Other times we may suddenly notice that our attention was focused for a prolonged time on something simple and we know a relaxation over all of our body that feels ever so peaceful. Meditation is the act of experiencing that deep sense of relaxation. It is not the only way. But it is a way to cultivate this most desirable of skills.
Learning to meditate is much like learning any other skill. You probably wont be able to do it well the first time. It takes time, practice and diligence. The first time we may find ourselves frustrated; expecting a level of proficiency, which we may not, as of yet, earned. And, like any other skill, we begin to know a deep satisfaction as we begin to experience our first levels of success.
The first time we try to sit and be quiet we may notice a preponderance of disconcerting activities keeping us from knowing the stillness we seek. We fidget, squirm, itch, hurt and may feel like someone just closed the lid on our coffin. We notice so many things that we ought or should have been doing. We remember the gas stove we left on, the water still running in the bathtub and that phone call we have yet to return. Some of it seems so terribly important that we know we must stop this sitting still and go take care of it.
As you experience this sense of busyness there is only one thing to do. Watch it. Allow yourself to begin to separate from these thoughts, to watch them, to witness the way you feel and think and are moved by impulse. Get behind them. No matter what, stay with your stillness and watch the bright loudness of your own thinking.
Now, because there truly are idiots in the world, I have to make a disclaimer at this point and say there are certain life-threatening situations of which you might want to take permanent note and act upon. This might include the smell of your hair burning, the rattle of automatic machine gun fire or the flight attendant patiently asking you to either open the emergency exit or get out of the way. There, that now said, everything else you can just watch.
If you ever experience "bright" pain, well, then, STOP! An ache here or there is okay. A bright pain means that something is very unhappy and needs to have your attention for healing right away.
So you watch. You feel the tickle at the end of your nose and you really want to scratch it. Your right foot is going to sleep or your back is beginning to ache. Stay with it. It will pass.
If you would like to interact a bit with these thoughts you can begin to speak to them by saying "Not Now". You watch the itch, the thought, the concern or the bright new idea you just can't wait to write down. Then you speak to it. Very gently, with great respect, you approach your thought or feeling and say simply but firmly "Not Now". And then you watch them fade away, slipping off your palette of reality like the wake of a ship disappearing into the big blue ocean.
The conscious mind, that part that gets you here and there and talks and walks and allows you to do things, loves to be busy. So, like a three-year-old sitting at a restaurant table, we must give it something to do. Watching your own thoughts is one way to do this. The rational mind creates these thoughts like some great prolific bubbling spring. You can't really stop it. But you can redirect it. You allow the thoughts to happen but you are not your thoughts. They are something that your spring of thoughts is bubbling up. You allow them to flow downstream and away - letting them go, just watching.
This exercise of "Not Now" is a beautiful way to begin to relate to your thoughts. It reverses your life's polarity by having you control your thoughts rather than your thoughts driving you forward. You stand like a serene statue being pelted by rain droplets of thoughts. They peck away at you, trying so hard to make you wet, but you couldn't absorb them even if you wanted to.
So often in our lives we are pushed along by our thoughts like a baby in a stroller, propelled along at what seems like lightning speed, never in control and driven by an unseen power we are forced to trust and with which we have no seeming influence. Or, at other times, wanting peace for a few minutes, we are pulled along by our thoughts like a ten-year-old drags a new puppy towards a direction it seeks not to endure. Either way, we feel terrible. Out of control, out of sync, and powerless. Harnessed thus to our thoughts we become their beast of burden and quietly submit to a fate we can neither enjoy nor escape. We cannot know any real sense of responsibility because we know only another's power. We quietly, desperately yearn for a freedom that seems farther and farther away from our diminishing sense of hope.
"Not now" begins to allow us to establish the center of our power as somewhere different and separate from our thoughts. We begin to discover that who we are and where we are is a different place than where our thoughts reside. Our identity emerges at a place inside us that is centered, powerful and bright with possibility. Like a King in charge of his Kingdom we can direct, label, and control whatever the oilrig of thoughts is bringing up.
After telling a friend about my discovery of "Not Now" she began to use it late in the evening. Like many of us she found that when she would lie down at the end of the day to go to sleep, her head was still busy with so many things remaining to do and history to review. Slowly, she watches each thought, identifies it and greets it back with "Not Now". Like a conductor giving a soldier a train ticket, she sends it on its way over the edge of her consciousness. Better than counting sheep, you become a shepherd to your thoughts and open the gate for their exit. Because this is using part of the conscious mind to control another part of the conscious mind, it soon grows weary of its fruitless game and shuts off. The mind stills and she is on her way to the restful bliss of a well-deserved sleep.
Another friend tells me of yet another interesting way to employ "Not Now". She has been struggling with her body image, her weight, and her sense of consumption for most of her life. Now she employs "Not Now" as the tool with which she addresses the things, which feel, outside of her control. She'll look at a desert, a potato, or a beautiful fresh piece of bread she really could enjoy, acknowledge its attraction and gently respond with "Not Now". It becomes a philosophy that remains gentle while recognizing strength and yet somehow takes control by understanding TIME as a key component to the creation of ourselves. We are not saying we will never eat this or that or think about this or that. We are simply saying "Not Now" as a timeframe that it is just not invited.
It reminds me of the circumstances of when someone we really love; a friend, a child or a parent, calls and wants to talk to us while we are on the way to an important engagement. We don't say "No", we don't say "we don't love you", we don't say "You are terribly unattractive and I don't want you in my life for who I want to be!" We just simply respond with "I would like to know you, to spend time with you, but 'Not Now'. Maybe later.
So what a great way to approach the things that we love so much that we bring them into our lives perhaps a little too much. We can begin to have a place in our life that says these are marvelous things and I have to have the place and time for them. We continue to define ourselves not only by what we are but also by what we are not..
"Not now" moves from being a gentle directional device to a simple mantra. By saying it over and over and over again the mind grows tired of using it as a tool and instead the words become a soothing rhythm that gently rocks the rational mind to sleep. When this happens, if you are not lying down but rather in a deliberate posture for meditation, you begin to meditate. You may or may not still be thinking, but those thoughts have been reduced to a very small television screen way off in the corner of your mind's room. What is left is the rest of you, the you that isn't thinking. It is all of you and it is watching and listening to the profound stillness that is at your core.
You are still breathing.
You are still flowing your blood.
You are still growing your hair, your toenails and ten thousand other things.
As you realize your "thoughts" are only one of the things you do, you become not only bigger, you become lighter.
Because who you really are is what is doing all of this.
It is like slowly moving from the outside diameter of a spinning wheel toward the wheel's axis. As you reach the axis you will discover that its job, its purpose, is to be the stillness upon which all of the motion of the Universe may turn. It is as necessary to motion as "up" is to "down". To spend a little time with your center is to know your own balance, your own power and your own completeness.
This simple phrase "Not Now" can empower you to be strong with all ten thousand bullets being shot at you every moment. You can begin to learn the skill of knowing reality on your own terms, of creating your own balanced sense of time, and of responding on your own schedule. Time becomes less the ticking clock you race to outwit and more a pace of your own making. You will discover that you are the great magician. That you are creating and doing all of that which you formerly thought was just happening to you. You can begin to know a focus of your own choosing. And as you know your focus the angels will appear. You will smile and know that Magic is the gift that runs through you.