4 Stages to Bliss
When I first started to meditate on my own, free from external guidance, I had developed a sort of sequence in my head I liked to follow. After repetitive practice, I eventually got so used to meditating this way, that I was able to come to a blissful state of mind without much effort. However, when I catch my self in wondering thoughts, I still use this method or aspects of it to get back to center. This simple sequence has worked for me consistently, and it has allowed me to be aware of, yet not identify with the physical body. I end up being completely clear minded and present, and feeling the self simply as a form of consciousness. This sequence involves first gaining control of the breath, bringing the focus to the body, then to your sensations as they are interacting with the surrounding world; after this, you are then focussed on your consciousness as a whole and have reached an enlightened, relaxed, and meditative state.
There are many ways to meditate, all in which revolve around the same theory, the theory of being in the now. Being in the now means clearing thoughts that do not serve you, and becoming present of all the physical sensations you embody as a form of consciousness. This can be very hard to do without certain techniques or guided meditations that instruct you and keep you focussed. The most common and important technique that can be used throughout your entire day given any circumstance is coming to the breath. Breathing is the most simple and most effective thing we can do to calm ourselves and come to the present moment. Your breath is always aligned with your emotions, and the energy of your body and mind. If you are anxious, your thoughts may be racing, you may be breathing faster, and your heart may also beat faster. The pace of your thoughts, along with the energy of the mind and body are always in sink with the breath. These factors are all one, all aligned, and each one will always effect the other, so if you are able to have control of the breath, you are able to control the other factors. If you are feeling anxious, panic or worry, consciously focus on slowing your breathing, and you will notice that your heart rate will slow, as well as your thoughts and emotions, and consequently your entire nervous system will come to ease. It can be difficult to focus on breathing while dealing with pain, such as it is hard to breathe while holding a strenuous yoga pose, or engaging in certain types of rigorous exercise. This is why yoga practice is so beneficial, because it teaches you to breathe through the pain, a metaphor that is then implied to all difficulties in life. If you are conscious of how important the breath is, remember your own inner strength, and tell yourself that you can come out of whatever you are feeling, and you can. Anything you fully believe in with every cell in your being, you will achieve.
You always will have the control over your breath, meaning you have control over your entire mind and body, which is extremely empowering.
While breathing, you may focus on different aspects of the breath such as the temperature as it enters your body, the sensation above your upper lip as you exhale, maybe you notice if the breathing is short or heavy, and maybe you pay attention to the expanding and contracting of the lungs, or the rise and fall of the chest. This focus is the first and foremost step to enter into a meditation. It calms the nervous system, relaxes the body, and brings you to the now. So as you are reading this, take a deep and mindful breath. You are now prepared to go deeper into the ways of meditation.
Observe the Body
Once we have gained control of the breath, we are then able to focus our attention further into the present moment. The next step in my preferred meditation is to then bring yourself into your body. A simple technique for bringing your complete awareness to the entirety of the body is imagining a bright white or golden light, starting to grow at your feet. Focus solely on that sensation as it runs through each body part… the light traveling up your legs, through your core and enveloping your crown. I like to be very slow and mindful with this practice, focussing on every inch of my body as I picture this light grow, I imagine it circulating and growing brighter in places where I may need more light, such as deficient chakras, or supportive joints like the knees and the spine. Once I have felt my entire body, my mind has already calmed tremendously, and I am able to dive deeper.
Sensations and surroundings
You have already gained control of your body and breathe. Now you must be aware of your surroundings. I like to first pay attention to sounds. I like to hear the sounds, but not place judgment or identify them in any way. I do not attach meaning to any voices or any activity I hear, I imagine the sounds as being just sound waves that come to me and run through my body. Sometimes I even like to picture myself breathing in the sounds. I listen to the silence as a sound by itself. I notice how far away are the sounds coming from, the pitches and tones, etc. I next focus on smells, and other surrounding senses like temperature or air against my skin, remembering to still maintain focus of the body and breath. I then begin to question, who is it that is having this experience of sensation? I remember that hearing, seeing, smelling are all just limbs of consciousness, and that I am the observer, not placing meaning or judgement on any of this experience, I begin to feel like I am no longer in my body, but a form of consciousness itself, which is all we have ever been.
When I am at this state of awareness I am fully aware of every sensation in my body, breathing into all of the other limbs of consciousness all at once. My mind is clear of thoughts, except for the awareness that I am having regarding the experience. Sometimes when I get to this point I notice that my breath will slow or completely stop, but this is normal when entering a deep meditation. Some Buddhists and intense yogis will cease to breath for hours or even stop their heart when entering Samadhi. When we are at this point, the body no longer has a need for breath, the whole system slows. Usually when I get to this point, I am here momentarily, because I get excited or overly aware and my focus will come to my thoughts again, and that is when I have to come back to the breathe, but when I do get to these brief states, it feels as though I am simply one with the entire universe. Sometimes when I use the mantra “I surrender” I have the experience of going to god. When I am focussed on the observer point of view, noticing my body and sensations just as they are without feelings attached, I feel as though I am becoming my soul and seeing my body below me as just material flesh as it breathes. This practice of non-attachment and taking the observer perspective is very beneficial in every day life, and beautiful step to bliss or samadhi.
It takes much practice to be able to enter this state of enlightenment. I am still not fully there, I have seen glimpses, but those glimpses have given me more and more motivation to keep up with my practice. It takes great focus, and strong belief, which gets easier overtime. Meditation will come the more you practice it. You must always remember to not judge your feelings or thoughts, but to recognize that they are bound to happen, and that is why we practice meditation. It is the practice of constantly pulling your attention back to center when your mind has wondered and you have noticed it. There is no judgement, only love and acceptance.