A Practical Guide to Meditation that Really Works
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A Practical Guide to Meditation that Really Works

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For More Info please visit http://www.michaelpaulstephens.com ...

For More Info please visit http://www.michaelpaulstephens.com

How many times have I heard people say “I can’t meditate” or “I’ve tried meditation but it doesn’t work.” More than I can count.

The truth of the matter is that what most people have tried is not really mediation at all, it’s concentration and who can concentrate in a world of 3-minute music and video games?

Successful meditation is being present and grounded. It is knowing yourself. It is following the breath. It is being aware and conscious.

In this Free Guide to Meditation that Really Works I give you my hints and tips to understand what meditation is supposed to be, before you sit down and make all the mistakes that I made. Packed with information and advice from what to wear and how to set up your mediation space, to what barriers to look our for and how to overcome them, this guide is everything you need to know about getting your practice off the ground.

Packed with mediations and awareness techniques that fill any thing from a few seconds to as many hours as you want to apply to the task, this guide offers you practical, real-world meditations that can be done in the home, the workplace or even on the bus without everyone thinking you’re completely nuts!

Meditation needn’t be difficult. It needn’t be a chore. It needn’t be totally frustrating. It can be as easy as simple breathing exercises and as natural as taking a step forward.

So, what are you waiting for? Your mind, body and spirit are ready to evolve. Meditation really works! Make it work for you.

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A Practical Guide to Meditation that Really Works A Practical Guide to Meditation that Really Works Document Transcript

  • Fully Revised and Updated for 2013 A Practical Guide to MEDITATION That Really Works Overcoming the Basic Challenges and Misconceptions of your Spiritual Practice
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works A Practical Guide to MEDITATION That Really Works Overcoming the Basic Challenges and Misconceptions of your Spiritual Practice www.michaelpaulstephens.com 2 Version 2.0 - January 2013 THIS GUIDE IS FREE! Please Circulate it to Friends and Acquaintances Who May Wish to Start Meditating! If you wish to make a donation, please visit This Site Website: www.michaelpaulstephens.com Follow Michael Paul Stephens on Facebook
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Chapter Page www.michaelpaulstephens.com 3 A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Overcoming the Basic Mistakes and Misconceptions of your Spiritual Practice CONTENTS 1. Introduction……………………………………………………. 4 2. Part 1: Why Meditate?…………………………………………. 5 3. Part 2: Setting Up a Meditation Space……….………………. 12 4. Part 3: Practical Essentials of Meditation ..….………………. 14 5. Part 4: Building Purpose…………...….………………………. 18 6. Part 5: Barriers to Meditation…………………………………. 20 7. Part 6: Ten Basic Meditations….......….………………………. 26 8. Part 7: Final Notes…………..…………………………………. 40
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Introduction There was never a better time in history for people to meditate. Humanity is reaching a point in our evolution when we must choose how we wish to live: in growing awareness or in continuing non-awareness and ignorance. In ignorance we will simply repeat the problems of the past, the same problems that created the recurring suffering of our world today. In awareness we too will have problems, but we wi l l al so be developing the consciousness to know that every single one of them begins inside you and me. To solve those problems we must concentrate less on what we create and more on who we really are. As a somewhat reluctant meditator myself, I have come to realize the pitfalls of meditation, as well as the tricks of the ego that would much rather be watching a movie or bungy-jumping than listening to my breathing or visualizing love. I have experienced the good days and the bad days, the triumphs of spirit and the ignominy of ego. I am writing this guide, not because I am an expert in meditation, but because I want to share my experiences of how to make the development of consciousness more that just a thirty minute routine you might commit to each morning but a way of life where every moment counts and freedom is awaiting every one of us within both the mundane and the extraordinary experience of life. I first published this guide in February 2011 and, as we enter 2013 I thought it time to bring it up to date with my current thinking. So much changes in a year in my life, that I have had good cause to learn very quickly that nothing is permanent and to honor that universal truth as the first step to honoring the nature of one’s own being. You see, meditation to me is a tool of living happily. It is the precursor to applying the awareness of meditation to the challenges of life that lie beyond it. Only when we accept that the world we make within us is the world we will experience outside of us can both the world individual begin the process of evolution. The trick is to start practicing and to stop complaining that you can’t meditate. You can. We all can. It is absolutely essential that we do. Michael Paul Stephens April 2013 www.michaelpaulstephens.com 4
  • Part 1 Why Meditate? A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Have you ever tried repairing a machine that you knew nothing about? What if you didn’t even know what it was for? Could you repair it? Imagine looking upon a car for the first time in your life and someone saying to you, “Well? Make it work!” It would be difficult, right? Probably impossible. The same thing is true about fixing yourself. If you do not know yourself, how can you fix you? The thing is, most of us live in this shady belief that we do know our self and we know our self very, very well. But what if this wasn’t true at all and the fact that you don’t know yourself is the very reason why you suffer in life? You don’t suffer, you say? Life is an endless procession of joy, angels and chocolate ice cream? Congratulations! But perhaps you might consider the possibility that, rather than having no suffering at all, you may simply be unaware of how you suffer and shrug off your personal woes as part and parcel of normal life. Well, there is no doubt that everyone on Ear th suf fer s , but what distinguishes one human being from another is the degree to which we suffer and whether we are in the process of letting it go or accumulating more and more. Emotional pain, physical trauma, energetic blockages or mental aberrations: each person on Earth suffers in our own unique way but all of our suffering is connected to the same problem. Sadly, few of us ever become aware of what that problem is and much fewer realize that the condition is diminishable and finite when we learn how to let it go. The grim truth is that many of us become victims of suffering, spending our days desperately attempting to protect ourselves from it through shame, blame, justification, rationalization and insurance! We apply an inordinate proportion of our life aiming to negate its impact by accumulating wealth, possessions and status that distract us from our base fears of hunger, sickness, poverty and death. However, this does not remove the cause sat all. It merely covers up the resulting pain and suffering. But what if this suffering had other reasons for being? What if it played a significant spiritual role in the development of each human being to fulfill their personal potential? What if it wasn’t a problem to be covered up at all, but one to be simply starved of the very fuels that stoke its flames and build its power over our lives? All the normal solutions to life’s suffering have been tried by people all over the world, again and again, across the eons of history but still the pain remains the same. Let’s go through the list... • You may have tried pleasure as the solution, but the high only lasts for a short while before the regular discomforts of life come back. In www.michaelpaulstephens.com 5
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works this way we constantly seek a high that is, ultimately, unsatisfactory. If it was truly satisfactory, it would never end. • Maybe you’ve tried buying stuff to ease the desire to be more attractive or the fear of being behind the times. But no matter how much stuff you buy the dissatisfaction always creeps back in, as if you were not treating the cause of it at all! • You’ve may even have tried changing locations and jobs but as soon as you think you’ve got suffering licked, there it is again, coming back to haunt you like a boomerang hurled away in despair but eventually smacking you in the head as it returns to illicit the same painful result. The conventional solutions to life’s problems, those recommended by the br ightes t politicians, economists, atheists and scientists continually fail to fill the unfillable void within each of us but where are the other solutions? There don’t seem to be any because the conventional wisdom of our world is irreparably flawed. It has chosen to perceive suffering, not as a choice but as something inevitable. This is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong and condemns billions of people around the world to engage, not only in the constant creation of personal suffering, but also to legitimize and engage in systems of economy, politics and society that reinforce these conditions in an endless spiral of suffering and spiritual decay. If we want the world to change, we first need to understand that you and I are the ones with the power to do that. We must expand our perception of what creates suffering in the world and take steps to remove those causes from our own lives first. This is where the purpose and process of meditation begins and ends. Sadly, an overwhelming majority of people are entirely unaware of this and thus remain entrenched within ideas that are slowly, but surely, killing them. It is true that everything and everyone suffers simply because we are physical beings but suffering is a purposeful natural phenomenon. It can be both diminished and extinguished in life by those committed to first rooting out its causes and reducing them and eventually eliminating them all together. This is a process that comes from within, not by meeting the illusory needs that we perceive as coming from the outside. You see, people live their lives obeying only certain natural laws and completely ignoring others. Imagine if you were to ignore the Law of Gravity for a day? You probably wouldn’t live through to the end of it. You’d walk off tall buildings, try to leap wide chasms and catch a falling tree or two! Ouch! The one law that we constantly fail to observe is the Law of Impermanence. This law is simple. It says: “everything changes.” It shouldn’t be too hard to live by this law because most of us already know it as a theory but really, how many of us actually apply it to our mind, body or energy system? Application is the only thing that matters regarding knowledge. Knowing without doing is useless and even counterproductive. We begin to believe we are too intelligent for any subtle solutions to escape our wisdom. But true wisdom is only found in doing and as anyone who observes the world will quickly realize, what we are doing on Earth is not very wise at all. Our actions define us and our physical reality not the theories with which we have fed our brains. Most of us virtually ignore the Law www.michaelpaulstephens.com 6
