Not Your Normal Approach to Meditation: 3 Unusual Practices and Why You Should Do Them (part two)

Opening — drawing by Jeff

I’m going to tell you about something we call “the peace exercise.”

OK, so you may think peace as a meditative exercise is a bit over-used and thoroughly done. You’d be right… but I PROMISE I do have something new to say about working with peace in your meditation, and here it is:

The Peace exercise, done right, is about getting back your silence.

Without silence you can’t be objective, you can’t be inwardly quiet enough to resist the temptation to be pulled into dramas — either your own or someone else’s.

Dealing with the storms of feelings and emotions that can rip through the calm and centeredness you struggle to maintain throughout any given day is a big challenge on the path of inner development, and the best tool for this, hands down, is the peace meditation.

We are buffeted by our streams of thoughts and emotions, and we need a place to go where we can find some peace for a few minutes each day. Just those few precious minutes of a little peace and quiet can help us get a grip in the tide of our inner world that can take charge of us at any moment. Getting that grip, even for a few minutes, can be the difference between having resilience in the face of trouble, or being stomped.

The activity of doing the peace exercise is a homeopathic dose of peace medicine, which slowly, imperceptibly, works upon our soul giving it strength and resilience over time when we need it. It doesn’t happen by magic; it arises out of our activity, our striving, every morning and (for extra dynamos!) every evening.

Here’s the exercise:

Sit comfortably, and take a moment or two to clear your mind of the constant stream of mental chatter. Work to create a space of no thought, where you are feeling present to yourself and not distracted by your constant inner muttering. Remember it is not about whether you succeed, but that you try. The concentration exercise is an excellent precursor to get you to a calm state of mind.

Then think the word: Peace.

As you think the word, deliberately try to bring up in your soul a feeling, a mood, of peace. It might help to remember a moment when you felt peaceful, and re-evoke how that felt to you. After you do that, let the word peace and the mood you evoked, fall away into silence.  “Give it away” into the silence — let it go.  Then listen into the silence for half a minute or so.

You are free to repeat these steps a few times, until you are done. Don’t do it for too long and find yourself setting a standard that you can’t keep up with — but if you go deep, go deep. You only need a couple of minutes, which can  actually feel like quite a long time when you are just sitting in silence.

BTW, some general things to know about meditation: Building the Hut

When we do this exercise, we are developing a capacity. Our activity in meditation over time lays a foundation upon which, stone by stone, is created a place where we can go when life gets tough.  It is literally like we have a reserve of quiet, of centeredness, that we can call on when we need it.  Sounds strange, but it’s true.  We call this “building the hut.”  

When we build the hut, we are creating order and structure in that place where before there used to be chaos and noise, even darkness. Over time, we can look back and see how capable and strong we have become — how resilient, compared to before we started to meditate. This is an indication that we are growing capacity where before there was a bit of a mess.  

Remember these three key elements to doing any meditative exercise:

  • It takes some investment of time and effort before there will be any noticeable difference. It is a subtle process.  And, at the same time, sometimes the effect is noticeable instantly.  Just don’t expect results.  Instead, do it.  Over time, the results make themselves known.  
  • Building on that.  The point is not whether you “achieve” the “purpose” of the meditation you are doing — in this case to evoke a feeling of peace — but that you do the exercise. It is the intention and most importantly the activity of your doing that builds the hut — not (repeat not) how “successful” you are. This is very important to know, because we can so easily give up in the face of our apparent failure. This is so important I will say it again: it is the activity of doing the exercise that builds capacity, not the “success.” As with anything, success comes at the end, not the beginning, of your efforts.
  • Meditation must be done every day. The hut grows if your practice has a rhythmical nature, much in the same way that practicing any new skill happens most quickly and effectively with regular practice. Doing meditation every day increases the potency of your efforts over time.

So what do you think? Tell me what came up in you as you read this post in the comments below; I look forward to hearing about it!

Next time, I’m going to post about the third exercise that can also help you get a grip on your feeling life so that you aren’t ALWAYS at the mercy of your moods…

Love,

Louisa

4 Comments

  1. Noah Erenberg on January 14, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    This is really helpful. Cultivating peace in meditation is an excellent focus. I so much appreciate the reminders of how vital that quiet space is for me and those around me. I’ve experienced this kind of quiet when I take a few minutes to ‘pray’. Or, when I sit still and do some Reiki for 20 minutes. Or when I meditate sitting quietly; or when I do a walking meditation through a remote forest in the winter (talk about quiet!!). Of course I have to stand still to really ‘hear’ the quiet. It really is almost deafening how loud that silence can be.

    • Louisa on January 14, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Yes! Thank you Noah, the roaring silence (John Cage)! You’re doing lots of things to cultivate that silence already it seems – AWESOME.

  2. George on January 26, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I feel like this approach to meditation meets me where I’m at. It does not dwell on the “idea” of meditation. I was sold on the benefits of meditation long ago. Follow through has been tricky part. Motivation… it never stays. Or it quickly gives way to other priorities. The emphasis on achieving effort and not “success” resonates. That is what I need to hear. As someone who loves to improvise just about everything, from cooking, to getting dressed, to creating anything from an e-mail to a song… I tend to improvise and keep routines at a distance. As a result, I struggle with are the habits that come from getting by on the thrill and validation I receive as a confident improviser.

    • Louisa on January 26, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      I like how you put that: achieving effort and not “success” – that’s it exactly. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and giving us some feedback on that part; nice to know it resonates. I like what you say also about being a confident improviser, though that doesn’t always serve you when you need more routine, like meditation! However, confident improvising is an enviable ability…

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