Meditation is one of the great boons to personal health and well-being. When people meditate, they come to terms with themselves, alone, free from the overt distractions of the outside world. It is through the act and process of meditation that you can examine your health, your pain, your symptoms, your mind, yourself. I am a big fan of meditation; I suggest you try it, too. There are many different meditation techniques and methods out there, but choosing the right one for you need not be a daunting process. All you need is a brief introduction to get you started.
Meditation is practiced in countless ways. Each country and religion has its own means of meditating for spiritual discipline or healing practice or as a mechanism for psychological growth. People engage in meditation because they find it empowering, rewarding, healing, meaningful, peaceful… and so much more. For those under constant stress and suffering from conditions like hypertension, anxiety, depression, insomnia and pain, meditation can be transforming.
Vipassana meditation, also called “mindfulness meditation,” is a simple yet powerful method developed by Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist monks. It is a practice of being mindful in the moment of some particular action. The mindfulness can be directed at the expansion and relaxation of the abdomen, the sensation of eating a raisin or the act of washing dishes. It is a versatile technique that can be applied to almost any action. Traditionally, it is applied to the action of quieting the mind and being in the moment while breathing.
Here are the basics:
-Sit or lie down in a comfortable position that allows your spine and head to be aligned and held straight.
-Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to ease into the moment and begin to relax.
-Focus your attention on the sensation of your breath.
-On inhalation and exhalation, merely observe the sensation you feel as air passes over the tip of your nose.
-When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and let them go. Do not focus on them.
-Observe your breath and acknowledge your thought before a return to observing your breath.
Zazen or seated Zen meditation is a Japanese practice that derives from Buddhism. It is actually a philosophy or a way of life, thinking and being. Its goal is to bring your mind into the present moment and to hold a single point of focus or attention. The meditative aspect of Zen uses phrases known as koans, which are non-logical or nonsensical. A familiar example is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The purpose of repeating a phrase that makes no sense or cannot be solved is to occupy your mind for long periods of time without it drifting from the task. In other words, you reduce the risk of mental distraction during the practice of meditation.
To get started:
-Sit in a relaxed position with the spine straight. Many practitioners choose to sit on a cushion that elevates them slightly, helps hold their spine erect and makes sitting for long periods more comfortable.
-Simply breathe and relax for a few moments to get into a meditative mind-set. Many people do this with the mindfulness breathing technique mentioned above.
-Once in a meditative state, begin slowly, mentally counting each inhalation/exhalation series, until you reach 21 repetitions.
-Repeat the slow cycle of mental counting of 21 breathing repetitions a total of five times.
-When this is done, the koan is introduced and repeated over and over for as long as the meditation lasts.
Many of the forms of meditation were developed from the ancient yogic practices of India. Chakra mediation is a more recent practice developed by the late Paramahansa Yogananda.
Yogananda is credited with bringing yoga and meditation to the West in 1920 and forever changing how Americans view themselves and others. His chakra meditation focuses on all of the chakras (energy centers) in the body, from the base of the spine to the tip of the head. This meditative technique is couched in yogic language and concepts. These days, there are many variations.
Its basic steps include:
-Close your eyes and bring your attention inward to the inner love and peace of your heart.
-Visualize each chakra, one at a time, and breathe with it several times as you make your way from the lower root chakra to the upper crown chakra and back down through all seven chakras.
-Visualize and feel that the crown chakra is filled with the light and love of the Creator. Visualize this light and love as reaching out and connecting with the crown chakras of millions of others worldwide.
-Repeat the above for each chakra in the series of seven from crown to root. Often specific prayers are recited mentally during this process.
-On completion of the entire series, finish by chanting “Om” three times.
The meditation method known as Japa was developed in India about 2300 B.C. As the self-help guru Wayne Dyer describes, this meditation helps you “get into the gap” by activating the sound “Ahhh.” The “Ahhh” sound is found in the phonetic pronunciation of the names of the creators or gods, whether your belief in a creator is Eastern or Western. Think of the sounds made when saying the names God, Buddha, Allah, Brahman, Atman, Ra, Jehovah and others. The sound “Ahhh,” like “Om,” is universally believed to hold great meditative power.
-Close your eyes and visualize the letters of the alphabet, one at a time, from letters A to G.
-As you visualize each letter, say the word “Ahhh” or say the god name you prefer that stems from your belief system.
-After visualizing the letter A and making the sound “Ahhh” on long exhale, visualize the letter B next to it. Inhale and visualize the letter B.
-While visualizing the letter B, exhale while making the “Ahhh” sound.
-Next, inhale and focus on the space (the gap) between the letters A and B, and repeat the process.
-Next, return to the letter B and again repeat the process.
-Now visualize the letter C as standing in a row next to A and B. And repeat as above for all letters through G.
-When your mind drifts, bring your attention back to the sound of Japa, the sound of “Ahhh.”
Focus On The Process
Regardless of which meditation method you engage in, the process is the important thing. In the beginning, you may experience a tendency to fall asleep, or your mind may appear to race more than usual. Don’t get discouraged.
Meditation is intended to bring you into the moment, to induce the relaxation response and to calm your bodily functions and thoughts — all in an effort to bring peace of mind and awareness of body. Even the simplest techniques, for even a few minutes each day, can make a difference in your life, in your health and in your well-being. Take some time and look into the methods mentioned above and other methods, too. Reach out to local meditation groups and see which place and methods resonates with you. Then give it a try.
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