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Intro to Meditation -- The Joy of Self-Observation

I remember the first time -- just a little girl with eyes tightly shut for a few seconds determined to see what was inside her only to be disappointed because there was only darkness. Years later, I tried again. I shut my eyes tightly and focused as much as I could on turning my sight inward. I saw a flash of white light when I'd forgotten entirely about the world outside. Curiosity about what exists within me has stayed with me ever since.

A consistent and sincere meditation practice can give experiences of peace, lightness and unburdening. It eventually brings an awareness of inner beauty, purity and innocence as well. Think about the times you've felt most relaxed and free -- like on a fun summer day at the beach. In the meditation world, we say that feeling of peace is already within you even when you can't feel it. It's commonly said that meditation is like a game of hide-and-seek in which you are seeking and peace is hiding itself within you.

Finding those feelings of peace, lightness and unburdening is not always instant. In my case, it took time and consistent effort before I started feeling anything resembling peace. However when I guided a group of 8- to 12-year-olds into meditation as part of their summer camp program at a school in Manhattan, the results were pretty immediate for most of them.

What's important to remember is that when you start feeling a sense of relief from the burdens of life due to a meditation practice the feeling will begin to last beyond your meditation session eventually. This is how meditation brings relief from the burdens or stresses of life. It's almost magical. You have to experience it to believe it.

One of the most peace producing and joyful methods of meditation I've used involves seeing what lies within. This means the same as becoming aware of, acknowledging and accepting thoughts and feelings through the process of self-observation. For me, this is not always easy to do but keeping a pen and notebook with me during meditation makes it easier. I write down thoughts, feelings and any sensations I had during meditation.

Here's an example: If I meditated for 15 minutes and during that meditation I was constantly thinking about what happened at work the day before and therefore not experiencing the level of peace I was hoping to have, I would write in my notebook. I would write details about what I was thinking and feeling. It's important to recognize the difference between writing "I was thinking about that meeting yesterday" and "that guy was being such a jerk in that meeting" which was the actual thought that crossed my mind several times during the meditation.

One of the goals of self-observation is to look at what you are thinking and feeling, uncensored.

Imagine you have a cupcake that has your favorite filling hidden inside. To taste the filling at the core of the cupcake you'd first have to eat and taste the outer layer of the cupcake right? This is the idea. Your peace is like the filling inside the cupcake. It's at your core. Your thoughts and feelings are like the outer layer of the cupcake. You must taste your outer layer before you can taste the yumminess at your core. Your beautiful inner core is filled with peace, contentment, lightness, joy, love and a feeling of having been unburdened.

When using this process of self-observation, it's important to understand that it's really about acknowledging and accepting whatever arises within you. It's also important to be watchful for the pleasant as well as the unpleasant things that may arise. It's best to be open to anything. Regardless of what you experience, the key is to acknowledge and accept them all.

This type of meditation really requires the meditator to grow in self-love and courage as well.

If you give this type of meditation a shot because of reading this post, I would really love to hear about your experience or answer any questions you may have. You can find me on Twitter (@DeviSawh) or Facebook or comment below.

I'll be writing about common challenges that occur in self-observation meditations in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.