Exploring quiet time....a meditation practise
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
I really love and need quiet time, whether that is meditation, a walk in nature or creating a nature mandala, it’s a time to turn inwards, to step away from the external busy world. It is part of my daily life, a ritual, an ongoing practise that varies greatly in its effort and ease! After all, the day to day demands of life can often drain and exhaust our energy so this offset of quiet time can be like a little drop of magic.
With the increasing spotlight and information on meditation, it can however become overwhelming and confusing as to where to start. We may even find that meditation just becomes another thing on our “to do list” where we miss the opportunity to explore the self completely. It requires time and dedication but we can all start a practise anytime, you only need yourself and a willingness to turn inwards and explore. It will no doubt feel impossible and frustrating at times but with continued practise we may find underneath all our layers of constant doing, mind chatter, tension and worry there is a calmer more peaceful state that is always there. This can be referred to as our true nature, so beautifully and simply put below:
Learn to withdraw the mind
From your physical senses;
Freed from its ties
To outer objects,
The mind can arrive
At its own true nature
11.54 (from the book How Yoga Works – Geshe Michael Roach)
Meditation or just simply quiet time, can offer a way to help draw down a busy chattering mind, described in yoga as "chitta vritti", our monkey mind. This in turn allows an investigation of the self to help us become aware of how things are as opposed to our perception of how they are. Of course starting a mediation can seem like a daunting task which we may find brings on more of those ever ending thoughts so it can be useful to let go of any expectations and ideas we have of what a meditation practise should be, there is no right or wrong, it’s just your experience and however that unfolds for you. Remember it doesn’t necessary have to mean sitting crossed legged on a meditation cushion in your chosen place of zen! It could simply be a walk in nature, just walking and observing the breath and body until it falls into a nice gentle quiet rhythm – a feeling that everything simply slows down. Alternatively some fluid movement can work really well, easing the body into a place where the mind and breath slows down with it, into that wonderful place of ease, a moving meditation.
Another practise which I find incredible calming and mindful, is creating mandalas in nature. Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle, the centre seed is known as the "bindu", meaning drop, our own awareness. To me all the outer circles and details are the layers, like the koshas, the interconnected layers of the body, from the densest physical layer through to the subtler energy states of breath, mental & emotional expressions, wisdom and bliss body. When creating a mandala through these layers of self, it can help with the path towards the realisation of our true nature and to move into the present moment. Of course it’s a continued practise to weave through the layers of the body, gently finding ways to release and let go, to spiral back full circle to the centre, back to the self, the "I". All much more eloquently explained by Carl Jung..
“I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point – namely to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths…I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained for me what was the ultimate”
Mandala creation is also a lovely activity to do collectively as a group (children love them too), providing the wonderful benefit of grounding and connecting with nature, helping to remind us that we are not separate from nature and that our energy constantly shifts and changes just like the seasons. The five elements of nature, earth, water, fire, air and space, are referred to as the "tattvas" in yoga and exist inside us too. The earth is matter which is the structure of our bodies. Water is liquid, it's our seas, rivers & lakes and flowing through us is the same liquid, we are 70% water. Fire is heat and holds the power of transformation, just like our metabolism and digestive system. Air is our breath, with every breath we are connecting, inhaling we receive and exhaling we give back, a constant exchange. Space or ether is the boundless place where all the elements exist, the distance between matter and the space within.
To help us with awareness of our elements and deepen our connection to nature outside and within, it can be really nice to incorporate them in your mandala art:
*Air - the energy of air can be represented with a feather or incense stick, blowing in the wind
*Fire – the energy of fire can be represented with a candle or sage/palo santo
*Earth – the energy of earth can be represented with a plant/stone/soil
*Water – the energy of water can be represented with a glass of ocean/rain or spring water
*Space/Ether – the boundless space that holds it all.
As an end thought, whichever practise you might chose to explore, remember to just work with what feels comfortable for you, just slowly and gently allowing yourself time to feel into it. As with everything, it is your journey, perfectly unique to you.