I’m hoping I haven’t offended anyone (too much) by that headline. Does anyone self-identify as a “hippie” anymore, anyway? We’ve all got a picture in our head, though, right?
What I’m thinking of are people that are a little bit out there: they might play a little too much hacky sack or burn a little bit too much patchouli incense, maybe they’ve participated in a drum-circle once or twice. And they’re always going on and on about how it’s so great to take time out to meditate and “expand [their] consciousness, man”. Does that ring a bell? Maybe I hung out with too many stoners in high school or something…
The way I understand meditation to work is that a person essentially concentrates all their effort on not concentrating on anything at all (except for their own breathing, or a mantra or something). The mind is to be emptied so as to allow some great revelation of wisdom to occur.
This never made a lot of sense to me. I’m not much in agreement with the concept that’s implied here: if you wait long enough without doing anything, something great is going to happen to you through no effort of your own. That’s complete and utter nonsense, in my opinion and experience.
Change is what is required for personal, emotional, or spiritual development. Without change, there is no improvement. It requires work on your part.
That being said, I’ve recently begun doing some meditation of my own. It’s quite a bit different from what I’ve already described, though.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to “Meditation for Non-Hippies”:
1. Find a quiet place. This isn’t any different from what you would do in “normal” meditation. You don’t have to turn off the lights unless you want to, you don’t have to light any candles or incense unless you want to, you don’t need any Enya playing in the background unless you want to. The one thing you do need, however, is to remove distractions. That’s why I said it needs to be quiet.
Now, my 18 year-old self would have said “I’m fine with music playing in my headphones while I do my homework; it’s not distracting”. My 33 year-old self knows better, though. If you need it quiet and dark, then make it quiet and dark. Don’t sabotage yourself on this step.
2. Lie down. I know some folks like to sit up, and are concerned that if they lie down they’re going to fall asleep. If that’s you, go ahead and sit up. Personally, I like to lie down on the floor in my office. My floor supports my weight evenly without being comfortable enough to cause me to drift off to sleep. When I sit up, I find that I have a little part of my mind that pays attention to the way my body is positioned. It’s distracting.
If you really want to get into the lotus position, I guess that’s your prerogative. Just don’t ask me to join you; I’ve never been able to bend like that.
3. Think about something that’s truly important to you. Here’s where we turn meditation on its head. Rather than focusing on “Om Shanti Om” or on the rhythm of your breathing, you need to focus on your most pressing challenge. Notice I didn’t say “WORRY about your most pressing challenge”. You need to approach the situation head-on, with the confidence that you can come up with a solution. Allow your thoughts to go where they will, as long as they remain focused on the issue at hand. If you start thinking about the laundry you need to do, gently push your thoughts back to where they belong.
What you’re doing here is allowing your subconscious mind to work on the challenge, as well. This is when truly creative problem solving occurs. I know that so many times when I’ve tried to “distract myself” into creativity by doing something else, I’ve never gotten back to the issue I was concerned with in the first place.
What if you don’t have anything really pressing at the current time? Well, then this is the time for you to get ahead of the game by filling your thoughts with positivity. For some (like myself), meditation is a time to focus on finding out what God would have that person do with his or her life (Joshua 1.8). For others, you may want to focus on your daily affirmations, what you want your future to look like, or just on whatever is most important to you.
Look, I’m not trying to pick on people who sincerely believe in the type of meditation I’m opposed to. I think you’re wrong, and I’ll be willing to discuss it (civilly) and attempt to convince you of your error if you’d like, but I don’t hate on you. I know you think I’m wrong too, but I’m hoping that we can all agree to disagree and still focus on what we do have in common.
However, I do get a little tired of the “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” crap that I hear a lot of today, and I think other folks do, as well. It comes off as insincere and trite, as well as demonstrating that the person who said it doesn’t have a basic grasp of the English language. If you believe in and revere a set of beliefs about some reality that can’t be quantified or demonstrated, you have a religion (or a “faith”, if you will).
For those of you in that boat with me, I hope that you’ll consider that meditation as I’ve described it above is a great tool for use in your personal development, as well as in your problem solving.