Lesson 4 - Meditation and Choice
An Introductory Course, Designed and Written by Guru Rattana, Ph.D.
Our Inner Journey
One of the goals of silent meditation is to discover and connect with our inner state of being. Our inner state is complex, has many levels and is ever changing. When we first begin our inner journey, our first encounter is with our mundane thoughts-about what we have to do, our plans for the day, our opinions about what we are doing at the moment.
I remember my first attempt at "meditation" which must have been about 1973-4. I had been practicing hatha yoga daily for 3-4 years. I decided I would sit still for a few minutes after my asanas. Wow. What an effort that was to actually sit "still" for the eternity of three minutes! I certainly wasn't still and my mind certainly wasn't silent. But I did sit there for three minutes and that was a great accomplishment for me at that time.
I was very pleased with myself for actually attempting this heretofore impossible feat. The point is we have to start sometime and somewhere. Sometime could be now. And somewhere is where we are at at this moment. Needless to say I have made a lot of progress since that first day, but it has taken a long time and I am still at it.
Meditation is the tool for getting in touch with what is really happening inside our psyche, beyond the flow of thoughts that initially clutter our inner terrain. One of the things I have discovered is that there are many things going on and they are often contradictory. I can feel happy and sad at the same time. I can access feelings of anger and detachment simultaneously. I notice that I am both afraid and excited. There is an inner anxiety that seems to be a curtain that covers a dynamic peace.
I have drawn two simple conclusions from all of this:
- This is the way things are, within me and in the universe. Realities that appear to be opposites or even conflictual exist simultaneously.
- At every moment I am at choice. I can choose which reality I wish to give my attention to. It is as simple as making a choice.
Sometimes making specific choices is difficult. In making choices I have the following touchstone facilitates my decision-making process - What will make me happy, more peaceful and feel good?
Make One Decision
I have found out that making one decision and letting it guide my life is a good strategy. Here is my most dramatic example. I remember when I first started getting up for Sadhana (morning meditation and yoga). In the ashram I had to get up at 2:50am (!!) to get to the Sadhana room at 3:45am. Those were cold, dark winter days in Boston. I was living in a cabin that was much colder than my warm bed. In fact, sometimes there was ice on my shower floor! Talking about a cold shower.
I realized that if I were to make the decision "to get up or not to get up" each morning, I would subject myself to unbearable torture on a daily basis. So when I was feeling good, I made the decision ONCE to get up at this "divine" hour. For years, I never had to make that decision again. And that is my secret. That is how I did it. I turned off my mind and my feelings as much as I could when the alarm went off and got out of bed. After the cold shower, it was all downhill for the rest of the day.
Because there will always be pressing reasons and valid excuses to distract us from our spiritual practice, we may need to make an all-encompassing choice that will serve as a foundation for our daily choices.
There is a myth that when we meditate, we can stop our minds and tune into this place of inner bliss. Yogi Bhajan tells us that the mind processes 1000 thoughts at the wink of an eye. So don't even consider stopping your mind. We can however change channels. I find that one of the tricks to meditation is accessing the neutral channel and being able to stay there long enough to experience that there is some place else to hang out besides in the chatter of the rational mind. Knowing that we do in fact have a choice of where we operate from is a critical first step toward inner sanity.
We can know all of the above intellectually. And the concepts are probably familiar to many of us. The real challenge is to experience in your own meditation the existence of the different feelings and realities in your psyche and body. This is the goal of silent meditation at this point in your process. Get in touch with the agitation, the fear, the impatience and the anger. Also get in touch with the peace, the contentment, the ability to be detached and not react and the desire to simply be.
It is the actual experience of the different energies within you that will allow you to make a choice between the two. Sensory experience is a necessary for training yourself to use the energies that initially appear as "bad" for action, energy and motivation. It is the acceptance and honoring of all our energies that is the energetic foundation of self-love.
Yogi Bhajan says that it is good to do this meditation when one is worried or upset and doesn't know what to do, or when one feels like screaming, yelling or misbehaving.
This exercise will produce quick release of stress, foster emotional balance and help create a quiet space within. It will help you switch channels, or tune into the channel of peace and silence - the neutral mind. Use it:
- to access the cosmic channel,
- to distinguish between the "peace zone" and the rational mind or "conflict zone", and
- to train yourself to choose the "peace zone."
Before practicing this meditation, drink a glass of water. Water imbalance in the system, which creates pressure in the kidneys, can cause worry and upset. When out of focus or emotional, attention should be given to the body's water balance and breath rate. Humans are approximately 70-90% water. Our behavior depends upon the relation of water and earth, air and ether.
Breath represents air and ether and is the rhythm of life. Normally we breathe 15 times a minute, but when we are able to rhythmically slow down the breath to 4 (or less) breaths per minute, we have indirect control over our mind. Calm, slow breathing eliminates unbalanced behavior and promotes a calm mind regardless of the state of affairs.
Sit in Easy Pose or full lotus if you can comfortably. Place your arms across the chest and lock hands under the armpits, palms open and against the body. Raise the shoulders up tight reaching toward the earlobes Apply Neck Lock by tucking the neck in toward the chest with the spine straight. Eyes are closed. This position may be uncomfortable, but it does not hurt. Concentrate on how the breath changes automatically in this position.
The breath will automatically become slow. Continue for 3-5 minutes. You can gradually increase the time to 11 minutes.
Drinking water, pulling the shoulders up toward the ears and tightly locking the entire area creates a solid break to the four sides of the brain. After 2 or 3 minutes, thoughts will be there, but one does not feel them. This is a very effective method of balancing the brain.
To end, relax the hands down, sit quietly and enjoy your inner space of peace. You will notice that you have created a space independent of your rational mind. Your mind will still have thoughts and you can observe them, but you can choose to be in your peaceful space or neutral mind.
A Story About: What Will You Choose?
The following is one of those Internet stories that is related to our present lesson. It might inspire you to make attitude choices that help you create a reality of aliveness, joy and peace.
Read this and let the message sink in. Then choose how you want to experience the rest of the day and how you want to start your day out tomorrow. Remember life is a series of choices that we make ourselves at every moment. Here is the story:
Michael is the kind of guy you wonder "How does he do it?" He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!" He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Michael was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Michael and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"
Michael replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Mike you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time Something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it.
I choose to learn from it.
Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life."
"Yeah, right, it's not that easy!" I protested.
"Yes, it is," Michael said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life."
I reflected on what Michael said. Soon thereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it. Several years later, I heard that Michael was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Michael was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back. I saw Michael about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied. "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"
I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place. "The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be-born daughter," Michael replied. "Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live."
"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.
Michael continued, "...the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a dead man.' I knew I needed to take action."
"What did you do?" I asked. "Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Michael. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes, I replied." The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, "Gravity."
Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead'."
Michael lived, not just due to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything. As always, the choice is our own.
Not everyone is as outgoing as Michael, but we all are at choice how we experience life. The inner subtle choices are the ones that determine our happiness and our destiny. Meditation gives us the chance to make these choices at deep, impactful levels.
Have a grateful day, if you choose!!