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works of Permanence despite knowing that it contains a truth that is ineffable. A great example of how we ignore it is the way in which our minds and emotions cling on to people, objects, situations and our self image despite knowing that all of these things will naturally change. Look at the huge sums of money people spend on their skin in order to avoid wrinkles and cling to their youth? Consider the great suffering by a family when a family member dies, despite all of us knowing it is a natural process that is no crying matter at all. Look at how we crave that new car as a solution to our problems and then fear it being scratched or stolen when we finally possess it. While these situations may seem very different to us, each of them is a direct result of suffering that arises either through desiring to have or maintain something or desiring to push away or be free from something. In short, this process of desire and aversion causes all suffering and yet it is a process to which the whole world has become ensnared. Entire societies actually encourage people to participate in an endless cycle of addiction to the very causes of suffering from which we are seeking our freedom! Consider the huge volumes of suffering generated through this process? For example, where do you think fear comes from? It is the feeling that arises in us when we expect our present reality to change in an undesirable way. Society plays upon this fear suggesting that it is a very healthy way to live by fearing sickness, unemployment, debt, divorce, being late, poverty, criticism, embarrassment, spiders and all manner of other projections that stem from a desire to permanently maintain what we have or permanently avoid what we don’t have. Thus we can be sold things that seem to protect us from these desperation conditions like face creams, condoms, drugs, investment plans, pensions, fast cars and education but none of them really remove the root causes. In fact, our reliance upon them and our faith that they do simply elevates the potential suffering to a whole new level. Why should we fear any natural phenomenon? We should not. Indeed, fear will only arise when we are not truly conscious of it and thus cannot control it. Fear is only a lack of wisdom dulling our faith that the present moment is a perfect creation of cause and effect. Why do we know that everything changes and yet expend so much of our lives fighting change? We cling to what we want and push so hard at what we don’t want, as if we are capable of creating a life divided from the very laws of cause and effect that brought us to this earth in the first place. That isn’t wisdom. It is madness. The kind of control that we apply to life is not a useful one. We try to bend and mold life from the outside in, changing the external reality as if it will ultimately offer us anything except a superficial comfort. But, in a world where everything changes, this will only ever create temporary satisfaction based upon a misconception. Sadly, seven billion people are all trying the same technique, changing the world on the outside so that they can be happy on the inside. No wonder the next time you look at the world around you the part you had perfectly in place in your life gets moved by someone else and the frustration, anger and fear plays out all over again. This is a way of living that leaves your contentment entirely up to the whims of other www.michaelpaulstephens.com 7
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works people who are also trying to change the world for their own person expectations. There has to be a better way where everyone can win. What has to change in the world is the idea that the desire to become something that you are not will end your suffering. We think: “When I become rich/a banker/married/ educated/loved”, or whatever, “I will be happy!” when the fact of the matter is plain and simple: how do you become a “better person” when none of us really knows who we really are now? We don’t look. We don’t observe. We have never looked or observed. So how do we know what we should become and whether it will serve us any better than who we already are? It is no wonder that our external solutions don’t work and have never worked when the person we really are doesn't really need any of the artificial solution we create for ourselves in our desperate pursuit of happiness! The truth of the matter is very simple. You cannot know who you are unless you look in the only place you exist. “Where is that?”, you may ask. But the question is flawed. “When is that?” is a far better question because you do not exist in a place as much as in a time and thus, knowing that time with a hitherto unattained intimacy is the only way to know who you are and what you are becoming. In a very real sense, the suffering that you experience in life through emotional stress, sadness, anger, bitterness and jealousy are not problems to be overcome, which is how we normally try to solve life’s issues. We think that if I can resolve my conflict or fix a situation, I can feel better about life but this is another external solution to an internal problem. You suffer because mostly because your mind takes you away from the present moment and your experience of the unity within it. Of course, when physical problems occur, there will always be suffering. But this suffering is not helped by thinking of all the terrible things that could, might or may happen, for example. It would be far better to let go of all thoughts and simply observe what is happening but few of us are taught how to do that or why it would be beneficial. Indeed, most conventional wisdom says we can only be happy once we have solved the pain problem but this can very often exacerbate and engender greater pain, not less. When you think about it, every emotion you will ever experience will be a feeling attached to a concept in your mind that: the present moment is somehow imperfect. Reread that and understand what I mean by it because it is fundamentally important as to why you should ever bother mediating in the first place. Take sadness for example. It is an emotion that chooses to believe that the present moment would be a better time if what you have lost was somehow back in your reality. This reads: the present moment is imperfect because of what I have lost. In other words, my ego’s desire causes me sadness. Frustration is another good example. This is the emotion that chooses to believe that the present moment continues to be less than what you desire it to be. Frustration arises when you cannot create the conditions that you think you need to be well or happy in the present moment. Finally fear, as previously discussed, is a great example of how we project something into the future and feel a sensation that chooses to perceive the arising of that condition through the sensation of aversion. We feel fear because our ego doesn’t want that kind of present moment to exist, so it tries to push it away. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 8
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works You could go through all the emotional states and discover the same message. Emotions are like emails from your spirit telling you that you are failing to live in the present. While we can all agree that emotions are an essential part of being human, we can also agree that fear, sadness and frustration are hardly augmentations to life’s experience however natural they may be. It is ultimately true that being free from emotional attachment would create a better present moment for us all and, far from creating the kind of robot that we might fear arises from the process of letting go of emotional reaction, what is actually created is a person who becomes far more sensitive and aware of the world around them. From this state arises the natural peace of a mind that refuses to engage in the pursuit of endless desire, aversions and suffering because it has realized that the temporary nature of all things extends to emotions and suffering, if we can find the mindfulness to let them go rather than holding onto them as I, me and mine. Meditation is misunderstood because it is often seen as being a religious practice by those people who lump together all kinds of spiritual pursuits in one homogenous mush. This is like saying that fitness is a religion and if you go to the gym religiously you must be some kind of zealot because who but a fanatic would actually plan a work out, visit a location especially designed for the practice and work so hard on it that their body actually changes shape, mass, size and all manner of inner workings! Of course, we do not see fitness in this way, nor should we see mediation in that way either. The truth of the matter is that if you wish to be present you have to work out the muscles that are not fit enough to keep you there. In this case, the muscle is not a physical element but consciousness, an energy that we all possess but few of us are truly aware of. One of the fundamentally basic purposes of meditation is (read the next part of the sentence very carefully) to observe without judgment who you are in the present moment. There, I’ve said it. The secret’s out. It’s not about becoming Buddha, reaching enlightenment, single-pointedness or emancipation from the chains of suffering, it is about simply listening to who you are here and now. This is a crucial practice in the task of letting go of attachments and emotional suffering as they arise. You see, all attachments are born, grow mature and die within us from moment to moment. What we can observe in the development of these attachments are our desires and aversions arising and falling. However, if we are not conscious in the present moment we will be unaware of them and thus allow them to proliferate along with the suffering they generate. Therefore, meditation is one way of attaining a greater groundedness in the present moment. As sensations are born within you, you can allow them to quickly pass through the stages of growing, maturing and dying out again but if you are unaware, you will allow your mind to engage those sensations and start an internal dialog of shame and blame. This doesn’t ‘work out’ these emotions. It expands and deepens them so that you store them up for another day. Eventually, the amino acids that you produce when you are emotional will congest in the body and cause sickness and disease. In a very literal sense then, meditation is not an act of doing much at all. It is allowing what you have already accumulated to arise and dissolve in the face of your present awareness. It is like removing the ignorance accumulated in your www.michaelpaulstephens.com 9
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works mind and body by a prescr ipt ion of consciousness. Many people like to think they are in some way incomplete. They desire self-improvement and betterment but the truth of the matter is that everyone is already perfect and meditation is designed to allow that perfection to shine through. What covers it up are the layers of ego that we place in its way. Meditation is a process of allowing those layers to dissolve like peeling an onion, layer by layer. Having said this, meditation is also deeply connected to our mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, the medical benefits of meditation are recorded in hundreds of studies across the world, so don’t just take my word for it. • STRESS: “Meditation decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases the intensity of alpha, theta, and delta brain waves—the opposite of the physiological changes that occur during [stress]”.1 • SLEEPING DISORDERS: 75% of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed.2 • BLOOD PRESSURE: Meditation significantly controls high blood pressure at levels comparable to widely used prescription drugs, and without the side effects.3 • PERIOD PAIN: Women with severe PMS showed a 58% improvement in their symptoms after five months of daily meditation.4 • HEART ATTACKS: Meditators over 6-9 months showed a marked decrease in the thickness of their artery walls, while non-meditators actually showed an increase. This change translates to about an 11% decrease in the risk of heart attack and an 8% to 15% decrease in the risk of stroke.5 • PAIN MANAGEMENT: Relaxation therapies are effective in treating chronic pain, and can markedly ease the pain of low back problems, arthritis, and headaches.6 • AGING: Meditation may slow aging. A study found that people who had been meditating for more than five years were physiologically 12 to 15 years younger than non-meditators.7 The list goes on and on. The medical benefits of meditation are known: you will attain greater wellbeing by regularly meditating: fact. You have spent most of your life to this point practicing being there and then and wondering why suffering keeps popping up its ugly head to remind you to do a little bit more of that and little less of this, but, if you were to listen to the subtle messages and change now, those messages would obviously become less and less frequent. Physical pain would decrease, stress would alleviate, emotional pain would subside, threat of illness and sickness would recede, in short; your life would change and all because you paused living there and then for a while and started living here and now. Of course, while meditation has many great benefits, it is not magic. It is a practice that aligns your entire being in the ways of nature that most of the world is currently ignoring, www.michaelpaulstephens.com 10 1 Herbert Benson, M.D. Harvard Medical School, author of The Relaxation Response 2 Dr. Gregg Jacobs, Psychologist, Harvard 3 Journal of the American Medical Association 4 Health, September, 1995 5 Stroke Journal, reported in Psychology Today, 2001 6 National Institutes of Health, 1996 7 International Journal of Neuroscience, 1982
