Often, when I meditate, my mind is suffused with vivid images.
I sometimes allow myself the luxury of fully exploring these images, as opposed to releasing them and focusing on my breath. They can provide a deeper sense of opening or connection than merely meditating on the breath alone, and though this style of meditation is not for everyone, it’s certainly worth giving it a try.
Following are two meditations that unfolded for me recently, from which I emerged feeling especially full and light. You may recreate the experience by reading them here first, and then loosely recalling what you have read, or by having someone you trust read them to you as you meditate.
For both of these, I recommend a reclined posture similar to your resting pose in yoga. Simply find a quiet place to practice, where you will not be disturbed, lay down comfortably on your back—I prefer to lay on the bare floor as it keeps me from falling asleep—and begin.
Start your meditation by relaxing all the parts of your body.
Relax your jaw, soften your brow and the back of your neck, relax the chest and the belly, the arms and the hands, the knees and the feet. Feel your body sink down into the floor without resistance and note any places where tension remains. Consciously soften those places.
Begin to bring your attention to the breath. Feel its natural rhythm as it fills your lungs and then drifts away. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and belly, and know that with each exhalation you are becoming more and more relaxed. Pause here for as long as you like.
When you are very relaxed, begin to imagine that you are floating. You are floating effortlessly on a calm sea with a clear blue sky arcing overhead. You can hear the sounds of the water moving all around you, and nothing else except a soft breeze. The sun shines warmly all around and you soak in it’s healing rays. Your arms, your legs, your head and your body are all suspended in this lovely clear water and you rock gently with the rhythm of the current. Pause here as long as you like.
You begin to feel yourself sinking down. It is not a frightening sensation. You drift gently down towards the bottom of the sea like an autumn leaf. Down, down you go, watching rays of sunlight pierce the water like multi-dimensional stained glass. Fish of all shapes and colors glide harmlessly past. See them in in detail. How large are they? Are they fast or slow? Exotic or familiar?
You realize you can breathe underwater just as easily as you can on land. If anything, your breath is fuller here. You continue to drift down until you are lying on the sandy ocean floor. Feel the sand beneath you, rub it between your fingers. It is fine and conforms to your body perfectly as you rest upon it.
You feel securely anchored to the ocean floor, but your body pulses with the underwater currents. Notice everything around you. Is there seaweed growing nearby? Are there sea anemones? Starfish? Crabs? Delight in this vibrant world which is normally hidden to you. Enjoy the sensation of timelessness, comfort and calm. Pause here as long as you like.
When you are ready, begin to feel yourself floating slowly back up to the surface of the water. This requires no effort and you can continue to observe the ocean life as you rise. When you finally emerge onto the surface, it is just as it was before; blue sky, gentle water, warm sun. You spread your arms wide and drink in the light. You begin to deepen your breath.
When you are ready, become aware, once again, of the floor beneath you. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Pause for a moment before opening your eyes to reflect on your meditation and how it made you feel. Slowly move to seated, place your hands in prayer and give thanks.
Find a comfortable reclined position and settle in. Begin to relax your body piece by piece, starting with the jaw and the face, moving to the chest and the belly, relaxing the arms and the hands, the knees and the feet. With each exhalation you feel softer and heavier in all parts of your body, sinking down into the floor without resistance.
Bring your attention to the breath.
Observe the sensation of air entering and leaving the nostrils and focus all your attention there. Count to ten breaths, feeling only that sensation of the air entering and leaving the nostrils.
After ten breaths, stop counting and feel your breath as it naturally wants to be. Pause here, seeking out remaining bits of tension in the body, and release them on your exhalations.
You begin to sense the floor has a rock-like feel to it. It seems you are lying on a sun warmed and time worn stone which has a slight curve to it, making your chest expand outward. You notice this opening in your chest and you welcome it, letting your arms hang off to the side and your low back release. Your breath becomes deeper and easier.
You realize you are draped across the peak of a very high mountain, but you are secure, there is no sense of vertigo or acrophobia. You feel comfortable and safe, as if this spot on the mountain was sculpted just for you.
You sense other mountains all around you. What do they look like? Are they snow capped or green? Are they steep or rolling? There is no wind here, just endless, empty, clean silence broken only by the sound of your own breath. Pause here as long as you like.
In the distance you can see birds wheeling through the crystal blue sky. You can hear their song; is it harsh or melodic? The birds may come close to you, and even land softly on your outstretched palm, or dance in beautiful patterns at a distance. See and hear what these birds are telling you. Pause here.
Now, once again focus on the sensation of the rock beneath you. Feel the shape and texture of it. Feel the warmth of this rock and the way it presses gently into your upper back, opening your heart to the sky persistently, gently. Feel the freedom of being at this height, with nothing but the birds and the sky to share your space. Remember that you can come back here anytime, no climbing necessary, no struggle. All you have to do is close your eyes and breathe. Pause here.
When you are ready, begin to bring your attention back to the breath. Feel it bringing energy to all your limbs, to your lungs, to your heart, and to your brain. Breathe deeply. Wiggle your fingers and your toes. Feel the floor beneath you once again, solid and familiar. Roll to your side for a few moments, resting your head on your arm, reflecting on how this meditation made you feel. When you are ready, slowly come to seated, place your hands in prayer, and give thanks.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman