I still remember my first time like it was yesterday.
I had been invited to try meditation by a very gifted osteopath who I’d been seeing for a neck injury I suffered while backpacking in Europe. During our sessions, he would work on my body in often extremely painful ways while training me to breathe deep from my belly. All the while, he would work on expanding my mind by engaging me in deeply stimulating conversations about a range of subjects. These included a broader understanding of spirituality than I’d ever explored but from a very scientific approach.
He suggested a number of books and sources for me look into including Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now, an audio series of Ram Dass’ lectures called Experiments In Truth and a book called Waking Upby Charles Tart which detailed very specifically how to achieve different states of consciousness through focused techniques of breathing and body scanning.
I later came to realize that this wise man was my first spiritual teacher and that he was very skillfully and sneakily initiating me into a deeper understanding of who I was, and how my mind, body, and spirit were connected.
With little idea of what to expect, I dove into his suggestions and soon found myself sitting in a chair in my bedroom, ready to try this practice that was described and detailed in these various books and teachings. I chose to start with the one that felt the most accessible to me based on my level of understanding at the time. The technique involved a simple focus on the breath and sequentially placing my attention on and relaxing all my body parts, one by one, until I was able to see and feel them all lit up and envision my whole body as one field of energy.
There was no question that it began quite awkwardly, as is often the case. The mind would incessantly chime in: “Am I doing this right?... This is weird… What’s that noise? … What am I doing? ... I don’t think this going to work for me…”
My mind was so active and I’d be taught my whole life to lead with my intellect. I had come to believe that my ability to think and analyze was one of my greatest gifts, and I thought my mind and my thoughts defined me. I definitely had no idea that there was an OFF SWITCH, that once discovered, would allow me to access a deeper state of calm, stillness and an experiences of who I was beyond my monkey mind.
Well, lo and behold, after a few stubborn and inspired attempts, something magical began to happen. A space between my thoughts started to open up, and became progressively longer and longer. I had my first experiences of what many meditation teachers would describe as “No-Mind” and I began to connect in a very real way to the fact that I was more than my thoughts. That there was a presence, a consciousness, a state of BEING that was more ME than my thoughts were. That my mind, although it was a very powerful and valuable tool, was meant to be the servant to my higher self, rather than the master as it had been all those years up until then.
It was a truly profound and life-changing time on my journey. It opened up a whole new level of experience, and a whole new understanding of who we all really are, in truth, and how we can navigate life from a deeper place within ourselves.
What followed was a slow but steady change in my life course. I went from being a soon-to-be law student and having my sights set on a legal career to discovering my creative passion and ultimately leaving those older visions behind to follow my heart. Without meditation and the awakening that it fostered, I don’t believe I would have found my way to my true, life path of being an artist, and living a life of purpose.
Fast forward to now, seventeen years later. I have maintained some form of meditation practice on most days and have explored a variety of different ways to approach it. It’s become one of the most sacred daily rituals that I begin my day with on most mornings. I have a space in my home that’s set up for my practice where I can shut out all distractions and drop in. The practice is ever-evolving and even after all these years of being a dedicated meditator, I just recently discovered a new approach that has taken my meditations to a whole new level of depth.
What I can say without a doubt is that on days when I do meditate, I feel more centered, more grounded, more calm and more clear. My ability to focus, and to navigate whatever life throws at me is significantly enhanced and my intuition and sense of the connectedness of all things are heightened. On days when I don’t meditate, and especially if I ever go a few days without, I can feel the accumulation of mental clutter and as though I’m getting further and further from my true nature and center.
Truly, meditation saved my life and continues to do so.
Curious about it?
I highly recommend giving it a try and see what opens up. Find an approach that resonates and commit to it for a few days so you can get over that initial awkward hump. It helps to set the mood in your space too. Find a cozy and comfortable space where you can have uninterrupted stillness and quiet time. Turn your devices off (or on airplane mode), light a candle, burn some Palo Santo and away you go…
This is a contributed post by Chris Assaad. Catch up with Chris on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/chrisassaad
Photography by Cami Mendes.