Discover the art of enjoying every meditation session through three transformative approaches, guiding you to deeper connections and heightened awareness.
Embarking on the meditation journey is not just about seeking peace; it's about relishing the ebb and flow of the experience. Here's how you can truly savor each session, no matter where you are in your practice.
The purpose of meditation practice is not necessarily to enjoy it, so why make that a thing? Yet, there's a profound depth in exploring enjoyment as an aspect of this transformative spiritual practice.
If you are a regular meditator, you know that some days of practice are delightful, and others are like shoveling wet snow. If you are new to meditation, you may be encouraged to learn that ups and downs are normal.
Here's why learning to enjoy our meditation practice (no matter what) is helpful. When we enjoy meditating, we're likely to continue doing it long enough to derive tangible benefits from it—both the stress-reducing and health-enhancing benefits, as well as the transformation of spiritual realization.
Furthermore, when the journey of meditation is embraced with joy, our connection to the practice deepens, making each session more meaningful. This intrinsic motivation becomes a catalyst, pushing us beyond mere routine and into a realm of profound self-discovery."
Here are three ways to enjoy your meditation practice.
"If you have made up your mind to find joy within yourself, sooner or later you shall find it. Seek it now, daily, by steady, deeper and deeper meditation within."
While the ebb and flow of meditation can be unpredictable, there are strategies to cultivate a sense of enjoyment and deep connection to the practice. By integrating certain habits and mindsets, you can transform meditation from a mere task to a delightful journey of self-exploration. Below are three methods to help you revel in every moment of your meditation sessions.
Arrange Beneficial Conditions for Meditation Practice
Our capacity for joy originates with the soul itself, which is innately, unwaveringly blissful. For meditation, that innate bliss is most supportive as our starting point rather than an end goal. It's not a destination, some state we arrive at. The soul's inherent joy is not an emotion; it doesn't arise or disappear as a reaction to conditions. The Sanskrit term for bliss—ananda—can be defined as "the perfect joy of Self-knowing." That bliss-filled realization of our essential nature is very often a benefit of meditation. So how would we start there?
We start by noticing that thoughts, emotions, and experiences all change, but "something" about us remains constant. Once we become aware of that unchanging consciousness, we can sense the freedom and spaciousness of our being, and that is where the experience of bliss arises.
There are things we can do on all levels to arrange beneficial conditions for our practice.
On the physical level, set up a delightful, uplifting, comfortable, clean, inspiring, and undisturbed space.
Mentally, we can use our willpower to decide that we will meditate every day. We can bring heart to our practice with love for God, our teacher, our divine Self, others, the earth, and all beings. This love calms and purifies our emotions and ego-sense. And spiritually, we can start each meditation with awareness of our innate joy, whether through direct experience of it, memory, imagination, or faith.
It just takes an intentional moment to inwardly acknowledge our essential nature as infinitely expansive, supremely conscious, and innately blissful. Like the mighty ocean, the divine Self is large enough to accommodate any waves that arise in the mind—happiness, sorrow, grief, anger, delight. Let it all come, and let it all go. Return attention again and again to your divine, unchanging, blissful Self—no matter what. No need to try and attain something, avoid some experiences, or cling to others. In that field of spacious awareness, joy unfolds from within like a flower opens to the sun.
There are probably as many motivations to practice meditation as there are meditators. With any discipline, it is helpful to be aware of what motivates us. Why do we want to meditate? What's the draw, and how do we sustain our interest once we have realized some initial benefits such as stress reduction, improved health, or better concentration?
Here's the key to steady, long-term practice: recognize your meditation practice as essential to your relationship with your Self.
It is one of the most profound ways we can get to know who we really are, discern what's truly important to us, discover the secrets of our soul, and realize our essential Self.
Superconscious meditation restores us to our innate wholeness. No longer confined by the thoughts and emotions endemic to ordinary states of consciousness, our essential nature soars in absolute freedom which is its prerogative. I often think of meditation as the opportunity for the soul to "stretch out." What a joy it is to stretch out in freedom! When we look deeply enough into our motivation to meditate, we discover the soul imperative to practice. It is the soul call—a call to freedom and to joy, arising from our innate yearning for the direct experience of our unbounded, supremely free self.
While we can arrange favorable conditions for meditation practice, it is useful to recognize that the higher states of consciousness we seek unfold through grace alone. Though effort and willpower help to set the stage, what we aim to experience is beyond that. We sit with intention, focus, and commitment.
Then, we must let go into the experience of grace—the unearned freely provided divine support that carries us beyond the stage of self-effort, outside the boundaries of ego-based accomplishment. This letting go is one of the reasons why the practice is ultimately joyful and refreshing; it is an opening to freedom from self-effort and self-will and a recognition of the presence of grace in our life.
Paramahansa Yogananda noted that there are three kinds of grace that are necessary for a devotee on the spiritual path:
The bottom line?
Be intentional but don't try too hard. Joy is always present, just as we live, and move, and breathe, and yes, meditate.
In order to keep our meditation practice steady and strong we need to find ways to fall in love with it over and over again. Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian discusses the many ways we can stay inspired and devoted.
© 2023 Ellen Grace O’Brian