By Don DeMercurio
It's 5:00am on Monday morning. I often begin my inner practice by journaling to bring myself into a more present state of awareness, allowing thoughts of concern, worry, excitement, regret, etc. to flow from pen to paper where they can rest while I enter my morning meditation period. Taking time to prepare for meditation can be as valuable as meditation itself.
Preparation, for me, is about creating the conditions both internally and externally that will support presence -actively turning toward what is most precious and what is always abiding in us - what is always abiding as us.
This form of journaling is a movement from the head to the heart, and then to the body; from thinking to feeling, to sensation. Sensating is what reveals our capacity to encounter presence as embodied experience. Making space for thoughts, emotions and sensations to be welcome and part of the moment is part of allowing everything to be as it is. To be in the present moment is to be with the present moment, not any other moment. The storyline is a part of the present moment that reflects what is occurring on the surface of our life. Meditation allows for a deepening into "what else" is here as we settle more fully into ourselves; what is naturally emergent and alive and also what is eternally empty, still and unchanging - the ground of Being out of which all form arises. Over time, we can learn to be in the presence of life's activities while also abiding in the eternal stillness of Being.
As I bring attention and awareness to the present moment, I feel into the sensations in my body and notice that there is a palpable presence that is always noticeable when I am HERE. At the most basic level, it is the simple recognition of existence itself. I intentionally increase my contactfullness with myself. I find an arising of gratitude and goodness for the blessing of being held by a beautiful home and a warm fire. I'm grateful for the quiet of the early morning hours after a good or not so good nights sleep. I'm able to take in the beauty of a plant in bloom in the corner of the room. And the sound of birds waking up the morning and a feeling of appreciation begins to enter my awareness.
Gratitude and appreciation for what is in life bring an immediacy and intimacy into this preparation. It reminds me that I am not only this body/mind but I am also present in every form of consciousness that is entering my awareness. I am the beauty of the bloom making its annual appearance on my Clivia plant. I am the aliveness and nurturance of the flame in my fireplace. I am the illumination of the candle that sits on my altar. Recognizing each of these qualities allows them to come into consciousness within my felt experience of the moment.
Being in a space of receptivity and openness I am now ready to enter the next stage of preparation in which I let it all go. Not rejecting it, but allowing everything to be exactly as it is I move my sense of who I am from the historical and acquired sense of myself into what it is that is aware of but empty of all content. It is here that I abide in the utter stillness and silence that is the deepest Reality.
One of my teacher's, Russ Hudson, once said that the most important part of meditation is that moment when the bell rings and we turn inward. It is in that moment of intentionally turning towards the Truth of ourselves that our heart remembers the truth of itself makes touch with what it loves.
This form of preparation isn't always necessary. Sometimes, the pull of Spirit causes the turning and deepening to spontaneously occur and meditation is simply who I am. But living in the world and compelled by life's challenges and distractions also requires daily practice to establish a deeper ground in everyday living.
Each of us needs to find the method that supports our own meditation practice. What works for one might not work for another. Often, in the beginning stages of meditation practice, it is helpful to have a focus of attention to give the mind something to land on and return to while cultivating the ability to disidentify with the content of the mind. This can be the breath, a part of the body, a mantra, a prayer or anything that supports returning to now. For me, journaling initiates a transition inward, followed by putting down the pen and sensing into the more subtle arisings and then letting it all go and simply abiding.
What is it that works for you?