Trust Your Instincts
Meditation is a built-in ability. Your body already knows how to do it, as part of your survival instincts. The ability is there, in your nerves and muscles and metabolism, always ready and waiting for you to access it. There are thousands of techniques for meditating, which means there is something for everyone.
Meditation is the action of riding the instincts into your inner world. There you can rest, and at times rest from action completely. The instincts — hunting, homing, grooming, feeding, mating, exploring, resting, healing, adapting — are the wise motions of life. Meditation techniques access the instincts in infinite combinations and permutations.
The most important techniques are as simple as paying attention to your breathing. Find something interesting about your breath and hang out with it. Breath is our main food – we breathe about 22,000 times a day, and the oxygen in the air feeds the body. It's the oxygen that lets us burn the fuel to generate heat and power to move.
Meditation techniques are things people invented or discovered going on within themselves, then systematized and put into a formal system. But they emerge from an extremely informal, intimate way of being with life. The techniques the meditation traditions have so diligently collected and preserved over the millennia are there to remind you to create your own system. Always remember this. Coaches and teachers can help you to access your inner knowledge, but the basic skill is already there inside you. I advocate an instinctive, passionate, and natural approach to meditation as the best way to begin and continue.
The six books I talk about on this site - Meditation Made Easy, Breath Taking, Whole Body Meditations, Meditation Secrets for Women, Meditation 24/7, and The Radiance Sutras - are tools you can use to begin meditation, and if you already are meditating, sustain, enrich your practice.
I call the instincts "the wise motions of life," because they are deep impulses through which life is always renewing itself, evolving itself, creating its art.
What Are the Instincts?
They are the moves you are always engaged in, the rhythm and melody of your dance with life. You know what they are and you don't think about.
Hunting is an instinct. If you are here on this website, you may be hunting for information about how to improve your life. Surfing the web is enabled by computers, but the real power comes from inside us, the human instinct to figure out how the world works. Curiosity is an instinct. Exploring is an instinctive behavior.
Making a trail is instinctive – if you found you way here, and perhaps bookmark the site, that is making a trail. When you go shopping for food or clothes, you are engaged in muliple instincts: you follow a trail or series of roads you know to get to the market or mall; you gather things you need, or you browse and search for things you need; and you bring them back to your nest. Saying something is an "instinct" is just a way of saying it is natural, a natural move.
We each have our own favorite instincts, combinations of instincts, and sequences. As individuals, we have preferred styles of activities, and things we don't like so much. Raising children involves many instincts: nurturing, bonding, communicating, protecting, setting boundaries, guarding boundaries, nesting. And of course, getting in to position to have children usually involves the mating instinct.
The process of meditating itself is very playful. Playing is an instinct; all mammals play, and in playing they rehearse actions, practice moving in a coordinted manner, and engage their talents. When we meditate, the body gets a chance to rest more deeply than sleep; resting is an instinct, and we all do a form of resting every day called sleeping. Sleeping is an instinct, and when we sleep we dream. What is a dream? While we are asleep, the brain creates, directs and acts in mental movies, which we sometimes remember when we wake up.
When we meditate, the feeling of meditation itself alternates between resting, playing, communing, dreaming, and so on. Sometimes we feel we are being fed, nourished, by the peacefulness of the meditation. Othertimes we feel we are being stimulated, awakened, excited by the meditation experience.
Everyday life is structured around the instincts:
• Resting – sleeping and dreaming.
• Feeding - yourself and your family and pets.
• Grooming - bathing and getting dressed, doing your hair. Picking the nits out of your children’s fur.
• Gathering - foraging by going to the store or the garden and bringing food home.
• Hunting – searching for what you need in the environment, shopping for the best buys
• Exploring – looking and sniffing around to discover what interests you. Going on an adventure. Expanding your horizons.
• Homing – the navigational skills to find your way home when you have been out exploring.
• Nesting – building a home or tending to it, decorating, cleaning. Being cozy, snuggling in bed.
• Socializing – talking on the phone, getting together with friends.
• Playing - having fun, doing things for sheer enjoyment.
• Courting – flirting, considering possible mates.
• Mating – developing a love relationship. Having sex.
• Procreating – the urge to bear children.
• Communicating – expressing, singing out, saying what you know.
• Communing with nature.
• Protecting - the self, the cubs, and the tribe.
• Establishing dominance – competing in the workplace. Finding your place in the pecking order.