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So, how?

So HOW does one meditate? Well there are a thousand ways. The underlying principle of most of them is to choose one object to anchor the mind to and continue to try to keep the mind focused on that object. When you notice the mind has wandered off your chosen focal point, you gentle and lovingly just bring the mind back to rest on the object. And you will do this over and over and over again, just like reps at the gym, until you notice one day that... the mind stays on the object just a little bit longer without wandering, and when the mind has wandered off, you notice that sooner, so the gaps between concentration become shorter and shorter and the periods of sustained concentration become longer and longer.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. That is developing our concentration towards meditation. When concentration becomes sustained and unbroken, it becomes meditation.

Objects of meditation may vary. My strongest meditation teaching and practice came from Vipassana which begins with observation of the breath in a technique called ANAPANA SATI (a word in the Pali language meaning mindfulness breathing). It is simply observing the breath as it passes over the upper lip and into the nostrils, keeping the mind focused in that area of the upper lip and nostrils, watching the temperature change of the breath and feeling the sensation of the air as it tickles the hairs of the upper lip and inside the nose. That's it.

The breath is with you always, so you don't need any fancy equipment to do your practice. You can take it anywhere, do it anywhere. If you are interested in Vipassana meditation, I highly recommend it. It is a tough go, I won't sugar coat it, but it is a VERY deep practice. The retreat is ten days at a centre near Merritt. They have centres all over the world. It is ten days of silence and limited interaction with others, several hours of sitting per day (probably not for everyone) in a beautiful natural forest setting. I attribute most of my meditation practice, a strong back and ability to sit for long periods to the discipline cultivated by Vipassana. It's the real deal, so to speak, and the silence practice (MOUNA) is one of the most potent practices I know.

Other meditation methods may use objects like malas, as for JAPA meditation. Each mala has the sacred number of 108 seeds (or RUDRAKSHA) like a rosary which you run through your fingers one by one as a way of focusing the mind. Visualization of an image or diety at the forehead area is another method. Others use mantra or repetition of meaningful words to rest the mind on. Some use a candle meditation to concentrate on as in a technique called TRATAK.

There is one more technique or method that is worth mentioning as it is a very powerful one. It is a little different than the above mentioned approaches in that it is not a formal sitting meditation practice. It is moment to moment meditation, whenever you stop and think about it in the middle of your day. At any time, you just stop, and take a short moment to yourself to just notice your breath, notice your thoughts, and then you carry on with your day. It could happen at the grocery store or at work, it could happen walking the dog or cooking dinner. It can happen at many points throughout your day, whenever you remember to do so, to just stop, pause, take a moment and feel your breath. The group that espouses this method is called Balanced View. They are an international organization that holds meetings all over the world and has an online community to support those who are following this moment to moment method of seeing reality for what it truly is and seeing our true nature as expansive and open as the clear blue sky. The concept behind this method is that because the brain strengthens neural pathways around behaviours that we repeat over and over. The more frequently we repeat certain behaviours, the stronger and more connected those neural pathways get. So again, this is another method that leads us to the same outcome of having sustained awareness and consciousness present at all times.

There are many, many other methods and techniques and it matters not really which one you choose, but it is said that it is best to choose one and stick with that one method. This is the way to get deepest in your meditation. Jumping from one method to another to another is likened to digging one foot down in one hole, looking for gold, then moving to another spot and digging down again another foot, then giving up and moving to another area and again digging. Each hole will be shallow, never really getting down deep to the good stuff.

All methods and techniques will bring you to the same place, of training up your mind to rest in one place for a longer and longer sustained period of time, developing our logical brain to be stronger and stronger.

I also love the analogy of our minds being like the surface of a lake. When the lake is calm, glassy, without ripples (my favourite way of paddleboarding by the way ;) ) , you can see under the surface into the lake below, your vision is clear. Thoughts are like pebbles tossed into the lake that cause ripples and disturb the calm surface of the lake. Now we cannot see down below, our vision of what lies beneath is obscured. The bigger the pebbles or stones and the more frequently and forcefully they are tossed in the water, the less we are able to see. Meditation returns the surface of the lake to its glassy, pristine state, where we can look beneath and see everything, the whole world, within, and without.

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