Remove the Rocks and the River Will Flow
The Three Forms of Mediation
The word meditation holds more than one meaning. When you look it up in the dictionary it reads, “to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence...” However, meditation is commonly described as being a process of achieving a state of mind absent thought, which sounds like a contradiction. That is because there are different kinds of meditation, lumped together under the same phrase that are often used interchangeably. And mistakenly. In order to understand what meditation is – and what it isn’t – we need to understand its’ various forms.
The form that I first mentioned, from which meditation gets its’ name, is contemplation.
When stuck at a crossroads in life, contemplation calls us to retreat into silence and actively pursue the right choice to make, rather than quickly jumping to an easy solution. With contemplation we evaluate all of the opportunities that are presented before us, and each of their possible outcomes. Like running a simulation in our minds’ eye. We feel out which would be the best choice for us to make before we act.
Nowadays, people think fast and act faster. Yet contemplation requires just the opposite. It requires us to delay the gratification of making a decision hastily, without thinking; and to sit patiently with our questions until the right solution emerges out of silence.
We take in an unfathomable number of stimuli every day: from our environments, our peers, and the media. That stimuli can be draining and cause cognitive burnout, which is why contemplation is so important in our age of information overload.
When we retreat into silence, we reduce the number of stimuli being taken in by our nervous system. This allows us to isolate our focus on any one given problem until it is solved, harnessing all of our perceptual energy for the task – even if it’s only for a short period of time each day – during that time you are single-minded.
You could end up taking days or weeks to discover a solution to a question that others might not even ask. Contemplation makes you cautious yet well-prepared for any outcomes that your decisions may bring. It makes you accountable for your actions. Because you’ve thought long and hard about what to do. And when you aren’t sure, you seek solitude and the right answer instead of the most expedient one. Quick and cheap will make you weak. Remember that.
(2) Active Silence
The next form of meditation is active silence – where one seeks to eliminate all thoughts through a process of letting them flow naturally and then out of your way. While contemplation is the seeking for that one right thought to lead into right action, active silence is a process of listening to what already is without any expectations of finding a particular answer. With active silence we disengage from thoughts by letting them run their course.
We do this by sitting in a comfortable position, having good posture, and breathing softly yet fully. There will come a time when your exhalations last longer than your inhalations, or vice versa. This is normal and will happen on its own. It seems to mean that in that moment we are forging a stronger connection between the energy of our life force and our body. One that exists all of the time but is being engaged more consciously and intensely. We are riding the waves our breath into a deep meditative state.
When you feel excited about trying an active silence meditation, set a timer for 24 minutes. For the first 12 know that any thoughts that come to mind are simply messengers. Nothing more. So, don’t shoot them. They aren’t bad for happening. They need to tell you something, then they’ll leave. And when the next one comes, offer them to stay for a while. Ask them why they came. They may have a story to tell you: one of loss and gain, or risk and reward.
Eventually, all thoughts cease. The mind surrenders its hold on your imagination, having been thoroughly listened to rather than suppressed. What is left is akin to the sensation of floating down a silent river. Stay inside this state of awareness until the remainder of the 12 minutes when your alarm goes off. And if the first day, or week, or month you aren’t able to succeed think of the old Japanese proverb fall down seven, stand up eight.
Thoughts are like rocks spread out across the river of our minds. Remove the rocks and the river will flow.
By listening to each of our thoughts in this way we don’t become too frustrated with ourselves. The thought arises as we sit in meditation, and we ask why. When we understand a thought, and re-focus on our task, it gets carried out of the river of our minds and placed gently to the side. The less rocks for our minds to go around, the more flow.
(3) Theta and Delta
Each brain wave pattern has a very distinct perception associated with it. For example, gamma, which oscillates between 40 to 80 cycles per second (CPS) is associated with a heightened state of problem-solving or deep learning.
Beta, which oscillates between 13 – 39 CPS, is associated with the waking consciousness that we travel around in during our day to day lives.
And below that there is the very relaxing sensation of alpha between 8 to 13 CPS. This is the state we are attempting to enter into during the active silence meditation.
Our minds are engaged in the gamma and beta brain wave patterns for the majority of our fast-paced days. And they need training in order to enter into the lower realms of brain wave functioning consciously.
The active, problem solving brain wave patterns of gamma and beta oscillates at very fast speeds compared theta and delta. So, by activating the theta and delta cycles within our brains we deactivate the consciousness associated with 3-dimensional, problem solving mentality. And the consciousness we enter into is of a lucid dream-like state where are our awareness is still awake and remembering.
Theta is a meditative state akin to being in a very comfortable, light sleep just before waking in the morning. It oscillates between 3 and 8 CPS. In this state of mind our perception is able to see the connections between people, places, and events in our lives much more vividly. It’s as if the bond that binds all of our actions with their consequences becomes highlighted. And we are able to move forward and plan out our lives using this enhanced clarity as our drawing board: where to put the majority of our creative and work energies for the best outcomes, which projects and relationships are going to allow us to love and grow the most, etc.
Delta is the more challenging of the two lowest brain wave states to enter into consciously. It is associated with either a dreamless sleep or out-of-body traveling. It oscillates between .5 and 4 cycles per second.
Both the theta and delta metronome can be found online and listened to during a meditation in order to induce those brain wave patterns over time and continuous practice. They aren’t for the average practitioner and should be placed aside until such a time that one can effortlessly enter into a state of active silence.
For it is from the river that water flows towards the ocean.