Visualizing an Excellent Life

Can meditation speed me on my way to an excellent life?

Two friends and I spent several weeks reading and discussing Mastery of the Mind East and West a few years ago.  In it Dan Brown contrasts peak performance with a continuous way of being in the world.

He identifies seven factors of enlightenment from the Buddhist literature: mindfulness, intelligence, balanced energy, light-heartedness, sustained concentration, calmness of mind, and equanimity (non-reactivity).  These were considered prerequisite to making progress in meditation.

When one of these factors is absent, he says the Buddhists visualize a deity or Buddha embodying the virtues the practitioner wants to possess.  The examples he gives here weren’t very clear to me, so I looked for others on the web, and found some on this website.

Now regardless of your religious predilections, it’s hard to argue with the intended outcome: radiating wisdom and compassion in all directions, transforming all sentient beings into enlightened ones, all environments into pure lands.

In other words envision your ideal self, blessing those around you, even nature itself.

Perhaps you’re uncomfortable with the particulars of the visualizations given.  Alter them enough to fit your own faith.

Sometimes I think we are all pursued by the same god, but we don’t see god the same way, or hear god the same way, or feel god the same way.

We don’t see paintings the same way, or hear a poem the same way, or feel music the same way, even when we speak the same language or live in the same culture.

We get so caught up in right and wrong that we don’t listen to one another, or learn from one another.

I suspect the Buddhists have something powerful to teach me here.  I haven’t put this practice to the test, but I’m going to.

My Meditation Experience

I try to do three meditations a day: the first for 11 minutes in the morning, the second for 31 minutes around noon, and the third for 5 minutes in the evening.

The deepest meditation is the one lasting 31 minutes, Kirtan Kriya.  I sit on a pile of three yoga cushions in easy pose: the first halved, the second folded three times, the third folded four times.

I begin by “tuning in” a kind of centering exercise.

The kriya consists of chanting the four syllables, SA-TA-NA-MA, while simultaneously touching the thumb to the index finger (SA), the middle finger (TA), the ring finger (NA), and the little finger (MA) (this is the mudra associated with the kriya).  At the same time, I visualize the navel chakra (SA), the heart chakra (TA), the throat chakra (NA), and the brow chakra (MA).

I wear a watch which has a countdown timer.  For five minutes I chant voiced syllables; for five minutes I chant whispered syllables; for ten minutes I chant silently in my mind; for five minutes I again chant whispered syllables; for five minutes I chant voiced syllables; and then I count 15 rounds on my fingers without chanting.

Usually by the time I get to chanting silently in my mind I’ve become aware of the beating of my heart.  At that time I try to synchronize each finger tap with my heartbeat.  I try to keep my focus on the chanting, the mudra, the chakras, and my heartbeat.  If I find my attention drifts, I just gently bring it back as I become aware of it.

If I find myself wanting to squirm, or quit altogether, I just remind myself to trust the practice and submit to it.

I haven’t had any strange out of body experiences or hallucinations.  But it does seem to have a very stabilizing affect on my emotions, and has over time turned off the pervasive sense of anxiety I once suffered from.

Finding Meditation

I chant.

It’s not something I would ever have chosen to do on my own. But my EPT therapist prescribed it for me, I practice it, and it works for me.

By “works for me,” I mean I finally found the off switch to the nonspecific sense of anxiety that haunted me most of my life.

My point is not that you should chant, but that if you keep an open mind with respect to the various forms of mediation, then you might find one that works for you.

I tried transcendental meditation back in college some thirty years ago.  It gave me headaches.

I tried pranayama (without a teacher; they were hard to find back then) and had a problem with swallowing air.

I tried just lying down and counting my breaths – that helped.  But nothing has worked as well as the chanting.

I’ve been diagnosed as ADHDWhen I was a kid I couldn’t focus on anything but the television.  I think my favorite kriya, Ganpati Kriya, has several aspects to it that make it easier for me to stay focused and harder to be distracted.

First, there are eight syllables that I chant out loud over and over for eleven minutes.

Second, the kriya has a mudra where the thumb touches the successive fingers on each hand with the pronunciation of each syllable.kirtan kriya

Third, I associate one of the chakras with each syllable and visualize the “activation” of that chakra with the pronunciation of each syllable.

So my mind and body are fully engaged as I practice this kriya, making it easier for me to stay focused for the entire eleven minutes.

I practice Ganpati Kriya in the morning, Sat Kriya at noon, and Kirtan Kriya in the evening.

How about you?  Have you tried meditation?  What works for you?

Meditation and Emotional Affect

Affect is that term psychologists use when the rest of us would use words like attitude, outlook, or mood – a positive or negative disposition.

How’s your affect?  For years mine was passionate, anxious, and irritable.  I complained, criticized, and always expected the worst.

But now I am seldom anxious, accept myself where I am, and expect to bless and be blessed.  What happened?

Well I saw some good therapists, gradually became more self aware, accepted who I was, and began to meditate; more or less in that order.

But what I believe has had the greatest impact on my emotional state is meditation.  For years I was on medication for anxiety.  Now my only prescription is roughly ten minutes of meditation, three times per day.

The fruit of this meditation has been equanimity.  It didn’t happen all at once.  But with regular practice over the course of maybe 60 days, noticeable changes began to take place.

Moreover the meditation itself has been a process of experimentation, observation, and modification.  As you probably know, there are a myriad of ways to meditate.  Some work better for me than others.  I’ve tried:

  1. transcendental meditation,
  2. observation of the breath,
  3. various kinds of pranayama or yogic breathing,
  4. Chanting via kriya yoga.

The last has worked best for me; surprisingly so.  If my therapist had not assigned it for homework, I never would have tried chanting.  But chanting may not work best for you.  And there are many modes of meditation I still haven’t tried.

The empirical evidence is growing of the many positive benefits of meditation.  Moreover there is also growing evidence that positive affect leads to a higher quality of life in general.

I encourage you to try some sort of meditation, and to keep trying and experimenting until you find a method that works for you.  Especially if you, like me, suspect yourself of having a negative disposition.