Nonetheless, having a few hints and suggestions to try out does no harm. So I want to offer here some ideas that I’ve found useful—not so much to say “do this” as “try something like this,” in your own way.
The first meditation-creating tip I want to suggest is asking yourself what you really love. I don’t mean in the way we might love ice cream or potato chips; I mean really love, the kinds of things that keep turning up in your life, possibly from childhood on. The kinds of things you can’t let go, even if they don’t seem “practical” to the world in which you have 45 minutes to answer the essay questions. These can be pointers to your inner world.
These things might be sensory experiences, like sunlight on water, the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, or certain chord progressions that give you that delightful shiver in the small of your back. These sorts of experiences don’t have to be felt for just a moment then left behind when you leave the lake, check the news, or listen to the next song. You can take them inside and weave meditations out of them. Visit them in meditation. Connect strongly to the feelings they generate in you. Hang out in those spaces for as long as you like, as long as they feel fresh and lift up your energy. Try combining them! Play the chords by the water, or take that waking up, morning, first sip of coffee energy into the music. If it brings up another inspiration, explore that. Have fun with it. I guarantee you, something will happen.
For starters, I’d like to just simplify the essence of meditation to these three principles:
- Sit up straight.
- Pay relaxed, careful attention.
- Let go of everything else.
Honestly, that’s it. If you do nothing else than sit there on your cushion or chair and play with that, you’ve got it. As Krishnamurti also said, “meditation is simple. We complicate it.”
Once you’re comfortable with that, try one or more of the following experiments I came up with for myself, if they feel interesting to you.
- Experience your awareness as “electricity.” Feel the energetic quality of it, how it’s continually moving and changing. Notice how emotions have a kind of “charge.” Just watch that for a while, without labeling or commenting on it.
- Watch your life as a slow-motion movie. You can try this while in sitting meditation, or as you move through your day. If sitting, just watch and listen to the memories of your life as they come up, without trying to control them. Can you slow the “film” down? Can you freeze-frame it? Enlarge a frame or part of a frame? Go from color to black and white? Re-enter the feelings? If you’re out in the world, and not doing anything especially important, step back a little from your own thinking and watch it all slide by for a while. Pick up the thread of it every now and then, at random, throughout your day. What do you notice about yourself that you hadn’t known? What about others or the world?
- How far “inside” yourself can you go? How deep? Can you find the place of formless awareness, “beneath” the forms of thinking and ordinary emotions, of opinions, views, and attitudes? Can you rest there? What brings you there most easily? What takes you out of it?
You might notice that these aren’t quite the “usual,” traditional meditations. That’s very intentional. I found out for myself, at least, that after practicing traditional forms for a while, they tended to become a bit stale if I wasn’t careful to refresh them periodically by looking at them from new and different angles or trying them in different contexts. And I discovered that the effort and energy of creating new meditations—of invention—seems to actually raise a type of energy all its own, as if more of me were invested in the process. And I could then apply that energy to the traditional forms.
Finally, here’s an idea you could try if you find yourself stuck, either with your regular practice or in trying to come up with new ones. Apply the simple, three-step process outlined above (sit straight, pay attention, let everything else go) for about five to ten minutes, then ask yourself a question, as deep inside as you can. The question can be anything. “What would be a great new meditation for me right now?” “What most needs changing in my life?” Whatever is asking for attention in your heart.
Then wait. That’s it. Sit and wait. Consciously wait, with infinite patience. Don’t worry if you don’t think you have infinite patience. (Patience itself is infinite, because it participates in the quality of space—but you don’t have to think about that if you don’t want.) This is basically all Quakers do in their meetings. Sit and wait. Except, in this one, you’ve asked a question of your deeper self or higher power. Throw a stone in the well and wait for a sound. Don’t make the slightest effort to answer the question yourself. Enjoy the rest, the silence. If “answers” come up, apply principle three and let them go.
Btw, if you find this helpful, next time you feel frustrated waiting on line for a latte, a movie, or casting your vote, remember this little exercise and see if you can enter the space of patiently waiting without expectation in the place you’re at. It can be like defusing a bomb.
- Be What You Love: Create Your Own Meditations Part 2 - September 2, 2021
- Be What You Love: Create Your Own Meditations Part 1 - August 26, 2021
- ENOUGH! Can We Choose to Break Our Addictions? Part 2 - August 19, 2021