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works hence the sense of conflict between man and nature. It is the act of watching who you are in order to learn, without any shadow of doubt, totally and through to the marrow of your bone, that everything changes, that everything that lives also dies, that everything you possess will one day be lost, that everyday gives birth to a new one, that every speck of sadness will one day become joy and that every hope or fear that can be realized will be realized if you wait long enough - so, enjoy the journey. If you do that, life becomes extraordinarily pleasant. You cannot enjoy a journey when you’re worried about who’ll be meeting you at the station when you arrive or whether you left the gas on at home. That is what causes suffering. You can only be happy now and meditation is learning the art of being now. You don’t need to focus on creating happiness, peace, concentration, clear-mindedness or any of the other barriers to your attainment of them. Happiness will arise all on its own because your inner nature is peaceful. Peace will arise when it’s ready because your true nature is at one with everything. Joy will come along when suffering dies as suffering is merely the manifestation of your struggle to become. Thus, meditation is about not trying to become anything. It is about finally allowing yourself to be who you are, perfect, light and magnificent. It’s an effortless process that requires just a little effort. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 11
  • Part 2 A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Setting Up a Meditation Space I don’t know about you, but if someone had told me when I was 20 years old that sitting and listening to my mind, body and energy was the key to my spiritual freedom, well, let’s say it would have taken more faith than I possessed to believe it possible. So, I understand the difficulty in changing a mindset that wants to do stuff, change stuff, get stuff completed and feel as if the effort is towards something. For anyone starting anything new, I think it takes a little faith. It is sad that we live in a world where the preferred view is that faith is non-scientific, therefore it cannot have any other value than as superstition. But for me, faith is a vital ingredient in what it means to be human, whether we believe in it or not. Think about it. Without faith, you would never make a choice, start any new ventures, be creative or intuit anything. Indeed, you would not get out of bed, cross the road or take any risks whatsoever. What is clear in our world is that you cannot wait for things to appear. You have to have faith that you can create them before they will appear. A good friend of mine said recently that faith is living in gratitude for everything you have in life. It is a great way to live. You give thanks for what you have and meet every event and person knowing that the universe doesn’t do excess. It is perfectly neat, perfectly economical, perfectly waste-less. It is a perfect mechanism of giving back what is put in. So, living in the present and being grateful for it is a great way to respect that law. Faith is the magic ingredient that turns logic and planning into belief and allows the energy of potential to be actualized into reality. This is why, as you begin on your journey of meditation, it is important for you to build faith in something or someone that represents your course or the foundations of what you believe. I don’t care whether that person is Christ, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa or Sarah Palin, each of us needs a figure who represents the values that we are aspiring towards and has demonstrated to us that they can be lived in the human form. This gives faith a face. Then, your personal path becomes one, not of wondering whether the goal is possible but of allowing it to be realized from within. Part of this process of faith is setting up a space that meets the needs of your meditation practice. When you dedicate a particular space to an activity, it is both literally and figuratively creating space in your life for it. The practice becomes a part of your existence and the space you create will help support your practice because of it. Many people that come to see me and my wife, Koong, are ungrounded, meaning that the foundations of their life are shaky and much of this is often down to the state of their home. If www.michaelpaulstephens.com 12
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works you have a home that doesn’t feel home, like a bui lding wi th weak foundat ions , thi s complicates your energetic foundation and creates great uncertainty. This can occur if your home is rented, if it is full of clutter, if you are only there on a temporary basis (like a short-term contract) or if you travel a lot and find it difficult to put down roots. In this case, making a nice meditation space is a great way to overcome many of these issues of groundedness and fashion a home brimming with nurturing energy. Anyone can set up a meditation space. You don’t need a spare room or a separate area to do it. You just need a little ingenuity and creativity to put things in the space where you will sit and practice. Of course, if you do have a spare room, that’s fantastic, but don’t give up just because you don’t have the space. It’s a bad excuse for doing nothing. Bring together a collection of those things that inspire you and find a table, shelf or top of a cabinet where you can leave them relatively undisturbed. This becomes your little shrine. You can add incense and candles (taking care not to burn down the entire community in the process) and anything else that kindles feelings of attainment, aspiration, and motivation. Our shrine at home in Thailand is a set of shelves that contain things that Koong and I respect and admire as spiritual guides and mentors. We have things from many faiths on these shelves, from Buddhism to Hinduism, Christianity to Islam; items of faith that bring us into our spiritual space. When we look at them they remind us of something important and motivate us to want to emulate the values that the person or object embodies in our mind. This is a powerful foundation for any practice. It is hard enough trying to maintain your practice without also disbelieving that people have been there before you. You start out knowing that what they have attained is possible. You can do it. That’s what a shrine says to me. I hope it will say the same and more to you. It is important that your shrine helps you generate the sensation of support for your practice and that your statues, pictures or objects of faith inspire you in some way to be committed to the process of change that occurs every time you sit and observe yourself. Of course, you do not need a shrine to meditate, it is just a suggestion. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 13
  • Part 3 A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Practical Essentials of Meditation Times to Meditate If you want to change your life, change your diary. This is the clearest message I can give to you. It is the oldest trick in the book to keep telling yourself that you don’t have time to change. It is also a poor excuse. What you really mean is that you can’t be bothered. Important things get prioritized, that is clear, so work out what is important in your life and then change your diary to accommodate those things. Hopefully a regular awareness practice will be among them! But, don’t be too strict or hard on yourself. Make the pledge that you will commit your time and effort, but, if you really don’t feel like it or have something important come up, change your schedule. You don’t want meditation to become a chore. Just ask yourself what your motivation is. Are you missing your appointment with yourself because you want to or have to? If you cannot meditate for some reason it is no good at all making yourself into a victim of your own self-loathing. It rather defeats the point, doesn’t it? Find a middle path to your practice. Like working out your body, keeping a regular practice ensures the effects multiply and grow but going to the gym three times a day every day, because “it is your duty” or “a matter of life or death”, well, that’s just being zealous and will result in the opposite of what you are trying to attain. Peace cannot be created by being at war with yourself, your time, your schedule, your space or anything else. Just be cool. I like to meditate in the morning. This time is when I am most alert. There is no fixed time for it, although the Buddha did suggest between 3-5AM as being the best time! You will find your own time but book it into that diary of yours. Don’t go through your day waiting for an opportunity. It will never arrive, and then, neither will you. Before bed is another good time, when the day has died down and quiet may have descended in the house. However, be wary of the tendency to become lethargic or fall asleep. It is a barrier to practice and sleepiness can create frustration as you will learn in the hindrances to practice later on in this guide. Finally, how long should you meditate? Well, it is up to you, but I would recommend at least 20-30 minutes but that is not to say that ten minutes is not worthwhile. Any time that you commit to the process is better than nothing. Whatever time you do decide to commit, make sure that you keep to it for that session. You do not have to meditate for exactly the same duration each day but be sure to decide before you sit down. If you decide 20 minutes, meditate for twenty minutes. This is important www.michaelpaulstephens.com 14
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works as without a set time the meditation will not be as smooth. Keep a clock nearby so you know what the time is. If you wish to set an alarm, this is a good idea, but make sure it is something gentle that will not be a sudden shock. This is very important. Bringing you out of a meditation sharply can be very upsetting for your energy and destroy the refreshing benefit of calm relaxation that you may attain. Sitting, Standing or Lying? Yes, is the short answer. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which posture you adopt because you can be aware of yourself in any of them but there are certain practicalities to be aware of and certain postures are better at certain times. Lying down is more likely to make you sleepy, so avoid it if you are prone to being plagued by sloth or torpor. This has been one of my greatest hindrances, which basically means my mind gets heavy and sleepy, so lying down is a position I have rarely used. This is not to say it is inferior to other positions and is certainly great before bed in order to have that 10- minute awareness check before drifting off into a wonderful sleep. Standing is very possible, especially if you plan to open your eyes, and there are some great meditations that make use of it, as you will see. Walking is one of them, especially for those of us (yawn :o) who have a tendency towards falling asleep. Another is grounding, which can be very powerful. If you do plan to meditate standing up, choose wisely and perhaps learn to meditate with your eyes slightly open, which will help with balance. However, sitting is the favored position for many meditators. Some levels of awareness can be quite intoxicating and disorientating, so in a strong sitting position your body should stay upright, especially if you adopt the tougher sitting postures such as the lotus or half lotus. These postures offer stability although they are hard to impossible for beginners. If you start young, however, it is a lot easier! It is also perfectly acceptable to use a chair when meditating, especially if you find sitting in a cross-legged position painful. There are also some great meditation cushions that you can buy from specialist shops, including a mediation stool which I have found very useful when sitting for long periods. More on these in the next section. In conclusion, choose a posture that feels best for you. One of your challenges as a meditator will be to bring your body to a point where the posture itself is not a barrier to your meditation. In theory, no posture should be a barrier at all, if you are simply observing how things feel in your mind, body and energy, but in practice, few of us want to sit through 30 minutes of excruciating knee or back pain when there are easier ways to become acquainted with the practice before moving on through postures that may help you attain higher levels later on. Again, don’t be too strict with this. If you want to lie down one day and sit the next, do it! Do what feels right for you at the time. There is no right or wrong way. It is much better that you meditate in one way or another than not at all. When you are sensitive to your needs, sitting when sleepy, lying when needing to relax for example, the practice will take care of itself. Getting Comfortable Meditation is not a chore. It should be enjoyable. It should, OK, eventually, be pleasurable but there are a few tricks that can be employed up front to avoid some of the inevitable pain that occurs when your body is www.michaelpaulstephens.com 15
