The Accidental Meditator
Meditation = sitting with a still mind and body in a quiet place with the sunset as your backdrop and the sound of the sea to sooth your senses.
As enticing as that may sound to many, it is not a scenario I find feasible to create in my daily life. On top of that, I assumed meditation to be light and fluffy with limited powerful, tangible impact for a fast-paced entrepreneur like me. Hence, I “logically” came to the conclusion that meditation was not my cup of tea.
As Forrest Gump said: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. About 1.5 years ago, I was given the responsibility to develop and facilitate the meditation program at Kechara Forest Retreat. Knowing very little about meditation, I thought the best place to begin was to start meditating.
Rinpoche said this to me during my first audience with him, “To accomplish sustainable change in life, we take consistent baby steps”. So, my sessions started with 10 minutes of breathing meditation which I did daily in the evenings in front of my altar. Breathing meditation is a basic form of meditation to focus the mind on a single point of concentration – the breath.
Now, knowing that it is difficult to focus the mind is very different from experiencing it. It was humbling to watch my mind run wild in an uncontrollable manner despite my best efforts to tame it. It was the first time I was forced to focus on my mind’s habits for an extended period. I began to notice how emotionally draining it is when my mind is in overdrive compared to the soothing and revitalizing feeling when I am able to calm it down.
Besides breathing meditation, I also dabbled in walking meditation on Tara Walk, a purpose-built meditation path which was conceptualized by Rinpoche. I always saw Tara Walk as any other paved walkway until I experienced my first walking meditation session there. I literally had to learn to walk again. I was surprised at how much effort I had to put in to maintain a stable pace and foothold. I noticed how impatience kept creeping in, prompting me to speed up and “get this over and done with”. I felt my restlessness arise as this sudden abundance of time felt so foreign compared to the bustling pace of life I was accustomed to. This was when I realized how hectic schedules and piles of to-do lists have become my comfort zones, which I use to make myself a “victim”. For the first time, when there were no deadlines, no distractions and no “missions to accomplish”, I was lost and agitated. It was a mind-blowing discovery that opened the doors to personal change and growth.
As I incorporated meditation into my life, I began to have more energy because, instead of using it up with mind wandering that “gathers no moss”, my energy was now directed into learning, completing projects and fulfilling responsibilities. Revitalized, I now have the capacity to practice patience, tolerance and care. All these qualities make me feel more at peace with myself, which I cherish as a priceless gift of meditation. Soon, this little chore became a moment I looked forward to daily.
As I embraced meditation and reaped its benefits, I gained the passion and conviction to share this life-boosting tool with anyone who believes in the higher potential of his/her mind. There is still so much we can learn about our mind and its untapped potential. I have even shared with friends and strangers the Nine Round Breathing Exercise to help them relieve the stress and pressure they feel. Everyone was surprised by what just nine sets of breathing can do for him/her in three minutes. Seeing their results fueled my interest further, and I began to study even more about meditation techniques including transcendental meditation, Buddhist meditation and the practice of reconnecting with Nature.
The Inner Peace Series
With research, I identified the harmony and synergy between the mind, spirituality and Nature. Hence, Mr. JP Thong, Ms. Jennifer Yuen, Pastor Antoinette Kass and I conceptualized and developed the Inner Peace Series of meditation programs in Kechara Forest Retreat. This program incorporates the healing elements of Nature with science and traditional techniques of meditation to offer the best remedy for physical and emotional healing within a natural environment.
As of today, the Inner Peace Retreat for beginners has been running for one year, with over 15 groups of of retreatants while the intermediate course, the Inner Reflection Retreat, was launched in August 2015. Our guests complete the program with brighter eyes and a brilliant smile and leave with clarity and answers to questions that clouded their minds, more connected to themselves. They have become a part of our little community and we continue to offer them support so that meditation becomes a part of their daily lives in sustainable ways.
I have since concluded that meditation is not fluffy at all. On the contrary, meditation is an endowing tool that taps into the most powerful aspect of us – our mind. Meditating is like going to the gym for the mind and we train and harness its strength to direct our potential to creating tangible results and better relationships.
We often receive feedback that the meditation program in Kechara Forest Retreat is unique because we cater for 21st Century minds and address current social needs and aspirations based on the fundamental source of humanity – Nature. As an old friend who joined the program said: “Nature is the platform, meditation is the path, spirituality is the destination”.
I hope this little sharing from an accidental meditator will encourage you to open your minds to a spiritual journey that is dynamic, enjoyable and unimaginably rewarding. Below is a simple guide to meditation for beginners and I hope to welcome all of you in Kechara Forest Retreat en route to personal awakening!
The first step in meditation is setting up a conducive environment that is clean, cluster-free and calm. Your environment is a reflection of your state of mind. To free the mind of intangible cluster, begin by creating an open space in the meditation area. An electric essential oil diffuser can also be used to create a relaxing mood. I would advise against using essential oil burners with naked flames for safety reasons.
Place the meditation cushion in a comfortable spot in the room. It is best to use a cushion with a slightly elevation at the back. This will help keep your back straight. Alternatively, fold a bath towel to your preferred thickness (e.g. 3-4 inches) and place it on the back half of the cushion.
Next, sit comfortably on the meditation cushion in the Seven Point Meditation Posture described below.
Cross your legs according to any of the three positions below, according to what is most comfortable for you. As you improve, you may also progress from the basic cross-legged position to the full lotus position.
Those who are unable to sit on a meditation cushion may sit on a chair, with a straight back and legs bent at a 90-degree angle.
Back and Neck
When meditating, the back should be kept straight, which is good for the circulation of qi and blood in the main channels of the body. This also contributes to sharpening the senses.
The neck should be tilted slightly forwards. As a rough guide, slowly drop your chin about one inch. The neck muscles will relax when the neck is in the correct position.
Place your right hand on top of your left hand with palms facing upwards, and allow your arms to rest gently on your lap. Touch your thumbs together gently. This is called the Dhyani mudra (hand position) of meditation and concentration.
Mouth and Tongue
The cheek muscles should be relaxed and the mouth kept closed. Touch the tip of the tongue to the upper palette, just behind the teeth. This will prevent thirst during longer meditation sessions.
The eyes should be partly open, looking towards the tip of the nose. This prevents meditators from dozing off and at the same time reduces the distraction from the surrounding environment.
After assuming the Seven Point Meditation Posture, set the motivation for the meditation session. This can be anything from maintaining a state of mental sharpness and clarity so that you can face a busy day filled with important meetings, to simply wishing to create joy and peace for everyone you meet throughout the day.
With the motivation established, begin the Nine Round Breathing Exercise. Done correctly, this simple meditation will immediately make you feel more alert. When combined with certain visualizations, it can also relieve both physical and emotional pain and discomfort. Upon completion of the Nine Round Breathing Exercise, enter into meditation on the breath where you focus your attention single-pointedly on the sensation of air entering and exiting the tip of your nostrils. Do this meditation for about 10 minutes
At the end of the meditation session, slowly raise your eyes then mindfully stand up.
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