Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub
yet only the hole at the centre
allows the wheel to spin
Clay is moulded to form a cup
yet only the space within
allows the cup to hold water
Walls are joined to make a room
yet only by cutting out a door and a window
can one enter the room and live there
Thus, when a thing has existence alone
it is mere dead weight
Only when it has wu, does it have life
Verse 11, Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Wu is nothingness, emptiness, nonexistence
Discover Meditation and the Secret Gap
Stillness of mind, improved concentration and focus, heightened clarity, increased vitality and rejuvenation, happiness and emotional stability, improved memory and learning ability, inner peace, calm and oneness are just some of the benefits regular practice of meditation can give you.
Discover meditation and the secret gap and you will open a doorway connecting you to your true self, your soul, and leading you down the path of self realisation; that you are one with the universe, part of the whole that is everywhere, everyone and everything.
The simplest things are often the most difficult to comprehend. Meditation is the key that unlocks the door to your soul, who you really are, your purpose, why you are here and the true meaning of life.
Start your own journey and discover meditation for yourself.
What is meditation and where did it come from?
Meditation is the practice of focusing on an object or a single point of awareness. It is the practice of calming the mind to allow one to become immersed with their true essence; the true self that is one with all (source, universe, divine consciousness, universal consciousness or any other given name meaning the same).
As you will discover there are lots of approaches to meditation; hundreds of different tips and techniques. These all work; certainly in the beginning they help to focus your concentration. It is, however, important not to get attached to a particular technique or object. When it comes down to it meditation is all about a post realisation that you have discovered the secret gap that is as Wu describes; nothingness, emptiness, nonexistence. Only then are you meditating, and the key is not to grasp what you have discovered but, simply allow it to be, merging with the stillness, the silence and the tranquillity that is the pure essence of our universe.
It is the path to all wonder and the gate to the essence of everything. It can only be found within, by merging with the silence, the stillness and the tranquillity of the present moment. It is discovering meditation and the secret gap that leads to a life of fulfilment, happiness, and total inner peace. Life becomes flowing, effortless, and beautiful and at the same time you achieve self awareness which brings clarity, creativity and a deep sense of true purpose that is simply just being.
Meditation existed before history was recorded. Archaeologists found ancient Indian scriptures which detailed the practice of meditation dating back thousands of years. It is a well documented practice of many world religions to include Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Taoism. Spreading from the East meditation techniques are now practiced throughout the world by millions of people on a daily basis. Meditation in Sanskrit is DhyÄna and is one of the eight limbs of yoga which leads to a state of SamÄdhi (joy, bliss or peace). The physical practice of yoga, through the avenue of the breath, is in itself a moving meditation which again is practised by millions of people throughout the world.
What are the other benefits of meditation?
Studies have shown that meditation decreases the negative effects of stress, anxiety and depression. Overall we become calmer, happier and more fulfilled.
Meditation improves concentration, which is essential to realising our true potential. Focused concentration generates great power and when our powers of concentration are improved we are able to use this not only for the purpose of meditating but in our other activities too. Part of achieving our goals and desires is having the ability to master our thoughts. By calming the mind and focusing our concentration, we are able to experience this self mastery and we can begin to change and replace our negative or unwanted thoughts with positive ones. This shift in our thought process aligns our energy with that of universal energy vibrations and we will begin to notice positive changes and improvements throughout all areas of our lives.
Physically meditation reduces stress related symptoms such as heart palpitations, tension and migraine headaches, disturbed sleep and nightmares and hypochondria. As stress and anxieties are reduced we are actually decreasing the probability of experiencing any heart related illnesses.
Studies have also shown that meditation can relieve chronic pain, drop cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure. The flow of air to the lungs increases and improves and we will experience an overall greater sense of wellbeing.
How do I meditate?
Buddhism often describes meditation as a way of ‘training the mad monkey’, referring to the mind as a mad monkey, which is always jumping and racing from one thought to the next. During an average day we think around 64,000 thoughts!
The Buddha said by the absence of grasping one is set free. Meditation is not something you achieve by trying. Although when you begin to practice you are seeking to meditate effectively, the more you try the more it will elude you. Meditation can be likened to holding a wet bar of soap; one minute you are holding it in your hands and the next it’s slipped through your fingers.
