A Checklist of Skills for Instinctive Meditation (in the future, we want to move toward calling these flow lists)
What quality of life do you love so much you want to be with it? We begin with wonder, awe and delight. What interests you? What thrills you? This is life in you calling. Answer this call.
Other ways of putting the questions. When have you felt at home? At home in yourself or in the world. When have you felt glad to be alive?
The starting attitude is acceptance of needs – your need for rest, time to sort, time to feel excitement and calmness, love and fear. Meditation is a place where you can just be yourself. Taking this attitude begins the process of parasympathetic activation – the rest, repair, release, review, recharge, healing mode.
Breathe a sigh of relief, Ahhhhh. Whew…. Make yourself at home. Sit comfortably (if this is a seated meditation). Or lie down, or walk.
1. With eyes open, accept the coming and going of mental images, remembered conversations, to-do lists, thoughts or perceptions, no matter how fast or slow.
2. With eyes open, notice spaciousness. There is space between things. Simply notice and enjoy the space between your body and something. Notice the space between one thing and another.
3. Explore if there is anything about breathing you are enjoying right now. Do you prefer the inbreath or the outbreath, or the little transition points? Consider a mantra such as, “I am grateful for the flow of breath right now."
4. If your eyes want to close by themselves, okay. If your eyes don’t want to close, then it is okay to continue with them open. Sometimes there is a feeling of relief and pleasure when the eyes close. If your eyes close, notice the slight sense of restfulness.
5. Again welcome the flow and ebb of thoughts, eyes open or closed. Some thoughts will have tension, urgency, or other emotions. Other thoughts will be your to-list, your brain organizing the flow of the day. Welcome all thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Ahimsa is “non-harming.” Don’t hit yourself each time a thought comes. Do not judge your experience.
6. Practice having a neutral to positive attitude toward all mental images, movies, conversations, and sensations. This is just your brain doing its housecleaning, sorting its lists, rehearsing, and choreographing. Afterwards you will feel clearer. Practice tolerating any tension and urgency you feel when thoughts of your to do list, relationships, or other topics, come to mind. Just feel what is there.
7. What is a quality of life, an aspect of life’s rhythm of renewing itself, you would like to be permeated with? What do you love so much you want to be infused with it? Develop one, two, or three words that sum up these qualities – any sense, or combination of senses, any image, sensation, word, or motion are possible mantra, or “mind-tool.” (some people get this immediately, some may need a month of one to one coaching to give themselves permission to want what they want, love what they love).
Give yourself permission to be permeated with these qualities. Explore the sensations, feelings, images, sounds, that go with this mantra. (made of one, two, or three words). Be with the word, enjoy it, hang out, soak in it, absorb the feeling of it.
Engage with the mantra, allow it to excite you, enchant you, pleasure you, soothe you, interest you. As you shift levels of perception, the mantra will
Welcome changes of all kinds: the sound, rhythm, feeling, may change. The sound of the thoughts internally may become very quiet, or may sound like stereo. The words may pulsate in your body.
8. Welcome all your senses: touch, motion, balance, subtle internal sensation, external vision and internal vision, hearing, taste, smell, as they are inspired and moved by your mantra.
9. Welcome the process called “mind wandering.” You will totally forget that you are meditating,many, many times. When you remember, at first simply enjoy yourself. Enjoy the restfulness, the sense of being refreshed by the process, as when you wake up from a nap, or are sitting on a hillside gazing over the scenery and thinking about things. Meditation is a rest deeper than sleep, according to scientists, and when we rest deeply we also dream and daydream.
After a few seconds, you may get interested in your mantra again. In this way, continue. Know that every phase of meditation is equally important.
Engage without focusing or concentrating in any way. Allow your love of your mantra to attract you. There is no need to push. There will be some sensory pathways (indriya) that are your favorites - touch, hearing, vision, motion, smell, taste, balance. Over time, include all senses. There will be some rasas, some dimension of savoring, you are akin to. Over time, expand to include all rasas. There will be some instincts you at first are drawn to – resting, exploring, communing. Over time, include more and more, feeding, nesting, bonding.
There are no “distractions.” Sometimes you will find yourself listening to outside sounds. This is fine. Go ahead. When you find that your mantra is more interesting, allow that natural interest to attract you. Thoughts will call to you and you will get involved in them, and then after awhile you will realize you are meditating, and automatically return to your invitation. Do not use effort to push thoughts out or engage with your invitation. There actually are no distractions in meditation.
Accept the rhythms of experience. Typically, the body-mind system fluctuates between relaxation and activation, restfulness and restlessness, every few seconds, twice a minute, or every couple of minutes. It’s an ever-changing dance of rhythms. Welcome these rhythms of experience. This is your body-mind system taking care of itself, healing itself, tuning itself.
10. Accept the process of stress-release. When the body relaxes, muscles relax and let go of chronic tension. When the muscles let go, whatever fears made you tense will sometimes come to the foreground of your awareness to be felt and healed. This is a natural process. This is how the body and mind heal. Don’t worry, you are not doing anything wrong. Just take a neutral attitude toward this “unstressing.” It’s nothing new, it is caused by relaxation.
Accept the sensations of unstressing. Often uncomfortable, very physical, as the muscles let go of tension. Pins and needles. Accept the images, mental movies, and conversations of stressful situations – this is all part of releasing tension.
Accept the process of continuing with your mantra without trying to block out thoughts, without hitting yourself or scolding yourself. Ahimsa, no “hitting” of the self, no beating one’s self up.
It is okay to just be there without thinking, without thinking your word or mantra, just daydreaming or spacing out or sleeping. No scolding. śūnya - “empty, absentminded, having no certain object or aim, distracted, idle, nonsensical. Naked. Guileless, innocent. Indifferent. Space, heaven.”
Tolerate the sensations of intense relaxation. Can be like falling asleep and the slightly painful sensations of receiving a massage. Falling into a nap, yogaśāyin, “half asleep and half absorbed in meditation. Meditation can also feel like the sensations after sex, drifting off. Can be sudden, within three to five minutes. Avasarga - “letting loose, letting go, relaxation, laxity, following one's own inclinations, independence.” Once the student has experienced this, the relaxation will tend to be available even at the very beginning of meditation.
10. Exit gradually. Spend three to five minutes gently, gradually activating the body after a meditation of ten minutes or more. Sit there, aware that you are going to exit meditation, but just stay there with the eyes closed for three minutes at least. Then open the eyes a bit, and close them. Breathe a bit, a few deeper breaths. Then open the eyes again. Then close them. Make sure you have caught up with yourself.
– Welcome surprise, delight, bewilderment, awe, astonishment, restfulness and excitement.