22 Meditations for Calming the Mind,
Claiming the Soul, and Touching Eternity
Post written by Monica Gaylor.
Like everyone else at the beginning of a new year, I contemplate on how I will change. It always seems like a natural time to do so. What will I do to make my life and self better? All the “normal” things come to mind: eat healthier, lose weight, exercise, stop procrastinating, stop multitasking, stop absorbing content and media as if I were a giant sponge – admittedly, maybe those last three things aren’t normal, as I did not see them on the lists that I perused. (Side note: I did see multitasking a few times. I think it is starting to creep in these days, as people realize the side effects.)
I long ago gave up making New Year’s resolutions, as I do not like to set myself up for failure… I am certain that most people know to what I am referring. I generally like to just start things whenever I think of them or have the interest and momentum to do so. Why wait?
Most recently, I decided to dedicate myself to eating only at home and wasting nothing (or as little as possible). This revelation came after looking at my credit expenditures and really seeing how much I was spending on eating out and throwing my home food away when it went bad. It was a great deal of money! Yeah, I could afford it and had done so for a very long time. But, now that I am part-time, I have grown to look differently at my budget – mostly because I want to remain part-time and anything I can do to keep that aspect of my life intact is seriously entertained. Suddenly, the convenience of eating out didn’t seem quite so important or convenient. All in all, it is going well! It is a process – three steps forward and one step back. But, in addition to expanding my international cooking skills, learning to buy only what I can eat before it goes bad, and freezing everything I possibly can – I have even taken to washing those little plastic zip lock baggies. The habit is gaining momentum.
On the heels of success, I find it is time for something new. Even though I am part-time, my life still feels out of control. It’s all just too much. What is too much? I wish I new. Something is systemically wrong I think? My brain is broken! I have broken my brain!! I think (know?) it is the multitasking, the continual connectedness to everything, the flitting from thing to thing before it is finished, and the 30-second attention span. Unfortunately, a large portion of it is my job, so I must try to fix what I can in my personal life. I am fairly certain I am not the only one and it is a national pandemic, maybe even international at some level.
I have been exploring different avenues for regaining that which was lost: my ability to focus intently on one thing (painting, sculpting, writing, etc.), my ability to live in the moment, my ability to maintain healthy habits, my ability to engage willpower at will, and my ability to listen and respond to “the one who sits in the center and knows.” To one degree or another these skills and abilities have declined. “The one who sits in the center and knows” stomps through my brain more and more, she becomes louder and louder and more insistent that something must change. She is, of course, always right.
And so, I begin. It happens to be at the beginning of the year and so this is when I will start. I will not think of it as a New Year’s resolution, but just a place in which I have found myself wanting to change my approach toward living to that of being more mindful, more peaceful, more productive, and more proactive. I have been (hence the momentum has started) and continue to research the topics at the center of the problem: multitasking and its effects on the brain, habits, willpower, etc. I am certain the answers lie in there somewhere and that they are all interconnected…
In an effort to be more mindful, contemplative, and meditative, I have gathered together some meditations for myself and anyone else that feels the need to slow down and live a more self-directed lifestyle. One could also journal or free-write the exercises. I have tried to arranged them in an order that naturally progresses for myself, but I also see the cyclical and interconnected nature of the exercises. I strongly suspect that going out of order will be the way forward for myself and most people. Do what calls to you and start anywhere you like. Pick one and after you have relaxed and your breathing has reached its natural rhythm, contemplate the concept for 5, 10, 60 minutes – whatever amount of time you prefer. Enjoy!
(After thought: I didn’t realize when I stated out with this idea, but now that I have written it – I do. I think, possibly, that this journey could take a really long time. Perhaps months, but in my case – as I am very messy – years or a lifetime? You might want to bookmark it.)
1. The Journey and The Step
Meditate on your journey through this life. Who do you want to be? How do you want to get there? How can you begin the journey – break it down to the tiniest first step and then the tiniest second step. Do not think too far ahead; you don’t want to become overwhelmed.
