WHAT IS MEDITATION?
There are so many schools of thought that define meditation in different ways depending on their use and practice. I've been formally it doing since I was about seventeen and had never stopped since then because of the many benefits it had brought into my life. In fact, it brought me to where I am now.
Basically, meditation is a mental and spiritual discipline of going within our self, into that vast inner space where we can commune with our true self. It involves a lot of techniques from focusing to creative visualization depending on the needs of the individual practicing it.
Everyone can practice meditation. So much benefit can be derived from the practice physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Physically, it can promote good health by combating stress and tension which is the primary cause of most illnesses. There are various visualizations that one can do to heal existing ailments from the common cold to cancer. There are a lot of documented cases where terminally ill patients have recovered fully by using meditative techniques to conquer their illnesses.
Psychologically, meditation can help us deal with different psychological traumas by getting to the root cause which is usually a false belief system that was conditioned to the individual. With the help of an experienced teacher one can be guided to uproot these beliefs and release them. Furthermore, one can reprogram one's subconscious mind to take in new beliefs that would foster more positive habits and a healthier, fuller life..
On the emotional level, if one goes deeper into spirituality and studies the real quality of what emotions are and how to handle them and transmute them, the practitioner becomes able in handling his/her emotions at a certain moment and has free reign over what emotional state he/she prefers to experience at the moment. We begin to master our emotions rather than becoming a slave of our emotions.
Ultimately, meditation can be used for what the spiritually inclined sought for centuries---enlightenment and self-realization.
THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION
To start practicing meditation, it is recommended that one choose a certain time and place to do the practice regularly, ideally, everyday. The early hours of the morning after waking are very conducive for meditative practice because the cares of the day have not intruded the mind yet. One can also do it before sleeping. It is recommended that one choose a particular place where to meditate regularly like choosing a certain nook, or corner of a quiet room where one would not be disturbed for at least 20 minutes.
Candles, soothing music and incense can be added later as props to induce the meditative state but are not necessary if one is just starting the practice. It is also advisable to wear non-constricting and comfortable clothes.
Doing the practice at a regular time and place also tunes in the practitioner into a meditative mode each time one sits down on the pillow or chair one regularly uses until it becomes a daily habit.
It is important and essential that one breathe properly when meditating. Proper breathing facilitates the in flow of life energy called chi, Qi, prana, or ruach through the lungs which is then brought into the blood stream to various bodily systems and organs to be stored there for future use.
Proper breathing involves not just the lungs but the whole breathing apparatus including the diaphragm. You can determine if you doing it right if you place your hand on your diaphragm and feel it rising and falling gently. One starts with inhaling through the nostrils, feeling the air as it goes through the throat, esphagus, the lungs and finally the diaphragm, filling it to full capacity without feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Then doing the reverse, exhaling from the diaphragm, lungs, esophagus, throat and nostrils, fully emptying the lungs of air. Doing this with just three sets of inhalation and exhalation will already bring one to a state of noticeable relaxation.
There are several basic postures when practicing meditation. A common denominator is for the spine to be straight but with no stress and tension on the back which fosters nerve flow along the spine.
THE EASY POSE
The sukhasana (sukha=easy, asana=pose) means easy pose. it is the ideal technique for shutting down the worries of day to day life.
Sit on a blanket or cushion on the floor. Bend your right leg under your left thigh and the left leg leg under the right thigh, assuming the crossed-legged "tailor pose." Knee caps are at level with each other, if not, your trunk will lean slightly disturbing body symmetry and balance. Keep the spine erect and the head gently relaxed and poised upon your shoulders. Place the hands, palms down, upon your knees, making certain that they won't slip off and the elbows are relaxed resting naturally against the body.
THE CORPSE POSE
You can spread a thick blanket on the floor or do this posture on a bed. It is basically lying down in a supine and restful position with the back lying flat on the bed and the legs and arms straight but relax. Some put a pillow under their knees. This is a very comfortable position. However, you can easily fall asleep and slip into delta and theta level instead of the alpha brain wave level preferred in meditation.
THE EGYPTIAN POSE
This is basically the upright sitting posture when you sit on a chair with a back. This is suitable for those not used to sitting on the floor. The foremost thing to remember is to keep the spine straight and the whole body relaxed with the upper part of the body free for easy breathing.
BASIC MEDITATION TECHNIQUES
Now that you know tha basic sitting postions you can start meditating. As with any activity, it takes a lot of practice and discipline to be good at what you do, same with meditation. It is advisable to start meditating 10 minutes a day then lengthening the time to 20 minutes. This will vary from person to person as to the needs and physical make-up of each individual. Below are various meditative techniques. I recommend that you start with the proper order doing each technique at least a week of daily practice until you become proficient with it then moving on to the next. There is no hurry to get and use the other successive techniques. The most important thing is to sit still and get the discipline of being silent. This is the basic foundation from which the advanced meditative techniques are based on.
BREATH COUNTING MEDITATION 1
Assume meditation posture making sure you are comfortable and relaxed. Inhale through the nostrils at the count of 4 filling the lungs to the fullest, hold your breath at the count of 2. Then exhale slowly , completely emptying lungs at the count of 4, hold 2 counts. Repeat the cycle over and over until the alloted time is finished. If your mind starts to wonder just go back to focusing on your breathing. Use the breath as an anchor to focus and concentrate.
BREATH COUNTING MEDITATION 2
Assume meditation posture making sure you are comfortable and relaxed. Inhale through the nostrils at the count of 4 filling the lungs to the fullest, hold your breath at the count of 2. Then exhale slowly , completely emptying lungs at the count of 4, hold 2 counts. After one cycle, count 1 then repeat. After another cycle, count 2 and so forth counting progressively. If your mind starts to wonder just go back to focusing on your breathing. Use the breath as an anchor to focus and concentrate. If you forgot or got lost in the counting start again at cycle 1 and so forth.
THOUGHT COUNTING MEDITATION
Pushing out thoughts during meditation makes them linger more in our mind. It is better to embrace and acknowledge them. As you do so, you would notice that as you count your thoughts while meditating they fade away. In this meditation, acknowledge your thoughts by just counting them progressively. Use the thought counting as your focusing agent. When you forgot or got lost in the counting just return to 1 and continue as before. Meditate for 20 minutes.
THOUGHT LABELING MEDITATION
This time instead of counting your thoughts, you acknowledge them by labeling them. Use generic nouns to label your thoughts to avoid judging them as good or bad thoughts which make them linger. Example: if you hear a child's voice, label it as sound. If you see an image of a banana, label it as object. If you start to think about tomorrow's party, label it as situation and so on. Just watch your thoughts pass by as you label them. Meditate for 20 minutes.
As you practice the focusing and concentrating meditations above diligently and in the right way, you would soon find out that you will have fewer thoughts coming in, until finally your mind becomes blank and all you feel is peacefulness and silence.
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