introduction to silent meditation

Disclaimer:

 

What is shown here are suggestions and inspirations for people who want to meditate alone or with animals. In case of physical or psychological ailments, it should be clarified before starting meditation whether this is useful or whether meditation is not advisable (for the time being). As soon as pain appears in joints, meditation should be stopped immediately. When meditating, psychological processes are stimulated and past or unprocessed things can come up again. Sometimes this comes to light only with a delay. Consciously recognized, this can be used for processing and transformation. Anyone who feels overwhelmed by this, does not want this or suffers from great anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses or past psychological trauma, should urgently consult a doctor or therapist beforehand or postpone the meditation to a later time. I assume no liability for any harm anyone may attribute to meditation. Everyone practices voluntarily and in self-responsibility. In doing so, I point out obstacles and hurdles during meditation to the best of my knowledge and belief.

 

What does meditation actually mean?

Silent meditation is not a comfortable sitting around and falling into relaxed reveries, as we can sometimes do in guided meditation journeys! The term means in essence that we bring ourselves into a relaxed, serene state with a simultaneously awake mind and enter into a realm that can be called silence, the realm between the thoughts, the here and now and the living being.

 

When we do this, we will find it difficult at first because we have never practiced keeping mind and body relaxed and awake at the same time. Our mind sort of goes into automatic mode and scatters, letting us ruminate or else fall asleep.

 

Meditation also involves focusing, at least initially, on a particular meditation object. The meditation object in this case is counting and the breath. This is a way to practice being awake and focused despite the body becoming more and more relaxed. This little trick is an important prerequisite for everything that comes after. Because only when the mind first learns to stay awake and concentrated, it can later maintain alertness without such an exercise, without digressing or dozing off.

 

But why would one want to go there?

Being able to dwell attentively in silence for a while brings peace, serenity and clarity to the mind. One feels more awake and also more concentrated afterwards. In addition, in this silence one perceives things and also oneself much more consciously than before. When it becomes clearer, it is more objective. And if we perhaps later do the silence meditation with animals or in nature, we experience everything around us much more intensively and understand and above all feel more. Life becomes more colorful and rich, but at the same time calmer and more peaceful. For this alone, it is worth practicing the counting breathing meditation described later. There are also even deeper insights if one goes regularly and over years into the silence, but for the beginning the mentioned should be enough. If one wants to dive deeper into the subject of meditation, then meditation courses and corresponding literature are recommended. Besides the question why one wants to meditate, the how and the guidance and accompaniment by experienced people is important! Because even when meditating one can get lost. Some leave it because it is no longer of any use to them, others start to hold on to illusions and think they suddenly experience super spiritual things. Silent meditation can be spiritual, but a lot of it is illusion and delusion. Here you have to be careful, because the mind can, especially with overtiredness or too strong ambition, make you see, hear or feel something that actually only the mind itself produces, just pretends. Therefore, remain humble and let silence guide you. Let things happen and stay clear, awake and above all humbly accepting. Then you will probably arrive where you belong. And if something irritates you, seek help from experienced meditators, attend courses, read books, until you continue calmly again. Silence is valuable and it is actually our duty as human beings to cultivate it regularly and also to train our mind through it, just like brushing our teeth every day! And we meditate not only for us, but for all life around us, so that we can find our place and intuitively find our task every moment. 

 

Seat positions

In silent meditation, we sit in the typical postures as monks, yogis or other meditators do. What is the purpose of a particular posture? In principle, you can meditate in any posture of the body, but the classical forms help to get into the desired posture of mind. If the body is still, the mind follows. If the body slackens, the back becomes round and the head sinks, then the mind becomes sleepy and we doze off. On the other hand, if we are too tense and try too ambitiously to sit correctly, then our mind will also hold on to something. In meditating, we seek to find and hold the center. The sitting positions from Zen (a practice originating from Buddhism) are suitable for this. Depending on the physical condition, one chooses the most suitable position for the moment. All sitting postures have in common that the body is kept as still as possible, whereby breathing movements are of course excluded. 

 

 

When the body is completely motionless and the posture is performed correctly, silence automatically occurs. The mind becomes quiet, thoughts become quieter, and the distance between arising thoughts increases. As soon as we move, the body perceives stimuli sent to the nerves, which makes the mind active again. But when the body is completely still, the mind also follows. Now the area between two thoughts, pure being or stillness, whatever you want to call it, can be perceived. The postures have been optimally elaborated throughout history by monks, yogis and other meditators so that we can fully engage with them.

