By Greg Liotta
To begin, consider that it starts with an understanding of what meditation is and what it's not.
When you realize that you already know how to meditate, that you just don't understand you're actually in meditation, then the mystique evaporates. Because true meditation is effortless and shows up in those easeful moments of pure joy while doing something thoroughly engaging. In those moments of undivided oneness with what you're doing - absent the doubts, questions, worries, expectations, measurements, and your mind's way of dissecting every little thing into evaluations, judgments, and ideas - this is meditation. You probably realize this state often while gardening, dancing, singing, playing golf, inside a yoga practice, or making love. When you are in that moment of pure bliss, undisturbed by the mind's need to evaluate it, absent of any story about it: that's meditation.
The practice of meditation is a practice of witnessing the mind in action without clinging to it, releasing the thought or sensation, and returning to simply what is. That's what the meditation practice helps us cultivate, and this informs how I express myself in the world.
My life isn't what I think it is. I’m not who I think I am.
My life is simply a pattern unfolding in creation, in the act of creating, experiencing, and expressing itself through new circumstances. New circumstances are simply fill-ins for the archetypal patterns that drive my vision. I get to target different players/people, issues, and circumstances as “the problem” to focus my energy on but really it's all the same thing showing up in different forms. This is the problem playing out in every person's life.
This pattern prevents me from seeing and experiencing my life as it is. Instead, I see everything through the lens of my emotional & psychological patterns. The lens I wear over my eyes searches for how everything fits into its domain. Once I come into contact with a dynamic or situation I ascribe it characteristics to confirm that it indeed fits my pattern. If it doesn’t fit my pattern it won’t have a charge for me and I’ll probably dismiss it. The patterns - healthy or unhealthy - want comfort for me above all else. Even if the pattern is painful. Painful circumstances that I’ve gotten thru before are far less daunting than a new experience I’m not as familiar with. My cognitive awareness and assertion that I “deserve” better, that I’m “worth it”, and all the positive affirmations in the world have very little power next to the power of these patterns which derive their potency from the subconscious.
Until I change the lens of my pattern, I can never have a different outcome in my life. This is where the practice of meditation comes in.
Former martial arts champion Joey Klein says, "The most Powerful Purpose of Meditation is To TRAIN OURSELVES TO GET INTO AN OPTIMAL STATE OF BEING.
The brain has been conditioned to produce certain effects/states as a default. The brain then stimulates the production of those feeling chemicals.
We ask the brain to do this by focusing on conditioned things.
Meditation can retrain the brain.
You can intentionally train happiness, peace, prosperity….in the meditation practice.
You can produce your desired state.
You train your internal self to produce ANY outcome you choose.
Meditation allows you to go from Beta to Delta/Theta/Gamma, get below the conscious mind, and into the unconscious. The unconscious self needs to feel it to be true."
It's not about "stilling the mind" but rather mastering it by way of rigorous observation - with a light touch. In practical terms, it looks like holding each thought that arises lightly, with a spirit of sincere curiosity - how does my mind work? What material does it produce by default? Who am I really as I observe this program as it flows through my mind and body all day every day? If these thoughts and emotions are passing, and I am still ME, then who am I really? Who do I choose to be in this moment?
If I can manage to become such a keen witness to the way this mind moves, I gain mastery over an important variable in the creation process: what I focus on in my mind, imbued with the energy of emotion, I create more of in my life. Period.
If a person wants to master the creative outcomes of their own lives, it's imperative to start by mastering the mind and knowing how it works. There are many meditations designed to relax and induce a sense of calm. These are fine but they're not really "meditation".
Most meditation techniques are essentially concentration exercises designed to focus the energy flowing through the mind to resolve into one focal point. This is the point of creation and all things flow when an individual is inside this state.
All it takes is about 20 minutes of silence per day. Studies show as little as 20 min per day for 6 weeks show evidence of neuroplasticity, organic brain change due to consistent meditation practice.
How & When:
Start small, just 2 minutes a day. Work up to 20 or more as you wish.
