The “Zen Patch”: A Need to Meditate

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Why and How to Meditate for Beginners
The “Zen Patch” represents a place in our mind to go to meditate. For each of us this will be different- perhaps you move to a garden, the ocean, the mountains or rainforest. But whatever image you create in your mind, make the image vivid, strong and powerful. Each time you close your eyes to meditate that special place will quickly appear. As the image unfolds your breath will start to slow and deepen and the veil of daily life will lift and you will begin to submerge yourself into a peace and stillness like never before experienced.

What of Distractions
Can you sit in your Zen Patch - your place of peace, your lavender field or your mountain retreat - free of intruders? Just as our lavender fields and mountains have bugs and pests, so we find them in our Zen Patch. The pest we find here though, is that intrusive voice that comes to hijack our meditation. Beginners to meditation find this critical intruder very overpowering, for it seems the more they sit to meditate, the more opportunity there is for the critical parent (critical self) to emerge. Spending time in the Zen Patch without the intrusion of the critical parent will always be a challenge even for those who meditate on a regular bases, but it is especially so for the beginner.

How do we overcome this intruder? Our first intention must be to breathe; learning the qualities of the breath and the practice of pranayama (breathing practice) is very important. The object of pranayama is to consciously link mind and breath, to be aware of the inhalation, the breath retention and the exhalation in breath awareness the mind quietens and mental clarity increases the “fogginess” of everyday thinking is slowly lifted. There are several practices of pranayama to choose from. However, unless you are working with an experienced teacher it is best to keep the breath relaxed, simple and unforced. Watch the breath flow in, hold briefly, watch the breath flow out. This ebb and flow of breathing becomes a meditation on its own.

From pranayama we are able to move to the next step, that of pratyahara (sense withdraws). As we move through pranayama the mind becomes so intent on the breath that pratyahara occurs automatically. Through the practice of pratyahara our attention becomes drawn strongly inward, and though the senses remain present, they become quiet and unresponsive. We tend not to notice the passage of time or the discomforts of the physical body.

Moving inward
As the breath becomes more and more mindful we are able to drown out the voice of the critical parent. In this peacefulness we listen to the voice of love, the voice of ever lasting oneness, the super consciousness. As we sit with the nurturing parent our path becomes clear. We can see the journey’s path home. The nurturing parent is the voice of unconditional love. So often at the end of the day  we hear a recording in our head wishing we could have or should have done more, done a better job, been stronger or been more in control. But how often do we say, “Well done, you did well today, you were all you needed to be on this day”? It is good soul food to self-praise, to smile inwardly and outwardly to ourselves.

Why Meditate?
hen asked “why meditate”? many benefits come to mind. The stillness and peace help heal the heart and give us a chance to read the passages of our soul’s journey. A busy lifestyle, the voice of the critical self, the ego, perfectionism and so on, all will blur and bury the passages, the pages, and in time the whole book, and our journey becomes a drudgery of day-to-day doing with no real meaning. Meditation allows us time to drop the things we no longer need. As we control and steady our mind we prevent the critical parent from becoming strong enough to have power over our thinking and in turn our actions. We become stronger and confident enough to open the doors of life and travel less familiar roads, to journey to higher peaks and climb even more difficult mountains.

Meditation can be the feel of a gentle breeze, the fragrance of the jasmine, the beauty of a rose; it can be whatever you want it to be. Let go, this will allow the passing of the old and the acceptance of the new. We see the death of past acts, past hurt, pain, unhappiness and behaviors. Lay them to rest. From this comes rebirth, the birth of new ideas, new ways to respect and love yourself and others. Meditation is the realm of the wholeness of life and death, and of the breath we breathe and the love we share with ourselves and others.

I tell my students that meditation is as important as brushing your teeth; it needs to be done at least daily and our Zen Patch (the place of peace for you) needs to be cared for with diligence. Go often to your Zen Patch and clear the weeds of negativity, water your flowers of peace, fill the ponds with love. Sprout from these ponds lotus flowers and let them lift you above the mud and mire of the daily grind. Regular meditation in your Zen Patch is your connection to all there is.

The most common excuse I hear from people is that they don’t have time. This is the voice of the critical parent at their best! We must make the time for the self and make the healing of body, mind and soul foremost in our lives.

How to Meditate
Create your Zen Patch clearly and vividly in your mind, so each time you close your eyes to meditate the image will be there even to close your eyes for a few moments in times of stress will evoke the image of your Zen Patch.

Create a space to meditate quiet and clutter-free with as few disturbances from the outside world as possible. Have a stable cushion to sit on when seated on the floor and light blanket for covering the spine. It is recommended that we sit on a natural fiber rug such as cotton or sheep skin.

Turn off the phone, let family members know your intention and ask them to respect this. Adopt an upright position with the spinal column straight. Find a position that is comfortable for you; you may like to begin by resting your back against a wall or even sit in a chair until you build strength in you back. Cross your legs and have your knees to the ground or supported by cushions so they are the same height and comfortable. Relax your hands on your knees.

At this point you may like to choose a mudra. A mudra is a hand gesture that helps open pathways to the brain. The most common mudra is thumb and first finger touching, with the other three fingers are straight out and palms facing up. The use of a manta can be used here to steady and focus the mind. A mantra is a repetitive statement, or positive affirmation repeated over and over. It is good to use a small simple statement, example “I am at peace and trust the universe”. Or you may choose a single word mantra like “Om”.

Let your shoulders fall back and down and relax. Your chest and heart space can open and be free. Allow the neck and cervical spine to lengthen and tuck the chin in slightly. The breath slows and becomes even as we move into breath awareness.

Meditation is a process that will take time, for it is difficult for many people to stop and just sit patiently.  Have no expectations and let whatever time passes be just right for you at that time on that day. This will be challenge enough to start with. There will be many challenges in the first few minutes, from the critical parent to the discomfort of the physical body. Whether you choose to meditate upon a deity, the beauty of nature or the universe is not important, as long as you know for yourself your belief and know the force that drives you and the force that calls you home.

My name is Jill Tolhurst. I am a yoga teacher. I run yoga classes, workshops and retreats. I work with people who have not taken the time to look after themselves and find themselves with depression, and other stress related illnesses. I am forever grateful to yoga, my teachers and students for showing me the most amazing journey that will continue for the rest of my life. My greatest joy is being able to pass the healing powers and love of yoga and meditation on to others so they can also grow.

Contributed by: Jill Tolhurst

































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