is a Spontaneous Experience
Have You Ever...
— Drifted slowly awake, and
lain there in a delicious restfulness for a few moments
before opening your eyes?
— Looked at the night sky and
felt utter wonder at the vastness?
—Merged so deeply with the
melody and rhythm of music you love that your sense of
self disappeared in the ocean of sound?
— Felt electricity coursing
through your body when you made love? At the moment of
orgasm, been filled with brilliance or fireworks? Or in
the afterglow, felt your body shimmering and pulsing
with a vibrant peace?
— Inhaled a smell so
delicious, perhaps your favorite dish when you were
really hungry, that you almost swooned?
— Sat by a river, conscious
of its steady flow, and entered into a sense of
— Been so in love that your
heart seemed to turn to light?
. . .Then you have already
experienced meditative awareness. These are all
spontaneous experiences, typically lasting from a few
seconds to a few minutes. Attention expands beyond its
confines and touches something greater, something of the
essence of life. Human beings have been experiencing
these sorts of things since before there was the
language to speak of them.
Meditative experience is not
different than these naturally-occurring moments. It is
just intentional. What I am calling a "meditation
technique" is paying attention to the rhythm of
such an experience, tracking it through all its phases,
and returning again and again to be educated by it. Most
of what is meant by "practicing meditation" is
just spending half an hour a day or so being in the
presence of such a quality of attention, then enjoying
the effect this has on your daily life. Meditation is
the practice of developing your capacity for rich
Everyone is a yogi for half a
second when they stop to smell the roses. It’s all
there in that moment of conscious, grateful breathing.
When you cultivate your gratitude for breath, something
good happens at a deep level. You make friends with
Questions and Answers
Where Did Meditation Come
Meditation was probably
discovered independently by hunters, singers, dancers,
drummers, lovers, and hermits, each in their own way.
People tend to encounter meditative states whenever they
throw themselves with total intensity into life’s
callings. The knowledge of how to intentionally
cultivate meditative states is a kind of craft knowledge—those
handy tips people pass on to each other. Meditation does
not come from India or Tibet—those are just places
where the knowledge rested for a while, and the hermits
in those places wrote it all down. Bless them.
Human beings have been using
tools for hundreds of thousands of years, according to
the archaeologists. I consider it very likely that they
have been using sophisticated mental tools for tens of
thousands of years.
Hunters, for example, sometimes
have to make themselves still for hours. They have to
merge with the forest and not even think, lest they
scare the prey away. Then they leap into action with
total precision at a moment’s notice—that’s Zen in
a nutshell. Hunters teach each other these skills,
through verbal instruction and example.
Singers and dancers often enter
meditative states through their passionate expression.
Singers work with breath awareness in ways far more
sophisticated than yoga. Lovers are often in a state of
heightened appreciation that borders on meditation.
Hermits are the ones we have heard the most from,
because they kept the best notes. That is why we always
think of yogis and bearded guys in the Himalayas when we
think of meditation. But their way is only one small
subset of the many different gateways into meditation.
Meditation comes from the human
heart and is a way of warming your hands and your life
at the fire always pulsing there in your core. It comes
from the depths of your instinctive wisdom. Human beings
are always wondering and inquiring, and meditation is a
natural emergence of that adventure.
On the other hand, cats
obviously meditate. That’s what it looks like to me,
anyway. So it may be a genetically encoded, instinctive
talent in mammals. Cats don’t need to be taught to
meditate, but human beings need a little coaching.
Do I Have to Sit Still?
What’s stillness got to do
with it? Move all you want in meditation. You only sit
still in meditation to better follow the movement of
life. It is a natural repose, not something forced.
When you are deeply absorbed in
something—conversing, reading a book, listening to a
piece of music—you will sometimes be very still. You
become poised in order to better follow the flow of the
conversation, the arc of the plot in the story, or the
movement of the music. That is the way to be in
meditation as well. So stillness of posture happens
spontaneously; it is not something you focus on or make
a rule out of.
