I am a firm believer that the quickest route to happiness and peace is to be found in the act of presence; that is, being as present as possible in each and every moment, and bearing witness to the now. It is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile. But how is it accomplished?
A number of years ago I attended my first Vipassana meditation retreat. I sat for ten days, meditating for roughly eleven hours per day, with the first nine days in total silence. No internet, no phone, no television, no books, no newspaper, no music, no conversation, no eye contact with other meditators, etc. You get the picture — it was intense.
It might be a cliche to write that the experience “changed my life.” What’s more, every experience — big or small — changes the course and direction of our lives, whether we acknowledge them or not. My first retreat was, however, one of those rare moments in which I actually felt the gears of my perspective, my metaphysics, my inner world turning, changing, growing so that they would never be the same.
This was my first extended experience with meditation, and I would recommend others try it as well, even if the prospect seems daunting at first. There are, however, easier routes to introducing regular meditation into your life. Some of you may want to dive headfirst into meditation (as I did), however I understand that not everyone has the time or inclination.
What follows will be a (very) brief introduction to Anapana meditation:
1.) Approach meditation without expectation.
With meditation, we are not “looking” for some type of tranquil bliss experience. That may come, or it may not. Similarly, you are not “trying” to change your life, alter your brain, acquire inner peace, discover your oneness with the universe and all things, attain enlightenment, etc. That may happen, or it very well may not. Meditation is about the experience of the journey, not the destination. If you are “trying” to find, or escape something, you will almost certainly be disappointed. Instead…
2.) Sit for five minutes.
Find a comfy space where you can be alone.
Eliminate distractions insofar as possible. (Turn off your television, phone, computer, alert others that you are not to be disturbed, etc.)
Sit. (This can be crosslegged or in a yogic position on the floor, with or without a cushion. If you find it unbearably uncomfortable to sit on the floor, find a basic chair.)
Close your eyes.
Locate the entrance to your nose with your mind. (Your nasal cavity.) Breathe in and out as you ordinarily would through your nose — don’t alter your breathing in any way, unless you have difficulty “feeling” the tip of your nose and require a few deep breaths to do so.
Try to locate the physical sensations associated with respiration at the entrance to your nasal cavity — feel the air going in and out, feel your tiny nose hairs being brushed by the passing air, feel your skin at the tip of your nose, etc. Become intensely conscious of your respiration.
3.) Observe respiration.
If a thought comes, bring your mind gently back to your breathing. If you become physically or emotionally uncomfortable, do your best to simply observe the sensation of discomfort without reacting to it. If you get an itch in your nose, do the same. Just observe — that’s all.
You may find that your mind wanders constantly. This is to be expected. Meditation is like a muscle, and when you first begin to exercise you will feel very weak. With continued practice the muscle will grow stronger, and more useful to you in your daily life.
When you first begin meditating, I recommend sitting for only ten minutes. However, if you continue to practice consider increasing the time you sit in five minute increments.
My meditation practice had an extremely positive impact on my retroactive jealousy, and was a major component in my recovery. As I write ad nauseum on this site, all sufferers of retroactive jealousy can trace the root cause of their strife to insecurity. An overly active, exhausted, and wandering mind is almost entirely to blame for this insecurity, so I recommend all sufferers of RJ give meditation a fair try. At first it won’t be easy, but with time and repeated practice the benefits will begin to become apparent.
I will probably write more about meditation in the future, but in the meantime, just sit. The importance of meditation is not in the outcome, but in the process itself. Sit, and bear witness to the incredible reality of the present moment.
Check out this brief talk on Anapana meditation by S.N. Goenka, the recently deceased modern father of Vipassana meditation, for more information:
P.S. Goenka speaks…. very…. slowly, I know. Hang in there. Lots of wisdom.
P.P.S. If you’re interested, I offer a guided meditation dealing specifically with retroactive jealousy. Some of you may benefit more from guided meditation, as opposed to the practice described above.