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works asked to sit in a posture that, for the first 92 years of life you have singly refused to practice! Firstly, don’t be cheap on a good cushion. If there is one thing absolutely guaranteed to screw up your back it is a soft, limp, squishy-thing of a cushion. You won’t notice it for about the first 4 minutes but after that you will realize that your body is moving ever-so-slightly with every breath and pump of blood, causing your back muscles to make slight adjustments as the cushion moves. While these may be the most minuscule, even imperceptible movements, your back won’t care. It will just hurt. I like to use two cushions, one to place my bottom on and the second underneath and large enough for my legs to rest at a slightly lower level. This posture naturally pushes my hips forwards slightly, straightening the back and creating a solid base, when coupled with good, solid cushions, of course. There are plenty of cushions designed especially for meditation. However, a good, old-fashioned study chair will do just as well. You don’t need a cushion at all, if you choose to sit upright. Just be sure that chair is solid and won’t move. Don’t use your office swivel chair or the Fitball. It won’t work. Another great device is a meditation bench, which you sit on and tuck your legs underneath the seat, as if you were kneeling. The seat takes your weight, not your knees and it gets over the problem of painful knees and legs, while also helping to straighten the back naturally. Another part of being comfortable is to wear the right clothes. Loose fitting clothes are probably preferable but you have to be aware of climate and temperature of your meditation space. It is also preferable to wear natural fibers whenever possible as human-made fibers are not so cool energetically. If you have chosen to sit, there are also numerous postures that you can choose. There are a number of different cross-legged postures that are common but, once again, I urge you to find the right position for you and not feel that there is some accomplishment in being able to sit for an hour with your legs wrapped around your ears or something like that. This is fine, if you are in a circus, but unnecessary for meditation. The old fashioned cross-legged posture you used to sit in while watching TV as a child is one of the most basic positions. Try it out and see how it feel. If you find that your back is getting sore, stiff or collapsing in the middle, try leaning against a wall for support. Over time, you will get used to the position and not need the support any longer. You can put one leg in front of the other, if you so choose. This is called the Burmese sitting posture. Another is the half lotus, where you bring one leg over the other, like the child’s cross-legged position, but end up with the bottom of your foot pressing into the opposite thigh and the bottom of the foot facing up to the ceiling. This can be hard on the ankles at first, so be warned. I won’t even go into the full lotus position. The final point about creating comfort is to be aware of the shape of the posture that you have chosen. Stretch your back, swivel your arms, move your hips until any kinks are ironed out and relax into your posture. Sit with your back straight, but not tight or even forcing it into a concave shape. This creates tension and you will feel it as the meditation progresses. Be aware of tension in your shoulders, neck, stomach or any other areas where there should be no tension. Focus on it and let it go. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 16
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Keep your head slightly back, as if it is resting on your next, not pushed forward or artificially back. Due to its weight, having your head forward or backwards can unbalance you and create tension. Be aware of whether you are pushing out your chest too. You shouldn’t be. Breath normally and from the stomach. Be aware of how your body moves when you breath. Many people have a tendency to breath from the chest but you can correct this, which will help with blood circulation and openness. Finally, slightly open your mouth and push your tongue gently to your palette and against your teeth. It should feel quite natural to rest in there without any effort. Creating Ambience None of these things are necessary, of course, if you live beside a beach, in a forest or on a mountain. Just go outside and sit down! Nature is the ultimate meditation support as, in effect, all flora is meditating at all times. You don’t need better companions than that! However, for those of us who live in the smoke and choke of a city or don’t have the luxury of a rock to sit on in some national park, creating the right ambience is a nice way to give your meditation a little boost. I always like to have a shower just before I meditate. This is important to me because meditation is about listening to what is called your ‘higher self’, so I want to respect that. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, my mother used to say, although she’ll probably claim that I made that up, which I did, but never mind, it’s still a fair point. Creating little rituals that are significant to you can help to create an ambience and an air that what you are doing with your meditation is a significant part of your day. It is. It is not something to get out of the way. It is not something to hurry through. It should be respected or it will quickly descend into being no more meaningful than taking a pill for your headache. What you are about to do is listen to the essential nature of yourself. There is really no higher purpose or more powerful act than that. Respect it. Prior to taking my shower, I like to light a candle under my oil burner and add the burner an oil that is suitable for how I am feeling. If I am feeling a little low in energy, lethargic or sleepy I may add peppermint, rosemary or lemon, for example, or if I want to enhance the depth of my relaxation, ylang ylang or orminis flower (camomile) are useful. Then, when I return, the meditation space smells inviting and relaxing. Just what I need to get going. Some people like to perform a little ritual before starting to meditate. This is a personal issue as it may relate to a religious prayer or rite, all of which are cool as long as they get you into that space where your mission is the awareness of now. Any methods that help refine the ambience towards being more aware, concentrated and focussed will help. I like to light incense for my Buddha, respecting what he attained within the human form. When we look at the attainments of these beings in this way, we begin to realize they only did what we too are capable of doing. When you come back next day and have had a crappy 24 hours, don’t fret that you didn’t live up to the highest values, principles or actions of your master. Turn to them once more for inspiration and guidance. They will never say no. They will never turn you away. Only you can choose to walk away from them but they will always give more when you ask to receive. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 17
  • Part 4 Building Purpose A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works When I was about 24 I read in a wonderful meditation book that I should keep a meditation diary, which I did. It was a good suggestion because it helps us to look back on the experiences we have, draw on the strong ones and put the less strong into context. However, I took it all a little too seriously. I started giving myself grades in order to have a more empirical gauge of my success. Obviously, to my logical brain at least, a meditation with a score of 8 was better than one with a score of 4, so it made sense to me that I should keep shooting for 8, 9 or 10! Right? Wrong! What I didn’t realize at the time was that such an approach was setting me up for abject failure all created by my own expectations. One day I had one of the most amazing meditation experiences. I felt totally focussed and I drifted through a world of light and color that left me full of bliss, on a high that I assumed had been a product of my diligence, hard work and the fantastic decision to grade my effort out of ten and really push myself towards excellence (that’s irony by the way.) Most skills that we learn are such that you can e x p e c t a l e a r n i n g c u r v e wh e r e t h e improvement is generally upwards and things become easier as we practice but what I did not know was that meditation is not like really that. It is like peeling an onion. When you get through one layer, you have a breakthrough but there is always another layer and the challenges may come back even harder than before because the layer is deeper ingrained into us. So, the next day I expected the same result and it set me up for failure. After all, wasn’t I right to assume that the more I practice concentration, the more concentrated I will become? Yes, if the point of meditation is concentration, but it is not. The point of meditation is to use awareness to let go of attachments and sometimes, when you are feeling at your absolute worst, you may be letting go of far more attachment than when you are feeling bliss. In meditation, there is always what you might call ‘improvement’, but it is not improvement in ways that I was gauging my success,. I thought I had to become more focussed, concentrated and therefore, inevitably, I would attain more and more of these wonderful experiences. But that is not the way. When you do attain these blissful experiences, which if you keep going for long enough you probably will, clinging to them and expecting more is about as useful as clinging to your mountain launch pad while hoping to fly. It becomes the very antithesis of what you are trying to do, which is to let go of your attachment to becoming anything tomorrow, next month or ever and simply experiencing www.michaelpaulstephens.com 18
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works who you are right now. Sometimes that will be in bliss, other times that will be in absolute misery, but it is better to be totally aware of it and let it go, than to be totally oblivious to it and prolong the process as if it is really who you are. So it is vital that you create a purpose for your meditation that avoids the usual gauges of success/failure, improvement/decline or attainment/non-attainment. I understand that this may be anathema to some people. We have trained our minds to be goal centered and predictive, but this is only one possible outcome of training, not the only one. Meditation is the process of retraining your mind to live with the true nature of nature, so, different or abnormal processes or purposes are bound to feel a little weird at first. You will be fighting a life-long volume of conditioning that makes anything outside of that conditioning feel ‘wrong’ or ‘uncomfortable’ but as soon as you feel this, remember, this is what change feels like. Your purpose for your meditation, at least initially, should be nothing more that experiencing your own private present moment. You’re going to take a look at who you really are and that can be ugly, beautiful, focussed or splattered all over the place; it’s anybody’s guess who you will meet on any given day. Just sit down being prepared to greet the ‘you’ who you are today without judgement, without emotion, without reaction and you will begin to realize that whoever you are right now is good enough. Indeed, it is all you are and that cannot be anything less than perfect. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 19
  • Part 5 A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Barriers to Meditation Ego is a many-splendored thing. It is more devious than you ever thought possible and it will throw up countless barriers to make meditation seem weird, impossible, sleepy or too much effort without even breaking a sweat. Here’s some of the barriers you’re bound to meet and ways to help get through them. External Barriers Let’s start with those external barriers that can become a huge pain. First of these is finding a place quiet enough for you to sit and listen to yourself and not the neighbors TV or your kid playing the trumpet. Of course, you could break off your meditation mid-way through and scream for your family to ‘Shut up!’ before returning to your meditation, but that may be counterproductive in the pursuit of peace and quiet. Firstly, do what you can with the environment that you have. Most of us who live in a city or large town will find it very hard to create a completely noise-free environment. However, you can reduce interference and interruptions by doing some very obvious things like turning off your mobile phone, unplugging your land line, switching off the TV and radio and closing the door to the room in which you are planning to meditate. This will help. However, bear in mind that you are unlikely to be able to remove every possible distraction. Indeed, you don’t really want to. As you will learn, including rather than trying to exclude sensual experience is the key to meditating without frustration or dashed expectations. Kate, a dear friend of mine and a highly experienced meditator was encountering all sorts of external interruptions in her early morning meditation, not least of these was morning prayers at a local mosque blaring out across the neighborhood and a host of early morning delivery trucks and shop shutters being rolled up doing everything they possibly could to distract her from her meditative object. Often, a meditation is about bringing your mind to an meditative object, like your breath or a candle but frustration can easily set in when you perceive outside disturbances as being the cause of your distracted mind. So, what do you do? Seeing as you cannot stop a mosque from calling its people to prayer or change the delivery time of the trucks that bang their doors and rev their engines, you should deal with those disturbances as a part of your meditation and, rather than focussing on one object of meditation, focus on them all. This is exactly what Kate did and soon the frustration was gone. You cannot change the outside world, and if it keeps entering your meditation, embrace it www.michaelpaulstephens.com 20