Meditation is about letting go and to discover the secret gap you have to let everything go. Let go of any outcome before you begin.
There are many meditation techniques, and over thousands of years different meditation practices have evolved. The true essence of meditation, however, is just to sit and be. Quite simply you are going beyond the ‘conditioned’ mind and elevating your mind to a state of pure self awareness.
Whilst you can focus on an object or on your breath to help you to reach this state, ultimately it is a natural process which evolves over time, the essence should always be in connecting yourself with your source. You are looking inward without actually attempting to do anything but to just sit and be.
It is also effective to meditate on particular struggles or problems we are experiencing in our lives. For instance, if we want to come to a decision on a particular aspect of our life; a career direction for example, meditating on this can help us to arrive at the answer. At times the answers we are seeking can come into our minds almost immediately. The power of focusing concentration and directing that focus towards a particular question or subject can produce amazing results.
It is a good idea to have a meditation space. This can be a room, or part of your home where you feel most comfortable. You might have soft lighting, candles, incense, cushions, flowers, and other objects which invoke feelings of calm and relaxation.
Aim to meditate twice a day. Sunrise and sunset are the best times of day for meditation because our minds are more receptive at these times. Sunrise is the dawn of a new day and everywhere is quiet, calm and peaceful. The day has not yet begun and following a restful sleep, our minds tend to be calmer. At sunset the day is ending and meditation at this time enables us quiet reflection on the day we have just passed. Our minds are winding down at this time before sleeping, and the stillness and calm that meditation brings will be with us as we drift off to sleep, helping us to feel refreshed and energised when we awaken the following morning.
Place a cushion on the floor and seat yourself so that your bottom is half on and half off the cushion. This will elevate your hips and naturally lift your spine and you will feel more comfortable than if you were just sitting on the floor. Take yourself into a cross legged position. Traditionally the lotus or half lotus pose is used when meditating but if you are not able to comfortably sit in these poses, sit as is right for you. Let your spine be upright and tilt your head so that your eyes, when open, are fixed three feet in front of you. Place your hands wherever they feel comfortable; one on top of the other in your lap, in a mudra with the tip of the thumb touching the tip of the first or middle finger to form a circle, or simply place them on your thighs. Whatever is comfortable and feels right for you.
As previously mentioned there are many things you can focus on during meditation; statues, flowers or a single rose, silk scarves, candles, crystals, music, mantras and the breath to name a few. Experiment yourself with each of these and find what works best for you.
Not surprisingly I have found the simplest methods to be the most effective; the breath and a mantra. The example I have used throughout most of this section is the breath, which is by far the most universal focus of meditation.
Close your eyes and begin to focus your attention on your breath. Focus on each inhale and exhale. Silently saying the words ‘SO’ on the inhale and ‘HUM’ on the exhale also helps focus. Allow your thoughts to come and go but always return your focus to your breath. If you have chosen an object, you would simply focus your attention on that object allowing the thoughts to come and go returning your focus to the object. Over time meditation becomes easier and you will find as your self mastery grows you are easily able to sit for 20-30 minutes.
To begin with just work on achieving 5 minutes twice a day and then increase to 10 and so on. Meditation can be effective at any time. If you are not able to meditate regularly find some quiet time when you can to allow yourself to simply sit and be. Focus on your breath and visualise yourself sitting somewhere which will help bring about a calm and relaxed state of mind. One of my favourites is on a beach in front of a beautiful calm blue sea. Choose something which feels right and true for you. Be patient and gentle with yourself. As your ability to meditate increases, your level of self awareness grows. You will begin to notice improvements with each day’s meditation practice.
Allow yourself to become your own silent observer and simply observe the breath. As you follow each inhale and exhale, thoughts will become slower. Let the thoughts come and let them go, simply observing them and not becoming attached to them. Your focus is the breath, always return to the rhythmic inhale and exhale. Then allow yourself to become the breath. With this merging comes release and without an actual momentary realisation you are immersed in stillness, in the silence and you have discovered the secret gap. This is the place of being, of presence and of your true self. Here you are at one with everything; whether that be God, universe, Tao, divine consciousness or whatever your term for it is, you are it, it is you and it and you are everything.