Life is movement, an infinite
dance on every level—atoms move and vibrate, cells
undulate, blood pulses, breath flows, electrochemical
impulses charge through your nerve pathways. If you are
sitting while reading this book, your postural muscles
are making lots of tiny little corrections to keep you
upright, and the muscles in the diaphragm and ribs are
moving with the gentle rhythm of respiration. Each of
these little movements is part of the meditation
The dance of life changes its
pace according to whether we are walking, sitting very
still, or lying down, but there is always a dance,
always the hum and undulation of life.
It is often better to dance for
awhile, then sit down to meditate. And then if you feel
like it, lie down for a few minutes at the end of the
When Should I Meditate?
You can meditate when you want
to, or when you decide you should, or whenever you can
sneak it in. It is up to you. The basic principle is to
meditate before periods of activity, so that your
ability to work and play and socialize can be enhanced
by the relaxed alertness in which you are learning to
function. The standard approach is to meditate soon
after arising in the morning and then again before the
evening meal. This works well for a lot of people, and
it creates a beautiful feeling of rhythm to a day.
Other options are to meditate
once a day in the afternoon or to have several
mini-meditations throughout the day. If you meditate
before sleep, keep it short and select meditations that
How Long Should My Meditation Sessions Last?
Start with five minutes in the
morning or in the evening. If that does not seem like
enough time, then meditate for five minutes in the
morning and again for five minutes in the evening.
Later, when that does not seem like enough, increase
your time little by little.
For the first month, the most
important thing is to develop a sense of being at ease
with yourself and having a good time. You could read
this book for ten minutes or so, meditate for five
minutes, and call it a day. Then come back tomorrow and
continue. In the beginning, meditate less than you want
to, so that you are always looking forward to the next
After a month, if ten minutes
seems too short, then you can let yourself go a little
longer. But do not meditate more than twenty minutes in
the morning and in the evening until you have been at it
for several years. It takes a long time to get used to
being relaxed while in action, which is one of the main
effects of meditation. There is a lot to learn about
If you are really busy, even a
few minutes of meditation is beneficial. There are lots
of meditations in this book that require less than a
minute, and they can be adjusted to last for anywhere
from a few seconds to five minutes.
What Will Happen When I Meditate
The main thing you will
experience is rhythm, the continuous ebb and flow of
many intersecting rhythms, because that is what life is.
Your body and mind are composed of complex symphonies of
The sensuous texture of
meditation is infinitely varied: there are all kinds of
subtle sensations, internal imagery, and sound effects.
Experience changes moment-to-moment and is always sort
of a surprise, like a good movie. One moment you will be
in the bliss of an inner vacation, then suddenly you
will be thinking of your laundry list. You will never
have exactly the same experience twice.
In general, your experience
will probably move among the following:
Relaxation and relief.
Sorting through thoughts about
your daily life.
Reviewing the emotions you felt
during the day and giving them a chance to resolve.
Brief moments of deep quiet and
Near-sleep and dreamlike
Healing: reexperiencing and
then letting go of old hurts.
Tuning up: your nervous system
fine-tuning itself to the optimal level of alertness.
Every thirty seconds or so, you
will probably find your body shifting from one to
another of these moods or modes.
You may feel relaxed during all
these phases, but the aim of meditation is not
relaxation. Meditation is an evolutionary instinct that
works to make you more alert and capable of adapting
Do I Have to Make My Mind Blank?
No, nor do you have to
"empty your mind." This is a myth. There are
moments of inner quiet, but thinking is a major part of
meditation. You ride thoughts like surfers ride waves.
The more you accept all thoughts, the more inner repose
you will get.
Because the brain does a lot of
sorting and housecleaning during meditation, it is often
tremendously busy. The more your mind wanders during
meditation, the more able it is to pay attention after
meditation, because it has done its tuning-up.
Also, since you are relaxed
during meditation, you learn to stay relaxed while
thinking of things in your life that used to make you
tense. You should expect your mind to be noisy part of
the time in meditation. You won’t care very much,
though, because you will still be very relaxed. After
meditation is when your mind will be quieter. And
because your mind is quieter, those little thoughts you
need to know can catch up with you. Your intuition, your
gut feelings, your strategic overview, your hunches will
emerge with greater clarity.