 

Chair sitting:

The simplest form, which is especially suitable for health problems, is sitting on a chair. The upper body is straight and upright. The legs stand side by side. The pelvis is tilted forward until the back forms a straight line from the tailbone to the head. However, do not sit too stiffly. The natural curve of the spine is maintained. The buttocks sink deeply into the chair. Your shoulders are relaxed. The chin is felt to move slightly down and toward the ears to stretch the neck. The upper body is at right angles to the legs. Thighs and lower legs also form 90 degrees. The feet are fully planted on the floor. It is best to wear socks or be barefoot. The hands rest on the thighs. The eyes are either half-closed and directed about a meter in front of the feet or remain closed.

 

Heel sit:

Kneel on the floor and place your buttocks on your feet. In the long run, it is usually more comfortable to clamp a cushion between your buttocks and heels. You can sit down on this. Now tilt the pelvis forward until the back is straight but still retains its natural curve. The hands rest on both sides of the thighs. The buttocks press down. The shoulders are relaxed, the chin slightly pulled back to stretch the neck. The gaze rests on the floor about a meter in front of the knees or else the eyes remain closed.

 

Heel sit with meditation bench:

If heel sitting is too uncomfortable on your feet or your knees hurt, a meditation bench can help. It is placed over the calves and you simply sit on it with your buttocks. The rest of the posture remains as described.

 

Cross-legged sitting:

To begin with, take a sufficiently high meditation cushion or another pad that is stable, not too soft and not too wobbly. You now cross your legs to sit cross-legged. Depending on how flexible you are in the hips (not in the knees! The opening comes from the hips!), different forms come into question. The posture of the upper body remains the same in all variations. The buttocks are pressed back into the floor, and the hips are rotated forward until the spine is erect but still retains the natural curve. The shoulders are relaxed and upright, the chin is drawn slightly toward the ears, thereby straightening the neck. The arms fall loosely in a slight curve. The hands are placed in the lap or on the thighs. The two thumbs are touching and the fingers of the left hand are resting on the fingers of the right (as if forming a bowl).

 

Burmese seat:

Both thighs are spread apart, and the lower legs are drawn toward the thighs. The feet touch the respective upper or lower leg of the other leg. The feet both remain level. The knees touch the floor. If the knees do not touch the floor, raise your meditation cushion.

 

Half Lotus:

One foot is placed on the thigh of the other leg. The other foot remains at ground level. The knees should always be in contact with the ground. If this does not succeed or if pain occurs, the exercise must be stopped or the seat corrected. Maybe it needs some stretching in the hips, warming up or a higher cushion.

 

Lotus seat:

Here, the foot of the right leg first rests on the thigh of the left leg. Then the left foot is placed on the thigh of the right leg. The knees press into the

floor. If pain occurs in the knees, then perhaps the half lotus is more suitable or one of the previous sitting positions.

 

Why are there different sitting positions? One reason is that people with very different physical conditions can meditate. Another is that with the latter cross-legged sitting positions, especially the lotus seat, it is easier to get into deeper meditation states. But this should never lead to ambition, rather encourage patience and anticipation. Because if you try to get into the lotus position with willpower, even though there is pain or you can't do the posture correctly, you won't stay meditating for long. Then rather practice sitting still on a chair for a whole hour. In this way, the joints are spared and the effect of silent meditation, which I will discuss later, can be experienced extensively.

 

the mind

Do you think it can be hard to count to ten again as an adult? 

Sure you can count to ten. But look how hard it can be in meditation!

 

It works like this: Count a number every breath until you get to ten. You start with one on the first inhale, then another one on the exhale, two on the inhale, and another two on the exhale, and so on to ten. Then you start again at one. When you realize that you have lost count, start again at one. Stay with your breath the whole time and try to breathe into your lower abdomen if possible.

 

I'm curious to see if, like many people who do this exercise for the first time, you forget to count and your mind wanders off, or if you even count to twenty. For most people this is exactly what happens, and it is quite normal. If you are one of them, don't worry, don't get angry, but take it with humor.

 

As time goes by, you change the meditation slightly: you now only count from one to ten on the exhales and then start again from the beginning. On the inhale, you just concentrate on the breath. This is already a bit more difficult, because the silence between the individual numbers, which are a thought, increases. We now need more concentration in order not to digress into thoughts, to lose count or even to fall asleep.

 

Why is it suddenly so difficult to count? 

As soon as we get into the meditation seat and come to rest, our mind starts to wander. It's not used to doing it any other way. It jumps here and there and likes to change the subject or revolve around the same thing twenty-three times. Just normal. Or else we doze off and daydream. Our brain and the rest of the body have internalized that as soon as the body comes to rest, this means going to sleep, and then, as we know, concentration also wanes.

 

 

 

If you have been counting in meditation for a while now, perhaps a few days or weeks, for a certain amount of time each day, consciously observe the pauses between the numbers. Surely by now your exhalations have become longer, so these pauses are expanding. Now the exercise of keeping the mind awake and focused begins by itself. Where this time the concentration is not on anything in particular. And then you stop counting!

