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November 17, 2013

Bespoke Meditation: The Inner & Outer Landscape. ~ Paula Watkins

I recently wrote about the need for ‘bespoke meditation’ and why one size does not fit all as it relates to the practice of meditation.

I heard from many readers who resonated with the dilemma of just not feeling ‘at home’ in a particular meditation tradition or technique yet persisting for years under the misguided assumption that something was wrong with them (because it couldn’t be the technique right?!)

So what are the aspects of our lives that we might want to consider when we begin, renew or refresh our practice of meditation?

First and foremost the overarching question is this:

What is happening in your inner and outer-landscape?

As it relates to the inner landscape it’s worth taking into account your physical body to ask yourself which meditation technique fits best with your constitution.

What’s happening in your body? How’s your health? Can you sit for hours and is that good for you right now or do you need some gentle movement? Do you need vigorous movement to help you settle?

Movement meditations are as ancient (and respectable) as still ones—perhaps these traditions resonate for you.

What about your brain? What is your neurological profile? Are you working with a psychological and neurological landscape where the current season is that of depression or anxiety? Perhaps ADHD?

All of these experiences are characterized by different and quite specific neurological profiles and they can be appropriately targeted with meditation and other mind-training techniques.

You might like to contact a clinical or neuro-psychologist who specializes in meditation to assist you with tailoring a personal practice.

Your inner landscape includes your beliefs. What’s your spiritual constitution? Do you have a faith, what means of expressing your beliefs appeals to you. Do you crave collective meditative and contemplative practices? Do you want to be immersed in a community at this stage or are you quietly seeking an inward path of solitude right now?

What’s your goal? What’s your intention in coming to a meditation practice?

This big question often directly points toward a path worth exploring.

Perhaps you’ve come to tweak that neurological profile; maybe you want to improve your ability to concentrate? Focused-attention techniques—using an anchor such as the breath or a mantra—might be best suited for you right now. Maybe you’re called toward a practice that facilitates the awakening of forgiveness and loving kindness?

The outer landscape matters too.

What’s going on in your environment right now? Do you have two hours a day to devote to a practice or do you have three young kids, a part time job and several other commitments?

Life moves in stages and phases. It changes and we change. Our meditation practice will change too. What nourishes us at the age of 20 might be very different when we’re 60. Be realistic and gentle but disciplined with yourself and devote what you can to practice at any given period in your life. Set a moment to review things—perhaps in 6 months or a year—and ask yourself all of the above questions again.

We can—and people do—get all orthodox about different meditation techniques but, as in all traditions, the orthodox tends to really only suit a minority.

We need orthodox traditions—they keep the techniques pure; we go to them for knowledge because they’ve been immersed in whatever they practice so intently and intensively.

It’s beautiful. But it’s not for everyone.

Many of us aren’t orthodox—we’re synthesizers. We might even be able to see how all orthodox traditions (inter)relate, and it’s there—in the oneness of them all—that we find our meaning.

We synthesize and, like the biological world, we hybridize until we find what works for us, in our world, right now, knowing that all that will probably change in the future.

 

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Assistant Editor: Paige Vignola/Editor: Bryonie Wise

 {Images: Joe Shlabotnik & artist in doing nothing via Flickr}
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