In order to more easily enter and control a meditative state, it is helpful to train your mind and senses so that you can more easily maintain your concentration and awareness. Many people are able to easily jump right into basic meditation practices (especially some children). But many people have serious problems with concentration and find their thoughts scattering quickly. The following exercises should help to develop your mind’s basic skills. They may seem a far cry from sitting in deep meditation and solving all of our problems, but you’ve got tolearn to walk before you run.
Many of us skate through life never really noticing anything we don’t have to. The richness of sensory input all around us goes completely unnoticed until it offends or pleases us into noticing. Try walking down the street without the dog or kids or any other distractions. As you walk, notice things around you.
Purposefully seek out mundane things to look at. Notice colours, textures, and try to absorb as much detail as you can. Do not limit this exercise to sight alone. Notice the ambient noise around you. Try and distiguish what caused each seperate sound. Do the same with smell, touch, even taste (next time you eat, try to really taste what you’re eating.). Also, focus your attention inward. Notice how things feel such as the sensation of warm and cool in various parts of your body. Spend as much time as possible simply observing the details around you and interpreting them. You’ll find that this alone can bring on a sense of calm and appreciation that you’ve never experienced.
Awareness and Control:
Lay on a bed or floor with no distractions. Close your eyes and notice how you feel.
Conciously scan through your body, searching for various sensations. Sense how long your arms and legs are. Notice hot and cold sensations in your body. Also look for areas of muscular tension or relaxation. Now try to control them. Experiment with warming you hands or feet simply by focusing on the effect. Seek out areas of tension and relax the muscles in that area. Imagine your body expanding or shrinking. Focus on the sensations that this causes. It can be highly entertaining, but don’t get distracted. (This exercise has a tendency to cause a natural sense of euphoria.
Stand in a natural, comfortable postion (but don’t over do it; and slouch.). Close you eyes and begin to slowly rock back and forth very slightly. Search for your body’s center of gravity. Look the point at which your body doesn’t naturally fall forward or back. Now repeat this process from side to side. Make your movements more and more subtle until you are perfectly in balance. Now notice exactly how this feels. Note the feeling well and try to acheive it at various points throughout your day.
When we are children, we “pretend” constantly. For this reason children are inherently skilled at imagining and visualising.
For adults, we’ve got to go back to basics. Try sitting comfortably, away from distractions, and closing your eyes. Now visualize a simple two-dimensional shape. Try aeither a square or circle. Picture the shape as vividly as possible in your mind. (if you’re having trouble, stare at a picture of one for a few moments first.) Once you can do this consistently and can hold the image for as long as you want, try manipulating the shape in your mind’s eye. Turn the square into a circle and back. Now turn it around. Change it size, and so on. Now find a small, ordinary object (brush, ball, vase, whatever.). Spend several minutes observing the object. Look at it from various different angles. Note it’s colour and any patterns on it. Now close your eyes and visualize the object. At first you may get just a glimmer, but practice and keep concentrating. Soon you should be able to see the object in your mind’s eye, turn it around, change it’s size, etc.
Try using your visualisation and attention skills to see something in your mind’s eye.
Try to eliminate any pre-conceived notions of what you’ll visualise. It needn’t be anything at all, as long as there’s a picture in your head. Approach the experience with a sense of curiosity. It may take some practice. But eventually, you’ll be able to allow your subconcious to place an image into your concious mind without any prior idea of what it will be. A similar exercise is to stare at clouds, cracks in a wall, or similarly abstract designs and look for familiar images in them.
© Ray Baars, 2001
Ray Baars is a Qi Qong Teacher (internal form), and Energy healer, having praticed and taught Tai Chi / Qi Qong since the late 70’s.
Ray was taught by Master Chu and Master Zuchetti, and teaches both in America and here in the UK.