Take your time to get used to
meditation gradually. Doing even the simplest of
techniques, the body goes into a deep state of rest.
According to 30 years of research at Harvard Medical
School, during meditation the body tends to enter a
state of restfulness much deeper than deep sleep. During
meditation this often happens in about 5 minutes,
whereas during sleep the body gradually gets more and
more restful over the course of hours.
Do I Have to Concentrate?
People concentrate a great deal
at work, so it would be redundant to concentrate during
meditation. It would be a busman’s holiday. In
meditation you learn how to do the opposite of
concentration; you learn to expand the scope of your
attention. You learn a kind of attention that excludes
nothing, and therefore the needy and unknown parts of
yourself can come into range. This is what leads to
integration of the personality and coordination of mind,
heart, and body. Unlearning concentration is a big part
of learning to meditate.
Do I Have to Be Religious?
No. If you are religious, then
make meditation part of your life of prayer. All the
world’s religions are a wealth of great prayers,
music, and images for meditation.
If you are not religious, then
don’t feel you have to put on a fake attitude of
holiness in order to meditate. Just be your own bad self
A Heart-Centered Meditation
Time: One minute to ten
When: Anytime you have
heartache or joy that needs attending to.
Some time when you are
relatively quiet inside, let attention rest in the area
around the physical heart and lungs. The lungs are
spacious and the heart is muscular. Corresponding to
those physical organs is an area of pure feeling.
This feeling center is what people informally mean when
they say they have heartache or their heart is glad.
To Get In there, recall some
great experience that made your heart glad, that made
you glad to be alive. Just thinking of it, a sensation
will arise in your heart — it could be a sense of
light, or swelling, or an upward-moving current of
electricity, or a vibration. Use that as a homing signal
and let attention be called into that place called
"the heart." Be alert, because the sensations
may only last for a flash, a few seconds.
As attention rests there,
become aware also of the gentle pulsing of breath.
If you have a sense of sorrow
or grief, you may have sensations in the heart already
there. If so, simply be with them. The sensations are
You may also have a sense of
joy and gratitude about events in your life, and may
have wonderful sensations in your heart center. We can
neglect to pay attention to our joy, just as we can
neglect to adequately be with our pain.
If you do not have sensations
or feelings of ache or joy in the heart, don’t worry.
Some day you will. Come back then to this exercise and
check it out.
If at some point while
meditating, you find strong emotions going through you,
explore this simple practice of resting attention in the
As you breathe in and out, be
alert to the qualities of emotion you are feeling. If
you are feeling an emotion, be aware that it may change
every couple of minutes into something else. Sometimes
the emotions change every few seconds.
Go back from the sternum,
inward. Feel all the way back to the spine. That is the
Simply being with these
sensations will help tremendously, for the heart knows
how to heal itself and become available to love again.
You have only to be willing to tolerate the aching.
When you "speak from the
heart" it means you are speaking from inside those
sensations. Courage is "to have heart." To
stay in the heart when you are afraid or the sensations
are too much to bear – but you bear them anyway, that
is the definition of courage. As you breathe in, the
world is touching you, renewing you, encouraging
(en-courage-ing) you to live
again, adventure forth and experience.
Greet and Say Goodbye
Here is a simple approach to a
Be there in the heart to greet
the incoming breath. Embrace it. Be awake to the gift
life is giving you with this breath.
Say goodbye to the outgoing
breath. Let go of it. Be awake to the freedom that comes
from letting go of the old air, old thoughts, old
Expansion and Contraction
Notice that as you breathe in,
you expand to encompass the incoming breath.
On the physical level, your rib
cage and torso expand.
Tolerate the experience of that
Savor the sense of expansion
evoked by the flow of breath.
As you breathe in, your rib
cage expands outward from your center to embrace the
new air. With your attention,
embrace the new life.
As you breathe in, your being
expands to encompass the world.
Be there in the heart as the
breath flows in.
