The Best Advice from a Meditation EXPERT
At just eleven years old, Benjamin Savage was dropped into the woods blindfolded as part of a Native American initiation. That was just the beginning of a life spent studying shamanism and the world’s different religions, spiritual traditions and indigenous practices. He was later introduced and fell in love with gong bath meditation and is now a gong bath meditation facilitator himself. We met him at Tejas Yoga to learn more.
Have you ever found your mind drifting while you’re trying to meditate? Well read on sister, because he’s got advice for that too!
What are some easy things you can do on a daily basis to become more present?
Having a moment of quiet. Even five minutes. It doesn't have to be 30 minutes or an hour, but just having a few minutes where you're not doing anything. The more you can do that, the more relaxed and at peace and refreshed and aware you’ll become.
The great thing about the gongs is that most people don't listen. We hear, but it's very seldom, even when we listen to music, that we are really listening. I think listening is even better than looking because it almost turns off your mental voice, so you start taking stuff in more.
What advice do you have for people who are interested in meditating? How do you stop your mind from wandering?
Everything works on energy. Everything feeds on energy, positive or negative. If a kid needs attention from his parent, he’s going to be a bad kid because getting smacked or yelled at by mom and dad is better than no attention at all. The worst thing you can do to a kid is not give him attention and ignore him. That same approach can be used with things that you don't want in your life. If you give it negative energy, like “shut up brain, shut up, shut up,” you're going to keep feeding it with negative energy.
So what you can do is just abandon it, let it go. Let your brain chatter until it's tired, and think of it like a kid that has to run himself until he’s exhausted and pass out. Let the chatter exhaust, let it be, let it just go until, “you done yet?” Mental chatter is the thing everybody deals with.
You can also use visualizations. Think of your thoughts as words, and see them dissolving and blowing away as clouds. You can barter with yourself and be like, “look, it's only 15 minutes. You can start talking after 15 minutes.” The thing that works best for me is listening. As soon as I go into a mode of listening, my mental voice quiets for a minute. If you try to hear the quietest sound in the room, for some reason your mental chatter goes away, and if you just practice holding onto that for 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, five minutes, for mental chatter, that's a good way to get it down.
Some people are too scared to even try it or don’t think they’d be able to because of their attention span.
Scared is a good word. There's a lot of fear in meditation. A lot of people think that meditating is like going to the spa, and it can be that sometimes, but meditation is at its best like riding a bull. It's like riding a bucking bronco because you get to a point where all of a sudden you're confronted with yourself, with the results of the choices you've made in your life. You might realize that you don't feel good today. You might be chattering in your head all the time to distract yourself from something that you really need to address. It's scary and hard. You might need to cry but not want to or have the privacy or space or time in your life, or even freedom with yourself, to let yourself feel sad or weak or these things that are challenging, but in meditation you can learn to, as they say, “be with it”. Like, have that sorrow, have that feeling. For some people, being happy might be forbidden, or they might not be able to be giddy or free, or feel how they want to feel.
When you meditate, you can be present, and you can acknowledge that thing, and you can be mindful, and you can be like, “Oh, I'm sad, or I'm happy, or I'm anxious.” Some people will tell me, “I meditated for half an hour and felt all anxious, and my mind was chattering. What did that mean?” And that just means… your anxious and your mind is chattering, and sometimes it's very difficult to see the forest through the trees.
Sometimes you can sit down in meditation and just go way deep and bliss out, and you have total peace and quiet, and you sit like a statue. Other days, you're shaking and quivering and uncomfortable, and you feel all wobbly and emotionally messed up, but if you can still sit through those unpleasant ones for 30 minutes, your whole life will change.
I cannot tell you how profound it is to just be able to sit and be with yourself and be mindful and pay attention to what's going on. It will cause a ripple effect in your entire life to make everything better.
It might destroy some things, but those things need to be destroyed to clear the way for new things to come in.
Is there any way people can replicate a gong bath at home?
Part of the magic of the gong is the mentality of listening, so sit and listen to an ambient sound like the wind in the leaves or the chatter of birds outside. Any sort of sound. Just sit and listen to the sound and let the sound come in.
You can even play with conceptually thinking about your boundaries versus the rest of the universe, and you can almost start to think that the sounds you're hearing are coming from you, and that will cause an interesting shift in perspective, because really, we're filtering out all of this stuff around us. In the end, what we're hearing is being made by us in our heads through the little hairs and the structure of our ears and in our brain.
One final question for you. I know you talk about the gong as a portal that unifies everything, a certain oneness between the physical and divine… Through all of your practice, what one message do you think the divine or spirit world would want our audience to know?
That it loves you. It loves you. It really loves you. It is you and you are it, and that it loves you. Absolutely, unconditionally, forever.
If you're interested in attending one of Benjamin's gong bath meditations, visit his site here!
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