and Connectivity (working with the heart)
Although at times it is nice to stay in such a place, a re-birthing needs to happen and the energy naturally rises again after a time. As it rises there is a renewal within the psyche, the cells of the body are renewed and the whole system is reborn and invigorated. In Christian terms this is linked to the idea of Easter, of death, and resurrection. Again, as the energy rises it is important to remain anchored, if not you will float off into the clouds and while this may feel nice it’s not practical. Yes, it’s possible to experience this transcendent state of opening and connection while remaining anchored.
An Integral / Spiritual level
Only when the above three levels are working together do we begin to engage from a subtler realm of perception within our practice. I like to describe this as an integral / spiritual level of awareness.
John Doherty, BA, MSc, MMin, founder of The Beehive School of Contemplative Living has many years experience in meditation and creative expression as a means to facilitate courses in personal and spiritual enrichment.