You will notice it gets easier the longer you sit. The mind is more active at the beginning, likely spinning a ton of material than can feel chaotic. For every moment you sit through that, the thinner the thought-stuff gets. A longer sit is much easier than a short sit, but the most important variable is consistency. 2 min every day is more potent than an hour once a week.
Select a "point of concentration: breath, mantra, affirmation, counting, visualizations, or any combination of the above.
Close your eyes and start breathing, watching where it registers in your body, and stay with your point of concentration until a thought or sensation arises. As soon as you notice you've shifted your attention over to that thought, make note of it, smile, say thanks, and gently return to your point of concentration. That's it. You're done. Whatever thoughts arise don't matter. Don't try to push them away. You're in a passive role: you're witnessing, gazing curiously at what your mind produces, and releasing it. Return to your focus. Over and over. That's the game. Let it be fun.
Meditating at any time of the day is good for a person, but the “most effective” time is without a doubt first thing in the morning. It’s also the easiest time since at that hour, the mind has not yet starting moving much so it’s not as difficult to dip into it.
The mind moves and gathers momentum within a few moments upon waking. During the first few moments, the brain is till in Theta, which is akin to hypnosis. Within a few minutes it will gather steam and shift to Alpha then Beta, which is normal adult brain frequency and much harder to slow down. Afternoon or evening meditations often take a while before one can dip under the frenetic movement of planning, thinking, worrying, strategizing, resisting, fantasizing, etc. On the other hand, the first thing in the morning, the mind is just getting rolling. Much easier and more effective time to meditate.
Finally, there is a time (3:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.) that is considered by the yogis to be sacred for this type of activity. It’s called Brahmamuhurtha, during those 3 hours, the vibrations of the planet are quieter, thus making it the ideal time for meditation. You will def notice a more potent effect from meditating during this time of day.
Measuring Success in Meditation
It's counter-intuitive. The goal is essentially "no goal", simply sitting, closing one's eyes, and deciding on a "point of concentration". Focusing on the breath is primary for most people because the breath is physical and regulating breath has a direct influence on the CNS as well as an effective technique for concentrating the mind. As the witness observes, one notices distractions - images, sounds, feelings, and narratives - that continually rise to the surface. They come in waves, and the job of the witness is simply to notice them and then release them. Practicing non-attachment cultivates a powerful capacity to pause before reacting. As this is subject to rigorous repetition, new neuropathways are formed and connections made to replace the old-outmoded default reactions in the brain, body, CNS, breath, heart rate, and everything.
A meditation practice is successful only with regard to one's dedication to the practice. Whatever happens during those 20 mins or so are irrelevant. Sometimes plenty happens, sometimes nothing happens. But it is proven that 20 min of silence is restorative to the brain/mind, and gives rise to deeper insights and intuitions which can then be allocated to support a higher level of functioning in the world. One's creative capacity is increased with enhanced intentionality.
NB: No amount of knowing this and being able to explain it mean a hill of beans if one is not dedicated to a daily practice. 2 min a day. What if it were fun and easy?
Greg Liotta, MSW is an artist, coach, and transpersonal counselor who was born and raised in NYC. At an early age Greg began using art as a means of transforming childhood trauma, incorporating several medium - from pastels to acrylics to digital, - from spoken word to fashion to writing- as he expanded his palette. Always seeking to explore the edges of the unconventional, Greg brought a creative brush to his work with inner-city youth, professional men as well as addicts in recovery. He became a Certified Co-Leader with the Mankind Project in 1997, and for +20 years has been leading transformational retreats and groups. Greg was featured in Recovery View Magazine in 2017 with the article, "Digital Art as a Tool for Recovery" as he shifted to digital art as a pathway to recovery from trauma. He seeks to use vibrant color to evoke a "visual reiki" effect, encouraging viewers to breathe the colors in as they gaze upon his work.
Greg currently lives with the love of his life, Jon Snow, 4-year-old Boxer-mix where he continues to integrate a broad palette in his quest to create freedom in his life and those he touches.
Greg can be reached at email@example.com / 512-867-5470
Greg's Art: http://greg-liotta.artistwebsites.com/