 

And keep going, looking ahead of you with your eyes half-open, breathing, and above all, staying awake, fully awake! Welcome to the silence!

Congratulations! ....And poof...it has slipped away again or a thought has taken on a story of its own!

 

Smile...and come back to your alert and undirected attention. If it's hard, start counting again until you feel ready to think nothing at all.

 

And what if a thought comes now after all? Is he allowed to do that?

Well, of course! In the beginning, there will even be a lot of thoughts. Like an advertisement, the thoughts pop up from the subconscious. Plopp: "Would you like to think about this?" You notice it, but with your concentration you come back to the waking present and the thought disappears by itself. You don't have to push it away or anything, that would give it way too much attention. You notice, "Oh, a thought," and go on until plop, "If not of that just now, maybe you'd like to think of this?" And so it goes on and on. Eventually, though, you can rest assured, the popping thoughts will come at greater intervals. In between, silence will spread more and more, which you will perceive awake and which you can enjoy. But beware, even the thought that it is now nice or you are happy, quickly becomes thinking. You think about what is beautiful right now and you are already out of the here and now. Just notice, second by second, every passing moment and be grateful that you don't have to do anything, not even think.

 

In fact, at some point you'll find that just sitting there without thinking, this relaxed and refreshed existence, is actually worth the effort. What is extremely important then, however, is to be constantly attentive and to always make sure to keep your mind really awake! If you succeed in this at some point, then you may even find the breath counting meditation exhausting for the mind and will only need it for the beginning of the meditation to calm the mind. After that, you'll get into the stillness. The thoughts that pop up from time to time, you just let them be there and they disappear by themselves.

 

A Zen master once said:

"Leave your front door

and the back door open.

Let your thoughts come and go.

Just don't serve them tea."

 

Obstacles in meditation

Emotions don't knock on the door and ask if it's just right!

 

When we have managed to let the thoughts come to rest, we may notice emotions that come up and make themselves felt through bodily sensations. But what are these emotions?

 

Emotions are subjective reactions that follow a physical stimulus. For example, we see a growling dog in front of us (physical stimulus) and evaluate this as potentially dangerous (subjective evaluation), giving the growling dog (the object, situation or action) an individual meaning for us, either positive or negative. In addition, this triggers a reaction in us, positive like attacking or approaching something in a friendly way, or negative like running away or making oneself small.

 

An emotion is therefore literally

Energy (= E),

which

comes into movement (= motion).

 

The stimulus comes: a form of energy. Then we evaluate. Through this we generate positive or negative energy, which finally becomes visible in our moving action. We encounter this in a strange way also in meditation, with the difference that we continue to evaluate a stimulus, but by sitting still, motionless, we do not let a reaction follow.

But where then with the energy?

Body and mind will now be vehemently interested that we let meditating be!

 

The stimulus has been subjectively evaluated and therefore the energy that is now in the body is looking for an outlet. How do we counter these resistances, which usually feel uncomfortable? What can we do if we want to resist the impulse to immediately stop meditating?

We stay there!

We allow the feeling, endure it. Interestingly, however, we do not then get into a kind of rigidity, as happens with trauma, when neither escape nor attack is possible. Because we are consciously determined and intentionally stay in the situation, even though we would have the possibility to leave (important difference compared to the freezing in trauma!), the emotion changes. Whereby it is actually not a real wanting, but rather a courageous letting happen.

 

Give up control over the emotion! You don't need to and shouldn't fight, because then the resistance will only get bigger. Even if you repress it, it will absolutely want to show itself and the feeling will become bigger. But if you remain calm and attentive and give up control, accept it, then the emotion will change. Through this, the energy associated with it changes by itself. The subconscious mind, which has stored all emotions, i.e. all subjective evaluations of certain stimuli in the past, is now relearning. The subconscious enters into contact with the consciousness, which sees the situation as it really is. And that is: we are sitting still and nothing is actually happening, everything is fine. And this is how arising emotions transform during meditation, if we remain sitting quietly, calmly, courageously and above all in humble acceptance. 

 

But if this does not succeed immediately, then it is not tragic. Such changes need much patience and compassion. Consider, how long the subconsciousness has confirmed itself day by day by subjective evaluating and automatic acting up to now! And now all this should no longer be so? Sometimes letting go of such an inner conviction that something is this way or that way would also lead to a grief reaction. Because when we let go of certain beliefs, what is left? A hole inside us? Who fills it? It is unknown and we are not yet used to the process of letting go and allowing emotions to naturally and wholesomely transform. Therefore feel your way slowly and explore yourself, but always mindfully and lovingly! And perhaps walk out of strong emotions sooner rather than later! You don't have to prove anything! Ambition in meditation will only prevent you from experiencing the wonderful developments that regular meditation brings.