What will your attitude be and how will you deal with roadblocks and failure? How will you deal with success? On what day, week, month will you begin step one? Will you need to reward yourself, or is the reward in having taken the first step?
Note: This is about being, not doing, owning, going, etc.
2. In the Shadows
In your journey thus far, on the road to human ‘beingness’, what lurks in your shadows (inner self)?
Think along the lines of boredom, fear, anger, loneliness, any other emotions, patterns of thinking, habits, (see #7 – 15), etc. What do you have the power to change and what must you accept? Which ones can you simply set aside, move around (over, through), or transcend?
3. Finding the Light
This meditation is about outer shadows and how they affect you. What are they? Think along the lines of family, partners, friends, religion, culture, politics, news, facebook, twitter, internet, habits, stuff, clutter, etc. What small steps and tweaks can you make to stop the fires outside of you from having an effect on your inner peace? What relationships / habits / etc. need to go or change? And can this be achieved? Baby steps or cold turkey?
“The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them. She lets them go on their way, and resides at the center of the circle.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
4. Figuring Out Blame and Letting It Go
This meditation might be a hard one. Everyone I know and everyone I don’t could make a well-argued case for blaming someone or something for… The fact is our world and history is made up of winners and losers, conquerors and conquered, us and them, free and imprisoned, haves and have not’s, rich and poor, full and hungry, and the list goes on and on. But, and I realize it is a big but, maybe we could take a moment and realize that most people / governments / religions / cultures / etc. are doing the best they can with what they are given. And yes, only people can change such institutions and they should change institutions. But, only changed people can change institutions, etc. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I would add that in order to change, one must give up blame.
Who do you blame? Why do you blame? When do you blame? Think of a couple of small things you could do to interrupt the process of blame. One little step at a time.
5. You Have the Answers
Calming your mind, claiming back your soul, finding yourself, changing yourself, fixing your life, etc. are not things that others can do for you. Only you are in charge of your life – especially the “beingness” of yourself. Circumstances do not change your “center.” Many, many people are in relationships, circumstances, and situations that cannot be altered for a multitude, and on a continuum, of good to bad reasons. If you are in a situation where your friends, spouse, relatives can join you on the journey, you are lucky and that is wonderful, but most people are going to be met with non-understanding and suspect by several persons, maybe even important, in their lives.
How will you overcome these obstacles and roadblocks? How will you deal with the people who don’t get it? Who hate it? Do you even tell them you are doing some inner work, or do you just let them wonder and lead by example?
“Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others. Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
I think attachment is a huge obstacle in Western Society, land of big toys, stuff – stuff – and more stuff, and the religion of Consumerism. But, we are also the land of big ideas and high ideals that somehow, more often than not, morph into something unintended and unrecognizable. I think our attachment to ideas is even more dangerous than our attachment to stuff – just look at the political landscape… Even in the minimalist community we have those who have given up almost everything material, and yet cling desperately to the idea that that is the only way to salvation.
What things, ways, ideas, ideals, illusions, convictions, slights, differences, etc. are you attached to? Can you let some of them go? Which one could you work on first? What attachment could be the first step in your detachment journey?
Big question – how will you deal with the attachments of others? Do you have to give up things and stuff? Is someone in your life attached to them? Or can you learn to live among the things and stuff and yet be unattached to them?
“The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
7 – 16. Let Go
I saved the really hard concepts for later in the program. The words above seem so few and the words are not very big, but… This may be my fear talking, but I think these could waylay me for a while?
The first 9 meditations on the above list are probably the crux of many problems (issues, patterns, habits, etc.) and attachments for most people. Personally, I think these may be at the core of many a restless soul and tempestuous mind. These are also long held mental patterns and habits for most people. They are not as easily overcome as sending your clutter off to Goodwill and feeling relieved. One must employ a new methodology for thinking and retraining the mind.