Be awake to the gift life is
Jazz it Up
After you get used to paying
attention to breath and the heart, go ahead and
intensify your experience. Explore these if you feel
- get a photograph of your
favorite person in the world and look at it, or simply
look at their image in your memory. Someone you love
without reservation. Then close the eyes and breathe
with the feeling of that love.
- put on your favorite music
and dance to it or alternatively, sit or lie down and
breathe with it. Then when the music stops, continue to
pay attention to the parts of your body that were
vibrated or moved by the feeling of the music.
- think of something you want
to do, but which scares you - some ambition or creative
impulse you have that requires courage. Put your
attention in your breath as it flows through the heart,
and let the breath give you courage.
This is what I call a
"minute meditation" – you can do it anytime
you are drinking anything, and adapt it to eating also
if you like.
Wake Up and Smell The Coffee
Time: Give it fifteen minutes.
I dare you. But you can do this in five.
When: Morning, or soon after
If you are doing this in the
morning, shower first, then drink some water so you aren’t
Get your favorite warm drink --
coffee, tea, herb tea -- and put it in a cup, then sit
somewhere comfortable where you can hold the cup and
rest. Hold it under your nose and breathe in and out.
This is normal savoring activity, only you stay with it
longer. Keep on paying attention right through your
usual limit, whether it is one second or ten.
Hold the cup in both hands, and
at just the right distance from your nose. You can close
the eyes and give over to smell. You are breathing in
and out as you smell, so enjoy the flow. Notice the
sensations you have in your belly as you inhale the
smell of your coffee. Be alert for sensations anywhere
in your body.
Breathe the smell in for
awhile, then take a taste. Notice what happens in the
mouth and tongue as you sip, and what happens in the
Put the cup down on the table,
or lower your hands and hold the cup in your lap, and
Then raise the hands again. It
is a ritual movement, slow and gracious.
Continue in this way for a few
Many senses are involved in
enjoying a cup of coffee besides smell and taste. Sight
brings you information about colors, and shapes; touch
informs you of the warmth of the cup and the smoothness
of its surface; your motion sensors feed you sensations
as you lift the cup to your lips.
Note: You may feel that somehow
you are violating taboos by paying attention to your
coffee. No one is allowed to have this much fun with
something so simple. There is some sort of a rule
against actually smelling and tasting for more than a
couple of seconds. Only the very rich, or gourmets, or
royalty, have permission to indulge themselves. You may
find yourself getting anxious, even if you have plenty
of time to get ready for work. When you break a taboo,
there is always some sort of a warning buzzer that goes
off. Pay attention to this and don’t push it too much
in any one day. Simply notice the rule about not really
paying attention, and come back tomorrow.
You can use sipping your
morning drink as a meditation in itself, and also as a
way in to a longer meditation. Many successful
meditators I know use commonplace rituals such as this
as a gateway into meditation.
Tip: When we do things
habitually, without paying much attention, we ignore
feedback from our bodies. Many people, when they start
paying attention while eating and drinking, find they
don’t actually like what they are putting in their
mouths. Sometimes they find they don’t really like
coffee, now that they are really tasting it; they like
certain teas, or prefer water and juice. Or they find
they are satisfied with just a sip and do not want to
Be prepared to study your
preferences as you start paying more attention to taste.
And take the time to explore what you really love to sip
in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, and evening.
If it’s good coffee, freshly roasted, have that. If it
is herb tea or juice, have it available.
by Lorin Roche. All Rights Reserved.
All selections are from Meditation
Made Easy, by Lorin Roche. Published by
Lorin Roche has been teaching
meditation since 1969. For the past 30 years he has
been developing meditations that feel natural and
spontaneous, rather than like a technique you are
trying to force yourself to do. His approach to
meditation emphasizes activating your instincts and
internal guidance systems in meditation so that you
can safely practice the techniques without becoming dependend on gurus, systems, and external authorities.
He is the author of Meditation Made Easy, and is
co-author, with his wife Camille Maurine, of
Meditation Secrets for Women, to be published in
February 2001 by HarperSanFrancisco.