detailed yellow flower
Ideas Presented in Chapter 4

14

15

16

17

18

19


[1,700 words]

Idea #15: Each Sitting has a Graceful Ten-Step Agenda

Now let's look at the entire ride from launch to return, examining the ten steps presented in Idea #9. Sense the spirit of graceful, unhurried acceptance that flows through the whole process.ssss

1: Sit comfortably; head free from supports.
While some meditations are done standing—and even moving—the best way to elicit the meditative function is by sitting. The idea is to place the body safely on a chair or couch in a comfortable position so that you can, in effect, leave it alone. You will not be leaving your body, but you want to have little concern for it. Since this is not a nap, but an awakening, we must sit up and keep the head and upper back away from the chair or couch, as long as that can be done comfortably. The legs can be tucked up in a sort of lotus position if you like, but do not use the formal lotus position without back support, even if you are used to it. The meditative function needs to be given a chance to blossom in as relaxing an environment as possible. If the lotus position is comfortable for you and you have been used to meditating that way for a year or more, you can come back to it in your Natural Meditation sittings after a month. The same goes for other challenging postures or hand positions (mudras) that require muscular attention.

2: Decide when you will stop meditation; make a timepiece visible.
As you settle into position, determine what the clock face will read when it is time to stop. For example, on a digital clock you would add 20 minutes to the time and say, "OK at 6:52 I will stop." Arrange your clock so that you can peek at it without having to move much. If you need to put eyeglasses on to see it, keep them near at hand so the movement is minimal. Generally, though, avoid external reminders of the time other than a sympathetic person willing to whisper, “It’s time…”

3: Close your eyes.
When you are all set with the seating and timepiece, close your eyes. If you feel any strain in doing this, then lower your eyes and close them when you are ready. In some meditation methods, the eyes are kept in a half-open, downcast position to help ward off sleep. But, unless you suffer "sleep debt", just closing your eyes will not cause sleep. Closing the eyes helps the inward movement of attention and the gentle release of the project-making tendencies of the mind. Also, avoid facing bright lights or sitting in strong sunlight.

4: Wait half a minute.
Meditative technique, such as that prescribed in the next three steps, is a method for letting go of striving. So, begin that process by letting thoughts flow entirely as they will without judgment or control. When you think it has been about half a minute, move to the next step. If you go over half a minute, do not consider that to be wasted time, and do not adjust the sitting's ending time.

5: Recall a thought {word} without doing anything to it.
As you move off step four, you will think something like, "it is time to start the mantra." With that, you almost automatically recall the mantra. The mantra is not an object or a tool. It is an abstract thought that stands for the remembrance of the intention to meditate. Let it be itself in whatever form it comes, without doing anything to it. When we recall someone we know, a name arises in the mind, even though we do not try to make it arise, and do not fuss with its form. The same thing happens when we recall the mantra. Just having a remembrance of it is sufficient to create a subtle sounding of its "name." We refer to this transparent remembrance as an abstract recall of the mantra.

6: Recall it again and then whenever awareness allows.
After having the first instance of the mantra, you are now headed out onto the lake of meditation. Remember, you are headed with the wind, with the current. All of nature is there to support you in this movement. So, the subsequent instances of the mantra are very simple, transparent events in the mind. The first instance in step five may be likened to the sounding of a meditation bell, and the subsequent instances to a hearing of the bell. The mental posture of listening is a good one for a meditation. The verb we use in the instruction is recall, but you can substitute hear if you like. In either case, it calls for a simple awareness of the mantra. 

In Natural Meditation, recalling the mantra is an event of mindfulness, a moment of awareness. Mostly it will seem like an awareness of the mantra, but at times it will bring awareness of yourself or the environment. Sometimes, it will bring awareness itself. This is why our approach to the mantra must be light and transparent. The mantra is not the target. Awareness is. We will describe this again in more detail in Idea #19, Embrace the Shift to Openness.

How often do you recall the mantra? 
Every few moments.
Canoe going with the flow Think again of yourself on the lake in the canoe on a sunny day, heading to the outlet at the south end. You are following the flow of the lake. A gentle breeze is at your back. You stroke the water encouraging the canoe in the direction it is already going. You and the paddle and the canoe and the lake and the wind—you are all friends. So, how often do you put the paddle in the water? Every few moments. It is graceful and all in good time.

Contrast that image with an intense mantra meditation designed to overcome the wandering monkey mind. This is like going onto the lake and heading north against the breeze and the current. If you let the canoe go on its own, it will drift south away from your goal. So, you paddle hard. How often do you put that paddle in the water? As often as you can! The more paddling the better. The faster you paddle, the sooner you will be able to rest at your goal.

Now, go back and re-read the go-with-the-flow paragraph. Feel the difference. Look at the figures. Pause with this. Get the feeling. Close your eyes and let that imagery settle in.

7: Do not try to become different, to mentally go anywhere or to stay still.
This is not a sequential step, but an instruction for what not to do in between the recalling of the mantra. There is plenty of room in there for striving. Whenever we notice a tendency emerging within us to get involved in making the meditation better, we let it go. Here is a sample of things not to try in meditation. These kinds of things can be subtle. Weeding them out takes time. Be patient with yourself.

(incorrect practice)

trying to:
  • hold onto a single, straight, or clear pronunciation of the mantra
  • set up an intentional rhythm of the mantra, perhaps with the breath
  • sub-vocalize the mantra. You might feel or hear a slight activation in the larynx
  • push yourself into a state of silence or expansion
  • stop listening to sounds and conversations
  • push yourself to recapture a previous sweet experience
  • resist letting go of a clear sense of yourself as a distinct individual
  • resist falling asleep
  • make yourself seem wise, Eastern, meditative, spiritual, imperturbable

8: Observe the clock when it seems to be time to end.
At several points in meditation, you will notice thoughts about the time and will eventually wonder whether the full time has passed. If you believe the time is up, check your clock. Waste no energy wondering. Just peek. If time remains, close your eyes and continue, otherwise move to step nine.

9: When it is time to end, keep your eyes closed for three minutes.
The meditation may be done, but you are still way out in the lake. It is no time to jump out of the canoe! Now you must get back to land, the place of action and accomplishment. Metabolically, meditation can put you in a lower state of activity than during a deep sleep, and you cannot always tell that you are in this lowered state. So, do not jump up after your meditation time is up. Add a three-minute buffer in which you let go of the intention to be in meditation and think about whatever you want. Time this until you learn what three minutes feels like. During the last portions of the three minutes, you can begin to move. If you want, you can stretch and massage your feet, legs, etc. Then, when you are ready to get up, you will be really ready. It is like putting the canoe right up on the beach. The transition is graceful.

10: Move a bit and then get up gently.
Your meditation session is now over. As you get up and continue your active life, expect yourself to be slower and softer for a few minutes. Then you will most often be moving and thinking with renewed energy and alacrity. Some days you might enjoy sitting a little longer enjoying the morning light, praying, thinking about a problem, reading, or saying an affirmation.

[The canoe ride metaphor is just an aid in understanding the graceful pace of meditation. Please do not try to hold this image as you meditate. Let it fall away once it has made its point.]

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