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works rather than feeling the frustration of continually failing to exclude it. Remember once again, the point of meditation is not concentration but observation. When you embrace this, you will embrace everything that is in your present moment as being essential for your personal evolution. Sensual Barriers Another aspect of external distraction is sensory desire. One of those that is most common for a student of meditation is physical pain! When you start sitting cross-legged for a period of time, you may feel your body screaming for submission. Of course, you could always move your body, which is fine, but we can also use pain as an object of meditation. When you realize that the motivation to be free from pain is aversion, another aspect of desire, pain actually makes a great study of how ego works to create more suffering, not less. If you do this, you will note that pain is not a constant feeling but an ever-fluctuating one. It has many qualities that we do not usually recognize in our panic to be rid of it. Whatever you are doing in life, your senses will always be in the process of seeking stimulation in one form or another. It is the way we have been trained to think and feel, so during meditation, why should this process stop? Seeking pleasure through the sensual stimulation is like taking out a loan from the universe. As with any loan, you must repay the debt with interest. The interest we pay takes the form of suffering which arises when we are separated from the object of our desire or all the pleasure from it is used up and we are left with that hollow feeling of needing something else from which to rekindle the lost pleasure. Thus, we set out on the endless pursuit of the endless experience... A good example is going out for an ice cream. Once you have had one, you probably don’t want another. More ice cream would just make you sick. So, even if you crave ice cream, you have a real yearning for it, once you have eaten the ice cream you will feel great. It will have done it’s job. Now what’s next? The excitement and expectation of the experience is over. Your senses have been stimulated and you are now left with a gap that your senses will slowly begin to fill with desire again. Now I want this and then that and after this and that I will need these and those. It is never ending, always borrowing from the universe and repaying the loan with sadness that it is gone or emptiness that must be filled again with objects of desire. So, it could be said that sensations are like addictions that our mind clings to. We keep feeding the senses and so we keep going through the same cycle of suffering. Of course, when we start meditating, this conditioned situations doesn’t just stop because we expect it to. It is not that easy. Your mind will be well training in grasping at pleasurable experiences and sitting without judgment and emotion is certainly not what you would initially call ‘pleasant’ So, thoughts keep coming at us. We are uncomfortable. We are hungry. We are cold. We want to be at peace. We want to be doing something else. We are bored. Desire and aversion is the mind we discover because that is the mind we have been cultivating for our entire life up to this point. During meditation, like a spoiled child, the ego demands to have the senses stimulated and this is what gives rise to emotional suffering. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 21
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works However, if you simply observe each sensation as it arises, both desire and aversion, without judgment, without clinging, without pushing away, this is the cultivation of a cool mind. With a cool mind you can eventually extinguish the fire of clinging and desire that perpetuates suffering when it fails to get its own way. Be sure, this takes practice! In fact, a life time of it. While meditation will have quick results in some areas, the mind will resist being present with as much zeal as you have put into training it not to be present. It doesn’t want to give up its pleasures. It must be worked with like you work on your body in a gym. There are no instant cures or quick fixes. Only when we can let go of these sensual attachments can real peace emerge from the war of desire. Ill Will Ill will is like hatred towards people or objects. There are meditations that are specifically designed to help us grow our heart energy through love and forgiveness because ill will can unrest any mind if it cannot treat the object of its meditation with love and compassion. Every meditation that you conduct will have an object of meditation, that is, something you will concentrate on. The point of the meditation is not to attain concentration but to be aware of your ego arising to break your concentration. Your mind, like all minds on this earth, will wander away from a meditation object because you have never noticed yourself training your mind to seek out more and more desires almost by autopilot. As soon as you stop doing this, as in a meditation, it is a shock to the mind and so it resists. Your job as a meditator is not to catch it, scold it and drag it kicking and screaming back to the object of meditation, but to be aware of how and when the mind is straying and gently remind it of your purpose. One of the ways we do this is to imagine the mind as a blue sky and when thoughts or feelings enter that blue sky we make them like clouds that slowly fade and are blown gently away. This is a calming metaphor and avoids the tendency of goal-oriented minds to view any distractions as a failure to concentrate. This labeling of experience in this way is very debilitating and will eventually cause more ill will to grow. You will begin to loathe your practice because you are ‘not very good at it’, or ‘keep failing to concentrate.’ The trick to avoiding ill will against the object of your meditation (I hate staring at that boring old candle! Or My stupid mind can’t concentrate on my breath!) is to develop love for it. Many meditations involve watching the breath in some shape and form. If you treat the breath like it was your toddling child, how would you treat it? Would you stop watching it? Would you drop it and become distracted by sensory desires? Of course, you wouldn’t. You would be diligent and loving. If it did wander off, you would gently bring it back to your attention. Ill will can be quite subtle but it is a serious hindrance because of its insidious nature. We may find it hard to believe we can hate our own breath or body parts that we may be using as our meditation object, but we can and we may not even know it. As you are meditating, treat the object of meditation with respect and love and it will instantly be easier to connect with. Energetic Barriers www.michaelpaulstephens.com 22
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Having low energy is a barrier to meditation that has been a particular friend of mine over the years. This low energy, perhaps due to physical tiredness, energetic weakness or lack of motivation, can cause the mind to become easily distracted from the object of meditation to the point where it is even possible to fall asleep (not that it has ever happened to me, of course. Ahem!) The point of meditation, if you understand that the mind has two functions: doing and knowing, it is to maintain the mind in a state of knowing but to dull the state of doing so that enough space opens up to truly know the nature of the object of your meditation. Tiredness can cause both the doing and the knowing to become dull and lethargic. That’s why you fall asleep. To overcome the energy barrier of lethargy the first thing you do with meditation is fix the object of your meditation before you begin and set yourself a time limit. This becomes a kind of goal but without the usual criteria of success and failure. The second thing you do is approach the object of your meditation with the mind of the child. To the child everything is new and exciting. My five year old boy, Jacob, is a perfect example. Even if he’s half falling asleep inside, he will summon up the energy to force himself to be alert and boisterous if there is something he really wants to be doing. So, before you kick off your meditation, bring into your mind the idea that you will be meeting the object of your meditation for the very first time and you will learn entirely new properties about it that you have never experienced before. You are about to embark on a journey of discovery! This is how you can develop a sense of delight in exploring the mundane and that is a sensation full of energy. If you are prone to a little sloth, prior to meditating a third approach is to make sure you have that cool shower to wake you up. Use it as a mindfulness exercise, feeling what you are doing as vividly as you can. This primes the mind for the upcoming meditation. Also, quickening the pace of your breathing during meditation can be a good way to bring the mind into some active energy. Alternatively, slow down the breathing and make the breath deliberately long and slow, feeling with greater intensity the breath as it goes in and out of your body. This can build alertness in the mind and shake off any cobwebs. Perhaps you might try an open-eye meditation, or a walking meditation. Both of these are very effective and certainly get over the problem of falling asleep. Finally, think about changing the time and/or location of your meditations. It may be better to meditate earlier, before you get tired or in a place with better or different energy, such as in the garden or a local park rather than in the confines of four walls. Good energy for meditation really does make a difference. Restlessness The classic simile for the nature of mind is it being like a monkey. It is always grabbing at things that fascinate it; sensory objects, stimulants, colors, shapes, running endlessly and seemingly without a break from one things to next like a ceaseless game of word association played all on its own. It is restlessness of the mind that, I would argue, many people find most difficult to come to terms with because they perceive this restlessness as a failure to concentrate or to focus. So they give up. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 23
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works It is understandable, of course, especially if you have been led to believe that meditation is about being calm, focussed and serene. Thus, it is somewhat of a shock for people to sit and realize that their own mind, the thing they think they know the best about themselves, is actually completely out of control and filled with accumulated junk that they didn’t even know they owned. What if you went about your meditation with the intention of being grateful for what you have, not desiring what you do not have? Disappointment in meditation is always a creation of trying to be something that you are not, or discovering parts of yourself that you don’t like and don’t want to see. True meditation is discovering who you truly are without judgment, without disappointment, without expectation. So, the practice of observing whatever it is you find when you are meditating is crucial to overcoming the monkey mind. What you must avoid is trying to force the mind to stop thinking. It is like pushing against a wall of ego. The harder you push, the harder it will push back and you will never break down a wall just be pushing. It will take time, but you must let the wall rot away, which it will do if you stop building it with more and more energy. Simply observe the monkey mind, observe who you are, observe its changing nature and, over time, it will calm itself because the energy that you have fed it over the course of you life thus far will one day be exhausted. And then you will be able to observe what is left. Doubt The last but certainly not least of the barriers is doubt. This can take many forms, each of which undermine the whole intention of your meditation. Prior to meditation, you may wonder, “Why bother?”, or “I hope I don’t have an unfocussed session again” which instantly places doubt and expectation on the whole endeavor. What is clear is that starting your meditation with a doubtful mind will impact upon everything that happens as you begin sitting. This is why cultivating compassion for the meditation object, compassion for the mind that observes it and confidence in the process of meditation is essential. Many people may find that meditation as a beginner is not as rewarding as they thought it might be. Others will take to it instantly. It is crucial that you maintain a mind that is open to what it receives, which may be bliss, or it may be frustration. Treating both with compassion and acceptance avoids doubt. A second way that doubt creeps in is during the meditation proper. If you begin with plenty of confidence and good will, this can soon ebb away, particularly if your ability to focus on the object of meditation is hindered by other barriers such as a lack of energy or a monkey mind. It is easy for the beginner practitioner to want to give up and scream “This isn’t doing me any good. It’s just making more frustrated than before I started.” This may be true. But what you encounter whenever your mind begins to sow seeds of doubt, or lurches from object to object or begins to drain energy away from the medi tat ion object , i s not a real i s t i c interpretation of what you are experiencing. It is merely your ego arising with the objection in order to demand attention. When you ego desires sensual stimulation it may tell you: “Wouldn’t it be better if you www.michaelpaulstephens.com 24