I recommend you spend a month, two, or year on each one. Be patient with yourself. Decide in what ways you do each thing. At first just notice the thoughts as they pass through your mind. Notice them, feel them, and let them pass. Don’t try to change them at first. Noticing the patterns is the first step. When do they happen? What are the triggers? What are the consequences when they flare up? Notice your reactions – perhaps even after the fact. Explore the scenarios for the why’s and deeper understanding. Think of it as dissecting your thought patterns. Only after they have been studied can one attempt the reconstruction. Baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your mind. Step on the path gently.
“Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
As for #10 on the list, that should occur daily. Several times.
17. The Road to Happiness
One might think that after doing all this inner work they should be happy and it would be a mistake. “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” Be happy while you do the work. Be happy when you fail. Be happy when you are frustrated, sad, overwhelmed, etc. Feel the feeling and rejoice in the fact that you can.
I can remember several sad or devastating times in my life when a friend came to visit in order to cheer me up and even though I was sad, traumatized, etc. they succeeded. They made me laugh through the tears. I remember them as some of the most powerful and poignant moments in my life. I also remember several times being in the same kind of situation, but having to dig deep because no one was there to help. I came up with power and grit to see myself through the hard times. Those were the times when I grew and gained the most. When I fought the hardest.
The journey will never be smooth. Instead, it will be bumpy, winding, and twisty. Sometimes you’ll be going uphill and against the wind, and other times you will be going downhill and with the wind only to encounter a cliff just around the perilously tight corner. Would we really want it any other way? Did you ever watch people on a roller coaster? They are always happy: happy and terrified, happy and exhilarated, happy and stressed, etc.
What small steps can you take to be happy on the way?
18. Moving On
Consider steps for moving on from the people, situations, things, circumstances, beliefs, etc. that no longer serve you. Like the ocean that ebbs and flows: let the old ebb out and the new flow in. It is the nature of the universe.
“Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
“But you can, Jonathan. For you have learned. One school is finished, and the time has come for another to begin.”
As it had shined across him all his life, so understanding lighted that moment for Jonathan Seagull. They were right. He could fly higher, and it was time to go home.
He gave one last look across the sky, across that magnificent silver land where he had learned so much.
“I’m ready,” he said at last.
And Jonathan Livingston Seagull rose with the two star-bright gulls to disappear into a perfect dark sky.”
~~ Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
19. Let the Mind Be Still
Let the stillness guide you. Float in it. Be one with it. You have been waiting a long time to be at peace – rejoice in it. Practice it everyday. Maybe in the beginning you will only experience it for as long as it takes the butterfly to flutter it’s wings. As you grow, so will your peace. Less fleeting it becomes, more a part of your center.
“The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
20. Only a Little While
I had a professor once that told me (the class) that I was stardust. On that day she expanded my world infinitely. I have never forgotten that feeling or what she did. I only knew her for a weekend and not in any personal way beyond the seminar, and yet she has remained with me ever since, as if time has no meaning. She made me understand the difference between now and eternity and its relationship to my world and the universe. She inspired the caption under the title of my blog: What if we could stop, take a breath, and just be content for a fleeting moment in time? Perhaps we could feel the space dust that floats through our molecules and thus touch the flow of universal energy that makes everything eternal.
“Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity. If you don’t realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king. Immersed in the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
21. Change Your Reality
Chapter 21: “The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao; that is what gives her her radiance. The Tao is ungraspable. How can her mind be at one with it? Because she doesn’t cling to ideas. The Tao is dark and unfathomable. How can it make her radiant? Because she lets it. Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching
Chapter 22: “If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial. If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked. If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be reborn, let yourself die. If you want to be given everything, give everything up. The Master, by residing in the Tao, sets an example for all beings. Because he doesn’t display himself, people can see his light. Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words. Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him. Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds. … Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself.” ~~ The Tao Te Ching