Lucky for us, there are many ways to meditate. We can meditate while standing, sitting, lying down, and even moving. From time to time I will offer a different meditation practice or visualization exercise for you to explore. The Meditation Guidelines are simply that--guidelines. Follow any or all of them.
A variation of the following meditation was taught to me by the late Lila Taylor, CMFT. It is offered in loving memory of her.
Close your eyes and imagine or recall a tree. Perhaps it was one you climbed in childhood, or one that grows in a park nearby. It could be one you saw in a photograph or while vacationing in a special place. You don't need to know its name.
Walk toward it and offer it a greeting. See and feel how firmly it is planted in the ground.
Sit on the ground with your back against the trunk. Feel its unwavering support. It truly "has your back."
Notice how the tree's roots extend deep within the earth, Mother Earth, and how its branches and leaves reach towards the sky, Father Sky. Feel as if you can do as the tree does. If you wish, entwine your legs with its roots and turn your palms up like leaves on its branches.
As you breathe in, open to receive whatever Mother Earth has to give you. Feel it surging up through your toes and the bottoms of your feet, filling your feet and ankles, then moving up into your legs. Allow it to flow deeply into every cell of your body. At this point, you may ask Mother Earth for something you want that, for some reason, your human mother was unable or unwilling to give, such as acceptance, calmness, stability, comfort or anything else that comes to mind. As you breathe out, let go of any negative memories and experiences that arise, as well as any negative feelings that you are ready to release. Then take two or three breaths, asking Mother Earth for what She knows you need at this moment. Thank Her.
Now, imagine that you, like the tree, are reaching up to Father Sky. Breathe in whatever you are receiving from Father Sky. Feel it flowing into your fingertips, into your palms, filling your hands, wrists, and arms. Allow it to flow lightly into every cell of your body. At this point, you may ask for something you want that your human father, for some reason, was unable or unwilling to give, such as validation, affection, protection, security, or anything else that comes to mind. Breathe out and let go of any negative memories and experiences that arise, as well as any negative feelings that you are ready to release. Take two or three breaths, asking Father Sky for what He knows you need at this moment. Thank Him.
Breathe in the energy from Mother Earth and Father Sky simultaneously. Breathe out anything that could block the flow. Observe the two streams of energy. Experience them moving into all parts of yourself now. Grounding and illuminating. Sitting on the earth, underneath the sky, you are the child of both. Feel your connection. Enjoy this feeling for as long as you like.
Thank your tree for its complete and enduring support.
When you are ready, bring your attention back to the place where you have been meditating. Begin to move your body a little bit. Take a deep breath. Stretch. Open your eyes. Emerge fully awake and alert.
Posture: Sit comfortably in an upright position. If you are seated in a chair, keep both feet on the floor. You can rest your hands, palms up or down, on your thighs with the pads of the thumb and first finger touching. Or you can place both hands in your lap, one on top of the other, with palms up and both thumbs touching. If you prefer to sit on the floor, sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position keeping your hips higher than your knees. You can use pillows for support. Remember to keep your spine erect.
Breath: Inhale and exhale through your nose. Make the in-breath a little stronger and the out-breath a little longer. You may find yourself pausing naturally at the space between breaths, either at the end of the inhalation or at the end of the exhalation. This is fine. As thoughts arise, watch them come and go without attachment or judgment. By returning your attention to the rhythm of your breath, thoughts, like leaves floating on the surface of a woodland stream, will be carried away by the lively current that is actually breathing you. As feelings arise, allow yourself to feel them, and continue to breathe. Then rest in the space between breaths.
Intention: Form an intention. Perhaps your intention is to relax and go with the flow, to just be with whatever arises. Perhaps it is to feel more love. You may be looking for answers to some deep questions. Ask yourself what it is that you want. An intention may be as simple as "I am going to sit for 20 minutes." After forming an intention, let it go. Your Higher Self knows what to do.
Offering: Our spiritual practices bring great benefit to ourselves and, by virtue of our connection to everything in the universe, to others. Offering your practice of meditation -- in memory of someone who has died, in gratitude to those who have helped you, for the sake of people who are suffering -- is an act of compassion. The ripples of humility, generosity, love, and kindness spread far and wide.
Invocation: Invoke grace. Call upon your Higher Self, the Inner Witness, the powers of Nature, a beloved saint or teacher, an angel, or God/Goddess to infuse your meditation with love, peace, and connection. The invocation may include mantras, hymns, prayers, or instrumental sounds.