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works stopped this nonsense and went to see a movie instead”. When it seeks to sabotage your effort it may say: “This will never work. How can doing nothing create something?” There are many ways for sabotage to occur but all the barriers to meditation are the ego placing hindrances in your way, some of which may seem insurmountable but, of course, they never are. You have spent many years in the future, and many years in the past. Being present is a skill which is unfamiliar to the beginner and even some of the more experienced meditators who are seeking something through their practice, and therefore it seems a little tough. It is even tougher when you don’t make that connection between the very real benefits of meditation and the need to expand them in your present moment. It doesn’t seem possible when you’re in the clutches of monkey mind during your meditation, that simply observing the monkey at work is a powerful way by which to diffuse its energy, but it is indeed. The ego will always offer you attractive ways by which to fuel its need for sensual stimulation and activity but it cannot fuel it if you simply watch it working away, becoming more and more tired, more and more exhausted, more and more used up. There will, of course, be many, many layers to your ego and just when you seem to have got it licked, it comes back renewed, as if born again. But don’t despair, don’t doubt. Faith is a crucial tool in your practice. Look at your masters on your shrine. They had difficulties too. They had a monkey mind. They had doubt. They had ill will. Their greatness stems from overcoming them. They could do it. And so can you. Practice anew and take each session as a new day, fresh through the eyes of the child and full of boundless potential. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 25
  • Part 6 A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Ten Basic Meditations The following is a description of ten diverse meditations that I have found very useful throughout my life. It is by no means an exhaustive list but is intended to offer you a nice cross-section of choices when deciding which meditation will suit you on any given day. As you become familiar with them I am quite certain that you will find some that you like, some that suit you and others that you don’t like and are unsuited. That is quite normal. Bear in mind that this will change as your practice progresses. I have chopped and changed my meditation techniques over the years and have begun to know how, eventually, the different techniques you learn from each begin to integrate into a single, flexible approach to meditation that you can allow to adjust and evolve just as you yourself adjust and evolve. Remember, all meditations are best practiced using a middle path. The mind should not be too strict or too lax. You should be compassionate with yourself and your abilities. Through love and diligence you will progress best, not austerity or apathy. The Ten meditation contained herein are: 1. Mindfulness with Breathing 2. Candle Meditation 3. Chakra Meditation 4. Awareness of Being 5. Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) 6. Walking Meditation 7. Awareness of Doing 8. Grounding 9. Centering 10.Wellness Breathing www.michaelpaulstephens.com 26
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation One Mindfulness with Breathing It is said that the Buddha himself attained enlightenment through this meditation. Needless to say then, it is one of the most powerful, but also one of the most difficult to master. That is not to say that the beginner cannot use it. Indeed, it is often the foundation of many retreats and has been for 2,500 years. What is often not taught is that there are three different techniques, any of which you can use and all of which will help you to attain the same thing: self-awareness. The point of following your breath is simple. With awareness you will begin to gain insight into the true nature, individuality and connectedness of every breath. You will begin to notice that each breath is different and unique and that the very nature of breathing, and therefore of the person who breaths, is impermanent and changing. Impermanence is the very antithesis of ego that holds onto things and says this is ‘me’, this is ‘mine’, as if these things existed in a permanent state. It is liberation from these ideas that Buddha attained through observing his breathing. So can you. Part 1: Following the breath I will assume for each of these meditations that you have gone through your meditation preliminaries; preparing your space, getting comfortable and conducting any rites and rituals that you need to. The first part of Mindfulness with Breathing is to observe the breath as it goes into your body and out of your body. You do this by simply training your mind on the sensation of the breath passing in through the nose, down into your lungs and into the pit of your stomach, where the energetic properties of the breath, called prana, feed the body. A good technique to use is to imagine that the breath is a ball, rolling all the way down into your stomach and possession a cool sensation before rolling up from your lungs in the opposite direction as a warm sensation. Watch this process from one breath to the next, returning your mind to the breath as and when it diverts or attaches to a sensation or emotion. As you observe your breathing, you will probably find that there are gaps in your sensitivity, places on the journey of your breath where it seems to disappear. Do not be frustrated by this, but keep observing. Over time these gaps will be filled as the subtle nuances of sensation begin to be revealed to you. Also, these gaps will probably move around from place to place. This is quite normal. Take it as another indication of the transient and changing nature of living and of life. This is exactly what you are learning in real time. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 27
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Another little trick to start you off, one that you can dispense with as you become more familiar with the meditation process, is to begin this breathing by counting the breath in your mind. You want to try to get to ten breaths without losing concentration. As you breath in and out, that’s one. In and out again, that’s two etc. If you lose concentration, go back to one and start again. This technique is excellent if your mind is really tending to wander and can help you build up a rhythm and some confidence. You might want to start a meditation with two or three rounds of ten until the mind calms down, or you can conduct the whole meditation counting. It is up to you. Part 2: Observe the Breath Enter, Observe it Leave (Being the Gatekeeper) Once you have become familiar with the first technique, the second is to learn how to observe the breath like a gatekeeper. You do this by watching it at two particular points in your body where the process of breathing starts and ends. As you breath in, observe how the breath feels as it enters your body through your nose. Bring all of your attention to that point on the in-breath. Then, on the out-breath, shift your attention to the pit of your stomach at your navel, where you observe the breath leaving the body. This is a variation on the first part in that you are becoming more focussed on particular areas on your body. It can be a little tricky at first, as shifting the focus can seem to limit the sensitivity you are building up, but as you begin to master this technique, you will see how it leads to the third part. Part 3: Observation of the Breath at the Nose The final part of this technique is to fix your attention at the point on your nose where the sensation of breathing is strongest. This may be your nostrils, inside your nose, or even your top lip. As you begin breathing, note where the sensation is most vivid and use that point as your meditation object. Follow the breath in and out at that point only, observing the changing sensations from each moment to the next and each breath to the next. You can use these three medi tat ions individually or together, progressing from one to the next as you master each stage or choosing which is best for you and sticking with it for some time. It is really your choice. An Additional Technique Once you have become familiar with the three techniques and feel comfortable with each, there is a great warm up technique you can use for Mindfulness with Breathing that quickly sets up your mind to observe the process of breathing with more care and attention. This technique is to practice watching the short breath and the long breath. It will not have passed your notice that different depths and lengths of breathing affects the way the body, mind and emotions feel. For example, short breathing might be connected to anger or frustration, while longer, smoother breathing might be connected with relaxation and peace. In this breathing technique you deliberately manipulate your breathing first to shorten and quicken and then to relax and calm it lengthening the inhalation and exhalation breath to five or six seconds. Each round of breathing (short or long) will last about a minute or two. You must take care that the short breath is not too fast in order to avoid hyper ventilation. If you ever feel dizzy or sick, www.michaelpaulstephens.com 28
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works lengthen the breathing to a normal, natural breath for a while before continuing. When you practice this technique for a few rounds, next time you bring your breath back to a natural flow, you may find that the mind is more relaxed and calm. The technique can help set up the body, mind and energy to discover a more harmonious state in which meditation can reach deeper states of awareness more quickly than normal. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 29
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Two Candle Meditation The Candle Meditation is a simple open-eye meditation. All you do is light a tea candle and place it on the floor in front of you at a point where your eyes would be angled roughly 45 degrees down to the floor. You then adopt a sitting meditation position and close your eyes before slightly opening them to reveal the burning candle on the floor. This candle then becomes your object of meditation. This can be quite effective for the wandering mind as, in the flame, the mind is observing a phenomena that is obviously always changing. This can keep it more occupied that, say, breathing, which at first can be very subtle or even fairly numb. Eventually, as you focus your attention on the flame, everything around it fades and you begin to achieve a single-pointedness, However, don’t go seeking this outcome. It will happen naturally as you surrender to the process. Simply watch your mind, observe your body, observe the flame and let what will be, be. A variation on this is to use anything on the floor to focus upon. I have often focussed on a crack in the floor, a piece of carpet or a speck of dirt as a meditation object. It became a popular technique of mine, demonstrating how meditation objects can be anything that is available. It needn’t be anything special at all. As long as you maintain the technique of observing yourself as you observe the object, the result will be the same: single-pointed focus and awareness of the ever-changing nature of reality. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 30