Can I teach myself; do I need a teacher?
Meditation is a journey of self discovery leading to self mastery that you can start right now — today. There isn’t anything you need to learn that you don’t have right at this moment within you. Simply sit and allow yourself to be. It isn’t easy, training the mad monkey mind that races from one thought to the next but, with practice, it becomes a welcomed opportunity to spend time with yourself.
A meditation teacher can help and guide you through the practice of meditation and attending a group meditation session will enable you to share the experience with others, which can help your own practice. However, I would urge you to start practising yourself as I have described in this section. There is nothing a meditation teacher can tell you that you don’t already know, you just have to sit and be with yourself to discover it.
Silence is not something we often experience on a daily basis or even welcome for that matter. Most people find it very difficult to really relax and let go, particularly of their thoughts. The important point to remember is that you are not trying to push your thoughts away, but simply allowing them to be, without attachment to them. This practice over time reduces the number of thoughts, and distractions, you experience during meditation. Many people’s lives are busy and hectic with work commitments, financial pressures, parenthood, socialising, hobbies, interests and a whole list of other activities that take up the majority of our time.
Make a conscious decision to make time to meditate. Commit to embarking on your own journey of self discovery. Unlock your own great creative potential which, with continued practice of meditation, will be unbounded.
My own Meditation Journey
I was first introduced to meditation when I began studying Buddhism. Before then I think I believed, and this is a common misconception, that meditation was a rather mystical practice that took over your body and mind somehow, that it was something to be feared almost and it was only really practiced by monks and mystics. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Meditation is merely the gateway to the soul, the vehicle to carry you deeper into your self and a practice that opens up a part of you that has always existed, but that you never realised was there; your true self and that which gives you the true meaning of your existence and interconnectedness to the universe and everyone and everything else in it.
Without meditation I would not be the happy and fulfilled person I am today. It has enabled me to discover more about myself, to realise my true potential on many levels but, most importantly, uncovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that which people seek and often feel they never find. It is the complete and perfect oneness; the knowledge that we are all one, part of the whole that is the universe and beyond, that which is nothing but that which is everything. Try to understand it and it is gone. The beauty of this realisation brings many things; inner peace, inner calm and tranquillity, profound clarity and a deep sense of belonging, of purpose and of true joy. That is the essence of life, the true meaning of life.
I think the reason so many people never find this or discover this is because they are looking for something external. They seek happiness and fulfilment through materialism, relationships, jobs, holidays, money and so on. They miss what is already there, already perfect just as it is, right in front of them, and only by letting go and completely surrendering to it do you become it. This is what the Buddha meant when he said by the absence of grasping one is set free.
I have not reached my full potential because that would mean there is a boundary to my potential. My potential is infinite and so I enjoy the flow of life and trust completely in the direction that takes. Sure, I make intentions and create what I would like to bring into my life but I also trust that everything that comes into it is somehow part of my journey, my life lessons, and so I am always learning from it. I am a student and I am a teacher. I am many things but foremost I am just me and I am also you, the universe and everything in it. My purpose is to help others achieve their own self realisation and start their own journey. The journey begins beyond the doorway that leads to your soul; your true self and meditation is the key to unlocking that door.
My daily meditation practice, which is usually for an hour each morning, is like recharging my whole system. It’s like returning home to the place where I came from. It’s allowing me to completely let go of the dualistic reality we live in and enter a world that you cannot see or touch but that through your heart you know is always there whenever you should wish to be there. It energises, cleanses and revitalises your mind and body from the inside out. It is like diving within yourself and becoming one that is simply non existence, nothingness, but yet that which is everything and everywhere. This is the real meaning of finding heaven on earth.
The immersion of self in the silence gives great power and energy, recharging the whole system on all levels; spiritual, emotional and physical. Let it be, without trying to understand it or analyse it or name it. It is simply as it is, and cannot be found, cannot be named and cannot be understood. It is everything and when you are in silence, immersed within yourself, you are there, you are everything and it is you.
Shelley Costello is a freelance writer and author of Holiday Road and Champagne Friday. She has also published several articles with the international Yoga Magazine and is currently writing her third book.