We have now covered all the foundational meditation practices. These are the techniques that most people use most of the time, and they tend to focus on sounds, the body and the breath.
We’ve also explored more advanced practices in which we explore both our thoughts and emotions.
This week we’ll extend this theme by introducing a meditation on pain, and wrap up with some suggestions on how to continue to develop your meditation practice.
Meditation on Pain
When I use the word pain I’m not just referring to things like headaches and injuries. I’m referring to the full gamut of painful experiences; from mild emotional pain (e.g. boredom) through to intense physical pain (e.g. a migraine or worse), and everything in between. Defined in this way, pain is something we all experience fairly frequently. You might even say that the experience of pain, and the desire to alleviate it, is the primary reason we’re drawn to meditation.
So why meditate on pain?
Our tendency is to try and avoid pain. We take a Panadol when we’ve got a headache, we down a beer or two when we’re feeling stressed. Unfortunately, these strategies rarely help us to deal with the causes of our pain, and may actually make it worse.
In this meditation we introduce strategies which help you to explore discomfort with an open mind. Instead of avoiding pain, you’re encouraged to examine it. By doing so, you begin to identify the thoughts, emotions and attitudes which amplify your experiences of pain. You can then modify your responses in ways that alleviate it.
If you’re curious about exploring pain further, you can listen to the guided meditation, The Instant Pain Reliever on meditationmp3s.com
We’ve explored visualisation throughout the course, largely within the context of other meditations. For example, we’ve pictured the breath as a wave ebbing and flowing through the body and our thoughts as sea creatures drifting through our minds. In Week 2 we also started our exploration of the senses by looking around the room.
There are a number of other ways to meditate with your eyes open and being able to do so adds a whole new dimension to the versatility and adaptability of meditation. Of course, you can meditate with the eyes open at any time, even if your focus is something ‘internal’, such as the breath, or something which doesn’t require that you see, such as sounds, physical sensations or emotions.
A visual focus, however, can aid focus and interest to your meditation and makes for an ideal spot-meditation object. Traditionally, candle flames and discs of colour have been used, much in the same way one might naturally be drawn into the mesmerising flames of a fire, or the colours of a sunset.
How to get what you want from meditation
Meditation is easy to do. With a little practice you can soon relax your body and calm your mind to some degree. If you just want to relax and sleep better you can get good results with just a few minutes a day.
Other benefits will take more commitment and you will need to be clear about your objectives and set a plan in place to achieve them.
Hopefully you will now know that meditation is neither dead easy nor impossibly complicated. The techniques we’ve learnt over the last six weeks are all fairly simple — and I trust that you’ve found them easy to understand. If you can apply them repeatedly — and that is the key — their compound effect can lead to very good results.
Even if your aspirations are modest, it is still important to know what you are doing, and to check that you are getting what you want. It’s easy to meditate in a rather mindless, automatic fashion, but you’ll pay the price for that carelessness. So, to start, ask yourself:
- Why do I want to meditate?
- How much time am I prepared to invest? (Both daily and over the coming months)
- How, where and when will I do it?
The clearer and more detailed your answers are to these questions, the more likely you are to succeed. I suggest you write them down and revisit them several times over several days until you are sure your aspirations have a good practical base. It can be difficult to develop a new skill. Here then is a Basic Plan, to get you started.
- Do the 7 Deep Breaths (or a shortened version, e.g. Three Sighs) at least 10 times a day.
- Do a spot meditation version of the Bodyscan at least 2-3 times a day.
- Integrate moments of mindful walking, eating and exercising into your day.
- Do a longer breath or bodyscan meditation for at least 8-10 minutes once a day, even if only in bed at night.
This is a total time investment of about 15 minutes a day, and it needn’t interrupt anything else you do. The challenge is simply to remember to do it, and to keep doing it.
Try to get into a good routine. Aim to do ‘Three Sighs’ every time you walk out your door, or get out of the car or into the tram, or when you stand up and start to walk somewhere. Once you get comfortable at this, you may find it naturally continuing into a bodyscan as well.
Make sure you get the most out of this course. You won’t understand perfectly how to meditate after six weeks. Make use of the books and cd’s available, as well as the course notes and website. Attend
See if you can find a casual meditation group to attend after the course finishes, or do a refresher course some if you need to. Most people need some kind of repetitive guidance for months before they can really do it well on their own.
If you follow a plan like that outlined above it can be enormously valuable for you. Just to be able to relax consciously whenever you need to can turn your life around. It can give you immediate relief from insomnia, migraines, anxiety and panic attacks. It will help you enjoy life more and be more balanced and focused during the day. It will take you a month or two to consolidate this ‘Basic Program’, but before that has happened you will find that you are naturally moving to the next stage anyway.
Where to from here?
Keep in mind that it will take some time to consolidate the basics. Also, recognise that they are just the basics. There’s more to meditation than what we can cover in six weeks. Ultimately, you’ll probably want to let go of the ‘training-wheels’ and develop your own independent meditation practice, which doesn’t rely on any particular technique, nor the guidance of someone else. This is what we endeavour to teach you on our Mini-Retreat.
Here are some options to consider.
- Repeat a Basic Course. (As repeat students you’re entitled to a $35 discount).
- Come along to an Intermediate Course or Workshop (Mini-Retreat).
- Attend one of our Yarra Valley Retreats.
- Subscribe to our newsletter for hints and tips, free guided meditations and other useful stuff on meditation.
- Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
- Listen to additional guided meditations at meditationmp3s.com or on Soundcloud.