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Three Chakra Meditation Chakra meditation is a classic visualization technique used to clean your energy field and empower your energy body. It is great for developing bodily awareness, your personal visualization ability and to realize the power of your aura and its effect in your life. In your body you have 7 major energy centers called chakras. These centers respond to your emotional, physical and energetic conditions as wel l as influence them. Each has a corresponding color that, when visualized in the physical bodily location of that chakra, helps to open up the energy and nourish it. Each chakra has energetic, physical and mental properties connected to it. So, if you can learn how to stimulate the energy in each area and attain a harmony in all seven, this is a major contributing factor to good health, quality of life, contentment, emotional stability, even the opening of opportunities, love or income! The Chakras are all located along the spine (kind of!) with the first and the seventh having a single location at the tailbone of the spine and the crown of the head. The other five each have locations both emanating from the front and back of the body. Imagine that they are spinning cones of light that feed the aura surrounding your body. When these energies spin in a healthy way, you too will be healthy. But, if your energy becomes depleted in one or other area, this can cause complications in how you feel and behave. Technique Begin your meditation by bringing your attention to your breathing and conducting three rounds of breathing mindfully as described in the Mindfulness with Breathing Meditation. Next bring your attention to your root chakra. This is represented by the color red. It is located at the base of your spine - the coccyx or tail bone. The root chakra is your groundedness and is responsive to your sense of family & group safety/security, ability to provide for life’s necessities and to stand up for yourself. With every in-breath imagine a ball of glowing red energy to be growing at the base of your spine. With every out-breath, imagine that ball becoming compacted into a tighter and more powerful ball. Spend about 2-3 minutes expanding the energy in that area. Cycle through the other 6 chakras like this: 2. Sacral Chakra: Color: Orange Location: One inch below your navel Responsive to your sense of blame & guilt, money & sex, power & control, creativity, and ethics and honor in relationships www.michaelpaulstephens.com 31
  • 3.Emotion Chakra: Color: Yellow A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Location: Solar plexus just under the sternum Responsive to your sense of trust, fear & intimidation, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect , care of onesel f and other s , responsibility for making decisions, sensitivity to criticism and personal honor 4.Heart Chakra: Color: Green Location: Center of your breast plate Responsive to your sense of love & hatred, resentment & bitterness, grief & anger, self-centeredness, loneliness & commitment, forgiveness & compassion and hope. 5.Throat Chakra: Color: Blue Location: Your thorax Responsive to your sense of choice & strength of will, personal expression, following one’s dream, using personal power to create, addiction, judgment & criticism, faith & knowledge, capacity to make decisions 6.Third Eye Chakra: Color: Purple Location: Between your eyes Responsive to self-evaluation, truth, intellectual abilities, feeling of adequacy, openness to the ideas of others, ability to learn from experience and emotional intelligence 7.Crown Chakra Color: Golden white Location: Crown of the Head Responsive to your ability to trust life, values, ethics and courage, humanitarianism, selflessness, ability to see the larger pattern, faith & inspiration, spirituality and devotion Meditate on each of these chakras or, if you feel particularly drained in one or two areas, focus on them and invigorate by using the same technique www.michaelpaulstephens.com 32
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Four Awareness of Being Awareness of being is simple, easy to practice and applicable virtually anywhere. All you do is cycle your attention through each area of your body, and, as you do so, expand your awareness to include all your senses simultaneously. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of sensitivity. Technique Start by concentrating on your toes. How do they feel? Can you feel anything? Concentrate on them, patiently, with intention, until you can. Spend a minute just feeling what is there. Next, move your attention to the soles of your feet. Can you feel the blood pumping through your feet, or your socks cutting into your ankles? Are there areas of your feet with more or less sensitivity? Do the sensations change or remain constant? After a minute, move gradually through your body up to your calves, then your shins, and slowly work your way through your body parts, becoming more and more aware of where tension exists, pain, coldness, hotness etc. If you feel tension, pain, heat, cold, it doesn’t matter , just examine it. There is no need to push away any sensations, judge what you are feeling or become despondent if you feel nothing - just move on to the next body part. Move to your torso and cycle through your organs. You may imagine that organs don’t have much feeling, but you will be surprised. They are all living tissue and you can feel them at all times, not just when they are hurting. Build up a picture of your body all the way up to your neck and down to the tips of your finger tips. Next, when you move onto your head and neck, follow the same pattern of expanding awareness of every sensation, but this time include the taste in your mouth, the smell in your nose, the colors behind your eyes and, last but not least, the sounds coming in through your ears. Reach out your ability to sense as far as it will go beyond the room and across the street, including, never excluding and never judging, every sound, color, smell, taste and sensation flooding into your body. When you have a complete sensual picture from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you will have enlivened and become more aware of who you really are. This awareness brings with it a sense of peace in the present moment where there is nothing to worry about or fret over. This meditation is great for a twenty minute session, or, you can also learn how to practice it in just 60 seconds! If you practice three of four times a day like this, you will soon be able to ‘remember’ the peace and awareness the process develops and be able to recall the feeling instantly whenever you feel ungrounded or upset. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 33
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Five Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) Loving kindness is known as “Metta” in Sanskrit It is the act of growing compassion in one’s life. Nobody deserves your anger or hatred, certainly not your poor heart that, each time you hold onto your hatred or bitterness, stores up the resulting energy, which will eventually affect its health. Why do you think heart disease is one of the leading killers in the western world? No, it’s not just fast food. It’s slow love. And love in your life surely starts with you. What if you could feel compassion for everyone you meet, no matter who they are? Wouldn’t that make your world a little freer of anger, jealousy, frustration and resentment? Of course it would, and it is only because we have become so accomplished at holding onto our judgments about other people that this seems so idealistic. In fact, we can learn to love even our greatest enemies, if we learn how. All it takes is a little bit of effort and the belief that we can do it. In loving kindness we consciously generate love from within for three different people. Sometimes you might to choose three people before you begin, especially if you have some forgiveness to practice on particular people. However, you can also practice this meditation and see who comes up as you go through it. You might be surprised. Techniqueue • Start by getting comfortable, perhaps practicing 5 minutes of Mindfulness with Breathing or Being in order to get yourself in the right zone. • Now, begin breathing green light into your heart as you have practiced in the Chakra Meditation. Visualize with every in-breath, green light filling up your chest. Perhaps visualize a green rose in the middle of heart, opening up each time you inhale. • Once you feel relaxed and full of green light, bring into your heart the image of a person who you love very much. Visualize them standing opposite you in your heart space and hug them with as much love as you can generate. Feel also their love flowing back at you. This is an important step and reminds you that you too are also worthy of love and appreciation by others. Spend about 5 minute on this step. • Next, bring into your heart the face of a person who you are emotionally neutral about. This may be a co-worker, someone you saw on the bus this morning, or a relative who you hardly know. It doesn't matter. Bring that person into your heart alongside the first person and hold hands in a triangle. Generate the same degree of love for www.michaelpaulstephens.com 34
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works the second person as you did for the first, looking back at the first if you need to be reminded how unconditional love feels. Spend another five minutes on this part. • Finally, bring into your mind a person for whom you hold onto a painful emotional reaction. This reaction is just a learned and repeated response, based upon judgment and memory. Whatever you think that person deserves, you don’t deserve to feel pain for them anymore. So, bring that person into your heart alongside the first two people and yourself and practice generating some love for them. This may be difficult at first, but so is riding a bike. Each time you fall off, brush yourself down, and get back on. This meditation is cumulative in effect. You don’t just top yourself up with love and go out and be Jesus for the rest of your life. It takes continuous effort and practice. After a while, you may just begin meeting people with an open mind and, more importantly for you, an open heart. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 35
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Six Walking Meditation Walking meditation is great for those of us who have a tendency towards sloth and torpor. It is far more difficult to fall asleep when walking! The beauty of it is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. If you couple this with Awareness of Doing, together they can be a very complete awareness regime that stretches across your whole day. Technique At first, walking meditation should be conducted very slowly. It should be an almost mechanical, scientific study of the process, as if you were studying a movie frame by frame. It is best done without shoes and, if possible, outside, but this is by no means essential. It is great to practice walking meditation on the beach or on grass, as the sensations can be more heightened than on a plain floor or inside your house. When you start this meditation, begin with a four point process of deliberate feeling: 1. Lift the foot, 2. Place the heal 3. Place the foot 4. Bend the toes before lift Take each part of the process in turn, focussing all of your awareness step by step. Your intention is to feel every minute detail of walking using your feet as the meditation object. At first, be very deliberate and conscious of the four parts to the process but as you get used to the meditation it can begin to flow flowing and you will see that each part of the practice actually flows into the next in one fluid movement. This then becomes very practical in your life and you can meditate walking wherever you are. This reminds us that meditation is intended to become an integrated part of your extended life, not just a thirty minute daily practice. As with all meditations, walking and the sensation of walking is merely the object by which you grow awareness of change and movement. As Mindfulness of Doing suggests in the next practice, Walking Meditation is a great way to bring awareness into your everyday movement and personal expression. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 36
