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Meditation As a Path to Inner Peace
by Jim Dreaver

To meditate is to sit and be present with whatever is happening. When you first learn to sit and formally meditate, it can be difficult because all your "stuff" tends to come up. You may experience physical tension and pain, boredom, restlessness, anxiety, confusion, fear, loneliness.

Facing all this in yourself is part of what meditation is about. You learn to breathe through these difficult states, and eventually they pass and cease being a problem. You find yourself arriving at deeper levels of clarity, stillness, and peace. You come to your own realization of the truth contained in the following haiku, which I penned while meditating on my deck one morning at sunrise:

Supremely present, mind still

I breathe in

The beauty of this moment.

Many people struggle with meditating and attaining a quiet mind, yet it can happen with surprising ease and spontaneity. A story about my son, Adam, will illustrate what I mean.

He was about eleven years old at the time. Although he often saw me meditate in the morning if he got up early enough, he rarely, if ever, "sat" formally himself. We occasionally talked about spirituality and enlightenment, but mostly I just let him enjoy being a kid. His basic nature was (and is) kind, loving, and generous. He was a happy child who was in touch with the "energy" behind creation. How much more spiritual could you get? The last thing I needed or wanted to do was lay any spiritual "trip" on him.

On this particular occasion we were on a hike in the hills, near where we live. It was a beautiful summer's day, and it was hot. We were walking along a wide, dirt trail that wound its way through some woods and out into an open meadow, when we decided to stop for a break. I was about twenty yards ahead of him. He plopped himself down right in the middle of the trail, under the trees. I had just come out into the open, and had found a comfortable rock to sit on. I had pulled out my water bottle and was taking a drink, watching a turkey vulture wheeling overhead, when he called out.

"Dad!" he said, excitedly.

"What?" I turned to face him.

"I just meditated!"

"What happened?" Now, this is going to be interesting, I thought.

He proceeded to tell me. "Well, I sat down and my mind was jumping with all kinds of thoughts, and I just started to really notice these trees, and how the wind was blowing the leaves around. Then I could hear the wind. Then I heard some kind of a bird singing… And then guess what happened?"


"My mind just stopped!"

"And… ?"

"Well, everything just stopped. Like, I just got completely quiet inside."

"How did that feel?"

"It felt great!" He jumped up and came over to me, thrilled at this new discovery. "Man, now I can meditate!"

"You sure can," I said, putting my arm around his shoulder and giving him a hug.

As we continued our walk along the trail, I said to him, "So now you know what to do. You've learned the secret of meditation. Whenever you feel scattered or need to recharge yourself, you just sit down and get really still. Then you simply pay attention to what you see in your immediate environment, and you listen carefully to the sounds you hear, and suddenly you find yourself out of your head, and you're right here in the moment."

"It feels great to be in the moment, Dad."

"You're still a kid, Adam," I replied, "so you're there pretty naturally. Just remember what happened today, and you'll always know how to get back to the now moment if ever you get lost in your mind again."

Let me share with you now the specific meditation practice that has worked so well for me for more than twenty years. It is a practice that quickly releases any fuzziness or static in my mind, as well as fatigue or stress in my body. Within a few minutes it usually brings a wonderful feeling of alignment in body, mind, and spirit.

I sit every morning, for ten or fifteen minutes if I have a lot of writing or other work to get to, for thirty or forty minutes when I have more leisure time. Sometimes, I'll also sit for a little while in the evening, although I usually do my half-hour yoga practice in the evening. That is more of a moving meditation--a balancing of dynamic poses, with periods of total stillness in between.

The movement of the yoga releases the accumulation of the day's stress; the stillness in between the poses allows me to feel the exquisite energy that bubbles up in every cell, the delightful current of bliss that is the by-product of deep and profound relaxation.

The Practice of Meditation

Choose a meditation environment where you feel a sense of peace, quiet, and beauty. Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on a cushion, with your back straight. Close your eyes, breathe down into your belly. Feel yourself in your body. Feel yourself centered, grounded, solid. Be supremely present.

Take a minute or two to visualize yourself as being the awareness, the space, in which your body appears, in which your breath rises and falls, in which sensations come and go. As you let your awareness expand, listen to the sounds around you--whether of an electrical appliance, a car going by, the wind sighing, or a bird calling. Then tune-in to the silence behind the sounds. The deep silence out of which all sounds arise, and back into which they disappear. Notice how the silence, the stillness, is always here--and that it is both empty and incredibly full, rich in creative potential. When you are totally present like this, you discover that there is always something new being born out of silence.

As you observe, or witness, the continual flow of sensations and feelings in your body, start paying attention to the thoughts and images in your mind. Watch them as you would birds flying across the sky in front of you. Just watch them and let them fly by, whether they are thoughts of past events, of people in your life, or of what might happen in the future. Don't go chasing after them. Don't indulge yourself in "thinking" about them. This meditation time is your opportunity to experience what it is like to be free of thoughts of the past and future, and simply be here in the present.

So, as you sit, just focus on the sense of your true nature as being awareness, the vast, clear blue sky, and your thoughts are but birds winging their way overhead. Experience the marvelous freedom of not holding onto anything, but instead, just being fully present with your awareness.

Periodically, open your eyes so as to reconnect with your immediate surroundings. It will help you stay present. Coming back to the awareness of your breath, to slow, conscious breathing, will also help. Remember, the primary goal of meditation is to simply be very still, very present, very alert and attuned to whatever is unfolding in this moment now.

As your sitting meditation practice deepens and you become more comfortable with it, states of tension, restlessness, and boredom will be less and less of a problem. You'll breathe into them, and they will pass. A marked sense of clarity, inner peace, and well-being will more and more be your steady experience.

Excerpted with permission from The Way of Harmony: Walking the Inner Path to Balance, Happiness, and Success (Avon Books) © 1999 by Jim Dreaver.

In addition to The Way of Harmony, Dr. Jim Dreaver is the author of The Ultimate Cure, and Somatic Technique. A graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic and an acknowledged expert in somatic education, he has been speaking and teaching in the fields of mind/body healing, personal mastery, consciousness, and spirituality for more than twenty years. More recently he has been taking his work into the field of leadership coaching and training. He will be facilitating a transformational workshop at Esalen Institute, December 22-24, 2000 and at Kripalu Center, March 8-11, 2001. For more information, visit his website at www.jimdreaver.com


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