Saturday, June 4, 2011

Practicing the "Presence" - A Meditation

Practicing the Presence Meditation

Meditation is the art and science of learning to enter, at will, a state of deep, dynamic calmness. This requires the elimination of distracting sensory stimuli and random thoughts and feelings. As these subside, the crystal-clear pure consciousness of Self-awareness can shine like the healing rays of the sun.
A survey of meditation techniques reveals that one-pointed concentration is a common theme. Concentration can be upon a word formula (affirmation or mantra), the flow of breath, the movement of subtle energy in the body, a creative visualization, a mental image of a deity or guru, or a specific state of being (such as peace, joy, love, devotion, etc.). Either as a separate form of meditation or a preliminary technique of relaxation, one can also sit and witness one’s thoughts, feelings, body awareness, or breath.

I would like to offer a simple meditation practice that combines visualization with calm witnessing. I call it “Practicing the Presence.” Normally this phrase is used to describe various devotional techniques used during daily activity (or as a form of prayerful meditation) that involve the silent, mental repetition of a phrase or mantra. But in this instance, I offer the concept in relation to the “presence” of the body’s innate vitality, the heart’s natural love (peace or joy), and the bliss of pure, unconditioned consciousness.

So, let’s try it! Sit up-right (away from the back of your chair, or cross legged), chest up, shoulders relaxed down, spine in its natural curve, palms upward on the thighs, head level. Behind closed eyes gaze gently upward with positive interest but without tension.

Hold this thought in the forehead behind closed eyes: “My intention is to still the body, mind, and feelings, dissolving all self-involvement into the spacious One mind of pure Consciousness. There I will be refreshed and at peace. I can then share this peace with others during my daily activities.”

Beginning relaxation and breath work:
Now, inhale through the nose and tense the whole body; hold the breath while vibrating the body (briefly), now exhale forcibly through the mouth. Do this a few times until you feel refreshed and relaxed, but also energized.

Next: begin some slow, even natural (diaphragmatic) breathing. Hold the breath gently for about as long as each of the inhalation and exhalations (maybe 6 to 8 counts, or more, if you like). Do three to five of these.
Now, sit and simply enjoy the peace-filled after-poise of these simple breathing techniques. Scan the body from the feet upward (mentally and intuitively) looking for and releasing any tension. Adjust your position as needed.

Practicing the Presence in the Body.
Mentally feel your entire body. It is not necessary to move to do this. Do it through the power of self-awareness. Imagine you are as conscious in your foot as in your brain; as conscious in every cell of the body as in any other. Feel the body AS ENERGY rather than as organs, tissues, bones, or fluids. Now sit very still and PRACTICE THE PRESENCE of CONSCIOUS VITALITY which inhabits, enlivens, heals and thrills every cell of your body. It may help to imagine that with each natural, incoming breath, space is flowing into the body and with each natural exhalation it is departing. Thus is the body converted from matter into dynamic energy and space. Do this for as long as it is enjoyable and present to your awareness.

Now gently tense the whole body as you inhale; hold the breath while you vibrate the body lightly; now exhale through the mouth. Relax for a few moments.
Practicing the Presence in the Heart.

Reposition your posture and inner sight (behind closed eyes at the point between the eyebrows) as needed. Visualize your heart center (not the physical heart but the center of feeling in the region of the sternum) as having double doors. As you inhale naturally and gently, mentally open the doors of the heart, letting in fresh breezes of joy and the sunlight of peace. Imagine the breath is entering through these doors of the heart. As you exhale, feel that all tension, anxiety, fear, doubt, grief, or anger are being swept away as the breath flows out from the heart . Practice this visualization for as long as it feels cleansing and satisfying.
Then, forget the breath and rest in the heart, purified. Feel the natural love of the heart rising up from a deep place of stillness. In that stillness, feel the ever deeper and more subtle bubble of joy and that resides beneath all outer emotional turmoil. Rest in that joy, and in that love. Feel you have come “home at last!” Do this for as long as enjoyable. Imagine you are sitting in comfortable silence with your Best Friend — sitting side-by-side, holding hands.

When you are ready to move on, gently tense the whole body as you inhale; hold the breath while you vibrate the body lightly; now exhale through the mouth. Relax for a few moments.
Practicing the Presence in the Mind.

Check your posture again, do a brief body scan for recurring tension, and refocus your gaze behind closed eyes at the point between the eyebrows.
As your breath naturally comes in, imagine it is entering through the portal of the spiritual eye (in the forehead). As it does so, it sweeps away all restless, petty, and random thoughts. As you exhale, imagine the breath flowing down and out the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain. Imagine that with that exhalation, the raucous citizen-thoughts of your subconscious mind are scurrying into their hiding places at the base of the brain where they gather quietly to take in all that you are doing! As you practice this feel that your consciousness is becoming ever brighter and ever more expansive as it enters a state of crystal clarity and heightened pure awareness which is wonderfully blissful. You may find that you cannot help but smile inwardly. Soon the inflow and outflow of breath have converted your mind into pure light and joy. Feel that your awareness is expanding outward in all directions taking into its perception all objects and all space as your very own reality. Imagine this consciousness is that of the great Self of all. Commune joyfully with this, your very own Self.

When you are ready to move on, gently tense the whole body as you inhale; hold the breath while you vibrate the body lightly; now exhale through the mouth. Relax for a few moments.
Sharing the Presence.

Now before ending your meditation, bring to your mind’s inner sight your family, co-workers, or loved ones. Send to them the peace vibrations of your meditation. Share the gift of meditation on its own level to the higher awareness of others, especially anyone in need of healing of body, mind or spirit, or with whom you have had some difficulty. See them in the mellow light of the presence of conscious Peace. Now go out into daily life practicing being the Presence of peace to all whom you meet.

Aum, Shanti, shanti, amen.