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Seven Awareness of Doing There is a great line in the 2010 Karate Kid movie where the master (Jackie Chan) has been training his student by instructing him to take off his jacket, hang it up, put in on the floor and pick it back up again. After many days of this without explanation, the student is very frustrated and finally refuses to do it anymore. The master begins to fight the student and the student, by following the instruction of the master to ‘Hang up the coat’, ‘Put it on’, ‘Take it off’ and various other instructions, has learned many of the movements of Kung Fu and can defend himself against his master most effectively. When asked how he had learned this by picking up and wearing his coat the master explains, “There is Kung Fu in everything.” This line stuck with me and profoundly epitomized the connection between our action in life and the observation of the consciousness that conducts it. So, just as with Kung Fu, there is meditation in everything. With everything that we do in life there is the potential to be mindful while we are doing it. Both the Martial Arts and meditation both serve to realize the same insights into the nature of energy, movement consciousness and the intimate connection between them. However, few of us find this learning in the mundane, preferring to seek more glamorous pursuits that stoke our desires and pander to the modern craze of multi-tasking, which is basically non-awareness turned into a professional art-form! I remember well sitting in the departure lounge of Singapore’s Changi airport and seeing a window cleaner performing his task with such skill, awareness and dedication, I could tell that he had found compassion in his object of meditation and mastery in its application. On the other hand, how many people have we all encountered who find only boredom in their tasks when a world of insight, compassion, learning and wisdom exists in all that we do if we care to look and use it as such? Sadly, these are minds that seek sensations, not insight. The mind that seeks insight finds awareness and compassion in everything. So, the next time you are brushing your teeth, brush your teeth. The next time you are eating, eat. The next time you are cleaning dishes, clean dishes. Start extending your meditative practice into your day; application. Your thirty minutes in the morning is designed to be practice for 23.5 hours of application afterwards. Find the essential nature of each action by performing it with awareness and you will find pleasure in everything that you do, not just t empora r y pl e a sur e through s ensua l stimulation. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 37
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Eight Grounding So many people these days have learned that they need to solve all their problems using their heads. We gather so much information and knowledge that we become very confident that the mind has all the answers. This places lots of energy in the head region. Coupled with the tendency for modern people to bury their emotions and lose connection with their family, the energetic comparison is like having a building with all its weight at the top. The likely outcome is a collapse. This is what is called being ungrounded. . If you store a lot of energy in your head and little in your foundation, strong emotional events will un-ground you. You will tend to try and ‘work out’ emotions rather than feeling and letting them go. Grounding is designed to deal with emotions by channelling the energy into the ground while building a stronger connection to the reality of life on Earth and a better balance between mind, body and energy. Technique Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, eyes open, knees slightly bent (not locked) and relax your body. Imagine that you are a tree and roots are growing from your feet into the ground. With each in-breath the roots grow deeper, beyond the floor, into the soil, into the rock, into the very core of the earth that created your body and feeds and nourishes you every day. Imagine that each breath, draws energy up through the soles of your feet, all the way up your legs and into your Sacral Chakra, one inch below your navel. Maintain this breathing and visualization for a minute or two. Keep visualizing your roots growing deeper and wider. Feel solid but natural, empowered but in control. In a few short moments of grounding you should feel your body calming down, your mind balancing and your emotions subsiding. As you practice this frequently it will be easier to bring yourself back to this state creating instant relief and empowerment. As this exercise can be easily practiced sitting down at work, on the bus, in the car or anywhere really, it is a great exercise to fall back on several times during the day. Whenever you feel a strong emotional response to a situation, simply start breathing in through your feet, come back to the breath, watch the way your breathing changes as you become emotionally excited. Soon, by grounding and breathing with awareness rather than thinking about the emotion, letting your head get involved and justifying or rationalizing it, you will regain your composure and the emotion will have passed through you rather than holding onto it as if it was a part of you. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 38
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works This is how you learn to transform a learned reaction, which is automated and insensitive, into a powerful learning observation, which occurs with awareness and sensitivity. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 39
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Nine Centering You are an energy being and working with energy is what you do. Unfortunately, most of us believe we are primarily physical beings and work virtually exclusively on developing our physical energy. Sadly, this eventually weakens our energy body, which places our physical body at risk of illness however powerful it may seem to be. While the Grounding Meditation creates a solid foundation and connection to the earth, the centering meditation helps create power. Rather than meditating on the earth, this time we begin to open up the crown chakra that connects us with our higher self, and begin to draw energy into our system through universal energy. However, please remember that this exercise should always be conducted after the grounding exercise, as working only with the crown chakra can result in headaches, light-headedness and out of body experiences in people susceptible to such things. The crown chakra is our connection to our higher self, so playing with this energy center without working with the others can create imbalances. Alternatively, you may like to use the chakra balancing exercise as a precursor, for the same reason. The point of this exercise is not to revel in what we can do as energy being, but to create practical ways in which we can create power. Technique To begin this exercise you focus your attention on the crown of your head and imagine that there is a cord connecting you to your higher self. Visualize it pulling up upwards, straightening your spine, creating an uplifting sensation. Now visualize that your crown chakra is opening up like the aperture of a camera. Feel it widening on your head and a bright golden-white light beginning to pour along the cord and into your head. Visualize that energy traveling slowly down your back, feeling it every inch that it travels. Observe it all the way down to the base of your spine, traveling between your legs and up into your belly where it becomes a colored light of your choosing. Don’t think too much about the color. Just let it become the first color that you can visualize. It will be the right one. Finally, with the in-breath feel the energy flow into the ball of light in your sacral chakra and with the out breath feel that energy condensing into a greater and greater power. Once more, this meditation is flexible enough to be very mobile and can be conducted anywhere and included as part of the awareness of being meditation, including all your senses. I used to love doing this www.michaelpaulstephens.com 40
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works meditation riding my motorbike around the countryside of Phuket, breathing in the awesome power of nature! www.michaelpaulstephens.com 41
  • A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation Ten Wellness Breathing This final meditation is one that I frequently use with clients who sees me for a reiki session. It is a powerful visualization that I learned from one of my masters and helps with cleansing and purifying our physical, energetic and mental bodies. Many meditation beginners will wonder why simply visualizing color or feeling is a practical way to create any meaningful change in life but you must remember that we are visualizing all kinds of suffering in our lives at all times and suffering is exactly what we create. Why shouldn’t we be able to visualize wellbeing, contentment or happiness? T is no different than a sports person visualizing their victory, a technique that has attained proven results in sports psychology. Most of us don’t try or don’t bother simply because we believe, perhaps subconsciously, that life is a physical issue that has to be worked out and solved and that simply creating feelings can’t make a difference. This is wrong. It can make a difference and, when we practice it often enough, it does make a difference. The rule that you should live by if you are serious about creating change though meditation is “You will see it when you believe it” not “You will believe it when you see it”, which is the motto of most western-minded people. This not only helps you to overcome one of the five hindrances to meditation but empowers you to live life in faith that our power is just as important as our plan. Technique Wellness breathing is very simple. Firstly you visualize that the room you are in is filled with a beautiful healing light that is there just for you. You can make this light any color that you feel you need. It can change color. It can be multicolored. It is entirely up to what you feel you need. Next, visualize that you are breathing in this light through every pore of your skin. See it going into your skeletal system, illuminating your bones and joints. See it going into your organs, your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, paying particular attention to any area where you have physical issues you would like to resolve. See it also going into your mind and relaxing you. See it as if through a microscope going into your cells and your DNA, until your entire body is glowing with light that is healing a refreshing. The next step is to continue breathing in this bright, white light but changing the out breath to visualize smoke being released from your body. The smoke represents anything that you wish to be free from. It may be emotional pain, physical sickness, a problem in life, issues at work, past trauma, anything at all that you feel the need to release. Continue with breathing in light and breathing out smoke, either as part of a meditation or as the entire session. www.michaelpaulstephens.com 42
  • Part 7 Final Notes A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works Meditation is not a hobby or a past time. It is no less a part of a well life than eating and sleeping. We have just forgotten how our ancestors used to practice such skills daily and replaced our faith in these techniques with medicine and repairing our body when it goes wrong. Many people will do well with meditation if they persevere, but I have found many practices become intermittent if people do not reorganize their lives, at least a little bit, to create the right environment for different habits and states of personal expression to become more likely. What this means is, if you are an alcoholic and you want to stop drinking, you have to stop going to the pub every night, right? Likewise, if you are serious about getting to know the true self hidden under all those layers of ego, you may have to change some of the environments that you frequent, people that you hang out with and stuff that you listen and watch that has created you current reality. It is not rocket science. If you want to create light, you have to burn some things away. You cannot change without changing something. One of the best ways to keep your meditation going is to surround yourself with people who meditate. This may not be instantly possible if you are generally surrounded in life by people who believe that meditation is a pointless waste of time. Many people will live in difficult environments where finding ways to divest themselves of the causes of their suffering is complicated. But, I guarantee you, doing the same things in the same way will not get you better results than those you are currently attaining. There is always a better way, if you are prepared to put in the effort. A better way of ensuring success is to create a community Share Circle. There is a guide to building one of these on my website. It is an entirely free and no-strings-attached offering from myself to the creation of community-based wellbeing groups that meet on occasion to share their practices, insights and feedback and by doing so, support each other's spirituality. There is no reason why there cannot be one of these on every street in the world. Practicing awareness of some sort should be no less essential than brushing your teeth or taking a shower. It is really that important that we raise ourselves out of the global and personal morass by, at the very least, being aware of what it is that created it. I see the institution of meditation in people’s lives as, one day, becoming no more strange than education or exercise. As awareness of these practices grow and more and more people realize that they are missing some vital ingredient to contribute towards a longer term www.michaelpaulstephens.com 43
  • happiness, some will discover that what they are missing is appreciation of who they really are and what they mean. There can be little genuine happiness without this realization. I hope this guide has been useful to you. If you have any further questions or follow up, feel free to contact me through my website. Wellness wishes, Michael Paul Stephens November, 2013 A Practical Guide to Meditation That Really Works www.michaelpaulstephens.com 44