We discussed meditation at the prison yesterday. Generally people teach either meditating on the breath or meditating on a mantra. I have instructions on the blog for meditation on the breath in the blog post “Santosha (contentment) through Yoga – at a Prison?”
During meditation, you focus on the breath and count. At some point you become aware that you have lost the count. At this point, the thing to do is notice what thought is occurring, look it over as if it was a pretty stone that you picked up while wading in a stream, and then gently set it down and return to the breath and continue counting.
Over time, you notice that the thoughts will not stop. With persistence, however, the flow of thoughts can slow to the point where there start to be “gaps” in the flow. Chances are the gaps will reveal lower level thoughts or feelings or images or some other form of mental impressions. At some point things can slow to the point where a real gap opens up between the thoughts and your authentic nature shines through. At that point, your mind becomes a mirror, reflecting back the qualities of your authentic nature. This state of absorption, experiencing this reflection of the authentic nature is known as Samadhi.
The recommendation is to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day. You can start with 5 minutes twice a day and work up. People who do this feel more centered and calm during the other parts of the day.
There is another thing that happens. Rather than clearing the mind or staying in the Samadhi state for the entire time, the meditator becomes very familiar with the thoughts that continue to make up the bulk of the content of the mind. These thoughts are not us. They occur in a way that they almost seem to come from outside of us. Many of these thoughts can be from “voices” that don’t seem to like us – judging, finding fault. These voices are not us and they are not helpful. The thing for the dedicated meditator to do is to notice everything during this process and begin to “see” how everything is put together. Zen Teacher Cheri Huber points out that there is no certain experience you are supposed to have during meditation. The correct experience is whatever you experience.
As for falling asleep, this is usually due to posture. If the spine is nice and straight, you can be very alert. It is hard to get the spine straight and keep it straight. When you sit cross legged, Padmadsana (lotus pose) automatically puts the back in the right shape but can be difficult to do when starting out. Supporting the bottom and knees with pillows or blocks can allow adjusting so the spine is straight. You can also sit with the back against the wall in order to help fight the nodding.
Also understand something. I am not saying that you “should” meditate. I can help people who want to meditate but I have no mission to go around and recruit people.
Let me know if you give it a try.