There is one thing you need for meditation: a quiet place. Whether relaxing on your private veranda, the muted hues of the surrounding Fynbos a soothing backdrop, or taking a tranquil stroll through the bush, here are four tips on how to perfect the art of meditation.
It’s not about emptying the mind
Emptying the mind of its thoughts is an impossible task. The mind’s nature is to think, and thoughts will arise no matter how diligently you try to stop them. Rather than attempting to prevent the mind from generating thoughts, the art of meditation is to become more aware of them as they arise. Imagine that the mind is a clear, blue sky and the thoughts are clouds drifting across it. The clouds inevitably and continuously materialise and fade, but the sky—your awareness—remains the same. No matter how often you get lost in the clouds, keep shifting your focus to align with the sky.
No need to close the eyes
We close our eyes during meditation to diminish distractions. It also gives us access to the infinite dimensions of the mind so we can become familiar with the way it works. However, some meditation schools prefer to practice with the eyes open. In this way, we learn to maintain equanimity and awareness while still engaged with the world. It’s also a great technique to practice when surrounded by extraordinary natural beauty. Settle back into the armchair on your veranda, and pick a focal point in the foliage a little distance away. Now, allow your vision to soften. Keep your gaze steadily fixed there, slow down the breath, and relax.
Be here now
When it’s at a loose end, the mind usually chooses one of two options to think about. It relives scenarios that have already happened—replaying past glories or wishing things had turned out differently—or it plays out future events in anticipation of the real thing. Rarely is the mind present in the here and now, acutely engaged with what’s actually going on. While gazing out at your focal point, allow yourself to really sense the present moment. Notice the sounds of the Fynbos—crickets chirping, birds tweeting, rustlings in the undergrowth. Breathe in the fragrance of the vast array of plants and flowers around you. Notice how the breath feels in the body, how the body itself feels in the stillness of the surrounding nature. Allow yourself to arrive in the here and now.
You can’t conquer the mind with the mind
The mind can’t order the mind around. Sometimes the more you tell the mind to do something, the less it’s inclined to do it. If you’re struggling to stay in the present moment, help the mind by picking up a meditative activity that doesn’t require too much concentration. Pick up a book, put pen to paper or paint your surrounding landscape. You’ll soon discover that your mind has slipped into a deeply contemplative state without any effort at all. Now that’s the art of meditation.