 

And one more important note !

If you notice that you have an issue that keeps coming up, an emotion that overcomes you like a wave and sweeps you away, or if you lose the feeling for your body and start to dissociate (separation from the body, it feels strange or you feel unreal), then stop meditating! Immediately!

Then you actually have an issue that better be looked at by professional people with. Seek help from someone who is well versed in meditation and mental health issues at best.

But it can also be that you lose the feeling for your ego and perceive yourself as part of everything. This would not be dissociation if you are calm and serene and can return to normal daily life immediately afterwards. If, on the other hand, you panic and feel unwell after the meditation, then be careful, get help if necessary, modify the meditation (smaller units, more frequent breaks and movement) or take a break from meditating. 

 

Then there are feelings.

While emotions lie in the subconscious and the evaluation of a stimulus is normally not perceived by us, feelings are what we consciously perceive, such as fear, sadness, joy. However, if you are either a very intuitive person and therefore already have access to a small area of your subconscious, or if you meditate regularly, you can actually perceive very finely and subliminally what evaluation a stimulus receives. You thus sense which thought triggers your emotion. This then also helps you to re-evaluate it and bring the whole thing more objectively into consciousness, whereby it can be transformed. But this is not easy with our main issues. We can transform the minor issues in a short time. Our deep-seated, stubborn or even hidden issues, they take years, that's just the way it is.

 

So feelings are always accessible to consciousness. Most people can say that they are sad or angry or happy right now. But why this is so, for this you need an access to deeper levels, which becomes possible bit by bit through meditation. Because sometimes we carry a kind of basic mood around with us, we are sad, but we don't know why. We thus recognize the feeling, such as sadness, but are not aware of what the trigger is, because the emotion preceding the feeling lies in the subconscious. Feelings, together with the accompanying physical reactions, are thus what follows an emotion.

 

Emotion is (mostly) unconscious, but feeling is consciously perceived. How far we penetrate into the realm of the unconscious through meditation is certainly individual, and we will still never fully reach most of our subconscious. But for normal everyday life and the problems that occupy us, what becomes clearer through meditation is sufficient in most cases, provided that you meditate regularly and for years, if not your whole life. But don't stop reading now in resignation, even if you meditate only once a week, and only for a short time. You will soon notice that it helps you in everyday life in many situations to see them more clearly and less subjectively evaluated. 

 

Then there are also the physical sensations that bother us, pain or fatigue.

 

If a pain results from a posture that is actually not conducive to the body, then it is a healthy warning sign from the body. Listen to it and change position!

 

If you let the body go limp out of fatigue, then start counting again to become awake and focused, and get back into an upright position. Because body and mind are always one unit, if one slackens, the other follows suit.

 

But then there are also body sensations that just appear out of nowhere. This results from the fact that the body stores all emotions and they can therefore also express themselves in this way. Don't start interpreting anything into it. Notice the feeling that comes out of this in the body, and then come back to meditation. Because this kind of body sensation - a discomfort, tingling, pain for no apparent reason, but possibly unpleasant - also comes from your subconscious, from an emotion. If the discomfort remains, you can feel into it briefly, for a few seconds or so, to find out what's behind it. Most of the time, a topic comes to light that has been suppressed for a long time, but which the body has stored for later clarification. Here you proceed as described for the emotions. You stay awake and attentive to the feeling. It will eventually transform if you resist the urge to leave the situation and courageously stay, accept and let it happen. And again: If you find that the issue is too big for you to handle alone, get help! Listen to your inner voice, what you need right now!

 

When you have encountered all these obstacles in meditation

- and you probably will inevitably -,

then hats off to you if you now courageously continue! But be sure, it is worth it!

Because if at some point you can sit so still that such disturbances occur only rarely and no longer so violently, you will be able to perceive the subtle energy of stillness. And furthermore, with time our ability to lovingly give emotions and bodily sensations a space also grows.

 

Finally, it should be mentioned that meditating should not lead to a dulling and no longer feeling. There should and must not be a nihilism that suddenly nothing makes sense anymore or that you don't care about anything because you have become so unassailable and cool-headed through meditation. While meditating you learn to perceive feelings and to make conscious decisions with your heart in spite of them. You learn how not to react even once, because it would be unwholesome, or when reacting courageously makes sense. In doing so, you develop a healing intuition if you cultivate a mindful and loving meditation. In this way, we contribute to a loving and life-affirming world for ourselves and others with what is possible within our framework. If this does not succeed sometimes, we accept that, because we are never faultless! But we are ready to learn from mistakes and strive to continue.

 

A meditation should always lead back to life in the end,

with all feelings, because everything has its meaning,

but sometimes needs its proper place.

Silence helps us when we learn to allow and trust it.

 

And sometimes animals accompany us on the way.

Then we can be really happy!