Are you frustrated with reading that the answer to all your life's stressors and anxieties is to just "go within " but the author doesn't tell you how to do it? Exactly what does it mean and how do you start? When you think you have it figured out and try to go within, does your mind race or do you just see black and feel nothing? You are definitely not alone. In fact, this is so common, that many people give up in frustration, believing that they are not making any progress toward achieving a desired state of mind.
Let's assume that when the phrase "go within " is used it means shutting out the external world and quieting the mind chatter to be more receptive to our inner voice of higher reason and wisdom, also commonly known as meditation practice. Meditation is defined as the practice where one attempts to reach a state of complete bodily relaxation while putting aside the critical or analytical part of the mind or ego and attaining a heightened awareness and mental focus for higher contemplation. Through this regular practice of going within, you can experience equanimity -- the stabilizing and quieting of the lower mind.
The State of the Ego
Before I explain an effective method of relaxing the mind and aligning yourself with your higher consciousness, providing you with a brief explanation of the workings of the ego is important in order for you to understand the process you'll be undergoing. Impossible to live earthly life without it, the ego usually works very well to filter important information from your environment. It uses this information to help bring about chosen life paths based on your beliefs and intentions, as well as protect you from perceived threats by producing certain bodily reactions. But due to our ingrained cultural lifestyles, it currently exists in a constant state of panic and gets in the way when you find it necessary to pay attention to your intuition. It is for this reason you often hear people say, "you need to put aside your ego, " or why a certain person becomes "ego-driven. "
The ego's natural state is to vigilantly tune in to your environment through all of your senses and feed this information back to your waking awareness, influencing your decisions, behavior, thoughts, and beliefs, so that you may ultimately live an authentic life that is simple and pleasurable. However, the ego has become a subject of derision, viewed as a hindrance to authentic living, for good reason. Because our generation has adopted a culture around separation from our divine source -- our true source of inspirational guidance toward living a more abundant life -- we have produced an individualistic society, left feeling abandoned and made to survive in a cold harsh world where one is fearful of being without food and shelter. Feeling disconnected from our divine source, the ego cannot do its job very well and its focus is now strictly on survival. And in our Western society, survival is reliant upon the accumulation of money.
We can then begin to understand how our current state of being has become so fearful and focused on the accumulation of wealth at any cost. However, the answer is not to put aside the ego; it is to bring alignment of the ego with your divine source. The more you follow a practice to relax the body and quiet the mind, the more in tune you can become with a divine state of being and the closer your ego can return to its natural state of efficiently creating your reality. When you have reached this state then you are able to experience more peace, more abundance, and freedom from worry.
The initial approach to reaching this natural state of being is by seeking the conscious control of the mind's focus. And to do that, one must first consciously bring about bodily relaxation.
The first step is to find a comfortable spot to rest in an upright position for a while. Lying down is not recommended as for some people it may increase the chance you'll fall asleep, and your body is conditioned to do exactly that when it is relaxed in the supine position.
Close or lower your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths to relax your body. Direct your attention to your feet then slowly move up to your head, scanning each general area of your body (e.g., legs, pelvis, torso, neck, and head), feeling all of your muscles physically relaxing. Then once again scan your body to observe any remaining tension. With the breath directed to the tense area, see the tension break up and float away.
In the beginning, you will likely have worries or stressful thoughts repeatedly pop up into your awareness. Focusing on a specific word or phrase, such as "calm, " "peace, " or another of your choosing, will help eventually alleviate mind chatter and improve sustained concentration. Specific divine sounds or words known as mantras are known for affecting concentration. If you believe imagery would work better, focus on an inner mental symbol, such as a mandala, or other mental images that promotes calm and stillness, such as a candle flame or the surface of a placid mountain lake.
Breath awareness is a popular point of meditation focus. Without changing or forcing your breathing pattern, merely notice your body taking in air and then releasing it from your lungs. When you find your mind drifting to worries of the day, bring your awareness back to your point of focus. In the beginning, you may find yourself repeatedly shifting your awareness, but this will be necessary for retraining your mind. Your firm intent is the key to achieving successful control of your mental processes.
You may need to repeat the relaxation and worry-removal process until you finally become soft and completely relaxed. As you continue to perform this ritual over several days and weeks, you will find it easier to reach this soft, dreamy, and occasionally empty place (the "void ") for your mind and body.
When I started my practice back in the early '90s I used music with binaural tones to achieve a slowing of brainwave activity, but now I simply work toward emptying my mind. Whenever thoughts creep in, I notice that I am "thinking " then return to a blank mind. You can use this same labeling technique for strong emotions that arise -- anger can be acknowledged by noticing it then labeling it in your mind by saying, "that's anger " or just "anger. " By doing this, you are switching to a higher cognitive function using a different lobe of the brain, which doesn't engage in fear-based emotions.
Benefits of Continuous Practice
As you increase your ability to focus during these quiet times, you'll find that during the rest of the day your mind remains calm and alert, and you are better able to concentrate for longer periods of time on the tasks at hand. This is our natural state of the higher mind, and through the practice of relaxation and increasing your ability to focus, you are strengthening and enhancing this state and producing profound holistic benefits.
With increased practice, during your session you may find yourself reaching a space of timelessness or nothingness. It is in this space of supreme tranquility you can set the intent to contemplate higher knowledge or insight into your daily issues. When you return to normal waking consciousness, you might find it helpful to write down your insights or epiphanies in a journal.
When you reach a lower level of brainwave activity, you are unlikely to revert back to the anxiety-producing thought process. If you believe you may have returned to a more active level of brainwave activity closer to normal waking consciousness, notice how your body responds to the thoughts. If you find yourself tensing up, then consciously relax the tense areas of your body -- usually the neck, shoulders, and abdomen -- continue to redirect your awareness to your point of focus until you return to a deeper level of relaxation.
Long-term benefits can happen with only practicing five minutes each day, but your sessions may end up being longer if you have more time in your schedule and will open you up to experiencing a calm timeless bliss that comes from prolonged practice.
Keeping on Track
It's best to start out with shorter periods of practice -- that way you don't feel like you are pressuring yourself to do more. Then as you become more efficient at relaxing and concentrating on your point of focus you can build up to longer periods.
Practicing regularly in the morning gives you a good start to your day, and you won't feel rushed to fit it into your afternoon or evening schedule when your schedule can easily fill up with other responsibilities. And because you feel so refreshed in the morning after awakening, practicing at the start of your day will also help prevent sleepiness.