How do I go further in my meditation? I feel like I’m getting stuck early on and I’m becoming frustrated by my inability to go further.
Where are you trying to go and why do you need to get there so quickly?
The beauty to meditation is that it is a journey to nowhere. In so many ways it is a circle within a circle. You sit, you quiet the mind, and you let go. When you arrive to that place of calm you realize you are right where you are. You have gone nowhere. You have experienced what it is to have a clear vision of nothingness; free from the need to pay attention to thoughts or the interruptions of the world around you. With practice you become aware that the distractions of your mind are really no different than the distractions of the world you live in.
You see, meditation is not a place to travel to. There is no destination or linear path to follow. There are no road signs for direction. Instead there is an endless ocean upon which to float, and within that ocean there are entirely new levels of freedom to explore once you are able to free yourself from the inner-workings of your brain and allow your mind to stretch beyond itself. When you are able to do that, you will find that you can reach beyond the world of your five senses.
I often describe meditation as a walk into the ocean. When you first close your eyes in meditation, it is like walking into the ocean. You are buffeted by waves that push you back and knock you over. These are the thoughts and ideas, lists and regrets, assignments and tasks that your brain distracts you with.
It is as if a cerebral surf is crashing down on you, keeping you from reaching the calm swells that rise and fall beyond the waves. You know they are out there, but you struggle to reach them. The more you struggle, the more off balance you become, and the more difficult it is to stay focused on your destination.
Once through the surf, you begin to feel the calm rise and fall of the ocean swells. In time, you will even find that you can float on top of the beautiful water, rising and falling as if floating on the ebb and flow of the tides of existence.
With practice, you may even feel yourself slipping beneath the water, safe and quiet, watching the thoughts pass above you, above the surface. There you can rest in quiet, aware they are there, but knowing that you do not have to interact with them. You will find that you can stay in that place for a while, until you become aware of an even calmer point that is deeper, quieter, with even less motion from the waves and the currents of the outside world.
And so your journey goes until you are resting in that null space between your thoughts and your breath.
The key to getting to that point is learning how not to fight the waves of distraction, but to surf on them. And that requires climbing onto a metaphysical surfboard, free from attachment and from ego. It is not the same as “letting go.” Instead it means embracing the world you are in so that you can be one with the waves of your mind.
At first, don’t even worry about “meditating.” Instead just allow yourself to drop in on your breath.
Simply be aware of the air as it flows in and out of your body.
Be aware of your lungs expanding and releasing with each inhale and exhale.
Pay attention to the quality of that breath.
Notice how cool and dry it is as it enters your nose.
Notice how warm and moist it is as it leaves.
Notice the feeling of your body as it sinks into your pillow or seat.
Gently move your awareness to the pattern of light that plays on your eyelids.
With each breath surf to another of your senses and explore what you see, hear, taste and smell.
Don’t jump, just surf through your five senses gently by moving your awareness and your attention to whatever you are experiencing.
When you are ready, return your attention to your breath.
Do not force your attention to go anywhere, simply follow it through your nostrils and own your windpipe.
Feel it enter your lungs.
Be aware of the currents that air creates as it swirls around your lungs and through your body.
Feel the energy that flows from your abdomen to your scalp, your fingertips and your toes.
Then, when you are ready, return your attention to your breathing and enjoy your meditation on the calm waves of your own ocean.