Redefining Meditation

“Meditation is listening to the Divine within.”

—Edgar Cayce

This is how I define meditation now. But if you’re anything like I used to be, not very long ago, you might think of meditation as something quite different. In fact, when you read the word, you might scrunch up your whole face and say an inward “yuck.” I get that.

When I was in my twenties, meditation was something I “should” do. I read about it. I took classes. I tried it. But I never got anywhere except frustrated. I know now that it’s because I hadn’t learned how to be friends with my mind. I hadn’t learned there was a beautiful peace beyond the voices in my head.

Back then, my mind blared constantly, and often, unpleasantly. When I actually stopped movement and stopped distracting myself, the onslaught was brutal. Those inner gremlins/critics, or whatever you call yours, got let out and went on a full-blown rampage. “Ah, a little quiet! Just what we were hoping for. Well, you’re really gonna get it now!”

I even went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand. After the retreat when we could talk again (thank God!), I discovered that one of the other retreatants had nicknamed me the “cushion queen” because I was always trying to bolster up my body to help with the discomfort. The irony was that the discomfort wasn’t in my body as much as in my head.

Until I began to exercise control over my thoughts and actively choose the ones that felt better, the type of meditation where you just watched your thoughts was torturous. The inside of my mind was often dark and self-critical, especially when I wasn’t distracting myself, and I felt like meditation put a spotlight on that.

Things are different now. Both the inside of my head and how I think of meditation. These days is it simply closing my eyes and breathing deeply. It’s something I can do anywhere and at any time. I don’t put it on my to-do list or call it a “should,” as I used to. I don’t do it for any set length of time. And I don’t do it to empty myself. It’s more like filling myself. 

Finding the breath that will connect me to the “more” that I am. Dropping down into the sense of peace and spaciousness beyond the regular routine. Feeling and listening.

One of the unexpected delights of this practice is the literal “connect” with the energy of something bigger than me. It comes as a delicious tingling that starts on one side of my body and then spreads. It moves through me rippling like waves that vibrate. As that energy settles in, there is a deep relaxation and a feeling of numbness.

There are times when that rippling current of energy actually makes my body move. This might sound bizarre, or even scary, but is one of them most amazing things I have ever felt – to know that I am not doing the moving, but that I am being moved. There is a wisdom at work there. The energy seems to be autocorrecting parts of my body that are tight or tense. Often it’s my head that rolls, making my neck crack and my shoulders drop, and then usually, there is this stillness, this deep peace, where I feel like I hardly need to breathe.

Sometimes, in this deep peace, a sort of liquid euphoria washes over me that makes tears stream down my cheeks. And in those moments, I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that we are more than our physical bodies. We are connected so deeply and intricately to a source of energy that in those moments feels infinite and so very divine.

I wish I could go back in time and tell my young struggling self that this is what meditation is. “It’s just remembering, Renée.” That’s what I would say. It’s remembering that I have, at my disposal, a powerful energy beyond imagining. We all do. When we let that energy thrill through our bodies, we are connecting to something powerful that is our birthright. An energy of well-being that is always there, just waiting for us to come home.

“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, a deep warm friendship with yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough…Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”

—Bob Sharples

Originally published on my blog “This Sweet World”

Author: Renée Hartleib