A few weeks ago, I went to a concert of traditional Indian chanting music by the wonderful performer Krishna Das. "Let's start with a few oms," Das casually began, referring to the sound said to underlie all energy, which people often use to start a meditation. Suddenly, this crowd of several hundred slouchers bolted upright. "I didn't say, 'Sit up straight,'" Das laughed. "You can say om while relaxing."
To me, this moment perfectly captured the rituals and rigamarole we have unnecessarily placed around the practice of meditation, which I believe makes some people apprehensive to do it. Would-be meditators who approach me invariably focus more on the ceremony than the mental centering: Do you have to wear special clothing? Are there specific words to chant? Does it demand a set amount of time? Require a special cushion on the floor? I always answer, "no." Although some traditions do impose certain requirements on their practitioners, most of us are better off avoiding the preparation and props of a Broadway production.
I consider myself something of a meditation proselytizer, in that I want everyone to experience its delicious benefits (even as I confess that my record for daily attendance isn't perfect). At its core, meditation is nothing more than the opportunity to enter the space between the thinker and the thought, which lets us to know that we are more than our mental meanderings. There's an incredible magic to going beyond our limited minds and experiencing what spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle brilliantly calls the power of now. The process is not only calming -- it's transformational.
I believe that any inward focus -- done wherever, whenever and however you like -- that gives you a glimpse of this is a great meditation. In that spirit, here are five tips for taking the mystery out of meditation -- helpful, I hope, for anyone who hasn't tried it before, or who wants to do it more.
Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the spiritual women's novel Downward Dog, Upward Fog, which was recommended by the Yoga Journal, YogaDork and Elephant Journal blogs. ForeWord Reviews calls the novel "an inspirational gem that will appeal to introspective, evolving women." Read excerpts at www.DownwardDogUpwardFog.com. Meryl also writes for O: the Oprah Magazine, Whole Living, Reader's Digest and other national magazines,
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