I had tried Meditation previously as well. But except for sitting with a quiet mouth, this was hardly an achievement. I tried to follow random advice including focusing on a physical object or focusing on a mental vision but it simply did not work for me.
In Auroville, Partho said something interesting. He brought every point back to ‘living in the moment‘. What did it mean really?
When we say that we cannot concentrate, we are simply referring to how occupied our mind is with our past and future. But if we can bring ourselves to focus only on present moment, there would be less running around for the mind to do. The former is known as the kshipta (scatter brained) state of mind and the latter is ekagra (one-pointed). After all, through meditation, we are trying to cultivate a calm/ekagra (one-pointed) mind so that we can think in a sahaj bhaav and then move on to niruddha mind (fully arrested in concentration). The very meaning of meditating is to engage in thought or contemplation. The first step is to prepare a mental environment conducive for such an act. This is also the step where most of us fail and drop out.
Having failed at my previous attempts at meditating, I decided to follow a proven meditation technique after coming back from Auroville. I read about the breath counting technique (src: David Michie’s Buddhism for busy people) and it seemed to be a good starting point. To put it simply, you sit in a comfortable posture and try counting your breaths – as many as you can. Of course, it is hardly as easy as it sounds. The trick is to focus on the breath and count it. This is the precise procedure-
- Sit in a comfortable posture (on ground cross legged, not necessarily padmasana, or even chair)
- Close your eyes
- Inhale and while exhaling, count your breath focusing on the tip of your nose
- Every time you exhale air through your nostril, you increase your count
- The moment you realize your thoughts have drifted away, you reset your count to zero
- Do this counting for two minutes or as long as you can. The goal is to count at least 10 breaths in a go
The essence of this technique is to engage your mind in the process of counting so that it is not chasing other thoughts. But after counting 3 or 4 breaths, I started thinking of my work. ‘I have to pay the phone bill’, ‘I should call my CA’, ‘I haven’t yet booked my ticket’ etc etc. ‘Oh, I was supposed to count breaths, lets start again’. You get the picture. It is hard to even count 10 breaths sincerely in the beginning. What you can do is to make the process of counting even more engaging. So like we are counting on exhaling, start saying ‘and’ as you inhale. Thus, we have given our mind something to do both on inhaling and exhaling. Good. Remember, our mind is like an energetic pet Spaniel constantly looking for a new ball to fetch. Keep it occupied so that in the next step, we can start stilling it.
My first week was hard. I barely reached 6-7 breaths at a stretch. But then, it improved. This is how my next couple of weeks were like – I would sit for a minimum of 10 minutes and be able to count breaths till 10-15 at one time.
The main challenge is to not give up. You will have a troubled time counting breaths and you seem to be getting no where. It is easy to think of discontinuing this futile exercise. I had made up my mind to sit and meditate everyday whether I reach the desired goal or not. I began with a strong will and kept at it. Don’t look for results, just show up for your practice.
It reminds me of another beautiful quote Partho told us –
The thing about habit – if you take out ‘h’, ‘a bit’ remains. If you take out ‘a’, ‘bit’ remains; if you take out ‘b’, ‘it’ still remains.
So, make it your habit. Also, I did not fuss too much over the timing or rules. I decided that I will find my way of stilling my mind. I am not a morning person and I meditate around 1:30-2 pm. Who cares? Sit at night or spend five minutes in your office chair trying to do this. Seriously, who cares? The important thing is to keep doing it instead of trying to get it right. Buddha himself has said that he doesn’t intend that people take his word on the face value. He wanted them to try the process of awakening for themselves. Meditation is an intimate experience that cannot be learned through books or blogs. And what worked for me may not work for you.
At this point, it may still not be clear what we are achieving from this. Let it be. Keep a journal of your experience. How is this little practice of meditating impacting rest of your day? It’s ok even if we are not seeing any changes. How are you feeling? Just keep a note of it. You may not realize it but you have already started the process of transformation. Keep going.