for health and peace of mind
The basic idea about meditation and why people meditate is that during our day we are constantly subjected to sensory input and our minds are active in the process of thinking to make effective responses. Engaging in conversation, studying written material, solving problems is all part of an average day.
Typically, while engaging in these activities and between them there is an ongoing mental commentary going on in the mind. People aren't always aware of all that mental thought activity on a conscious level, but most of us can't get away from it. Meditation allows all this activity to calm and often results in the mind becoming more peaceful and focused.
Meditation allows the opportunity for awareness to become rejuvenated.
Meditation can be considered a technique or a practice. It usually involves concentrating on an object such as a flower, candle, sound or word, or the breath. Over time, random thoughts diminish as the mind is focused on one particular thing. More importantly, the individual's attachment or emotional involvement with these thoughts progressively becomes less. The meditation subject may get caught up in a thought pattern then becomes aware of this, and attention is gently brought back to the object of concentration. Other forms of meditation are also practiced without a image or object focus as in a posture of complete relaxation.
As experiences in meditation vary from one individual to another, the best attitude is to refrain from having any preconceived expectations when meditating. Being in the moment is an important part of the process. Relaxation, increased awareness, mental clarity, and a sense of peace and harmony are commonly realized through meditation.
The self development process is enhanced through meditation as we become more aware of our feelings and thoughts about daily experiences and interactions. Our sensitivity about personal needs and perhaps unrealistic attitudes or goals may be exposed for the first time and need to be addressed. If silence, peace of mind, clarity, bliss or other promoted benefits of meditation is not achieved, that in itself is not a sign of incorrect practice or incapacity to attain these goals at a later time.
What is important is that one is regular in making a reasonable attempt on a daily basis at a designated time. With regular practice one inevitably acquires an increased understanding of and proficiency with the particular meditation technique. Some people use the formal concentrative meditation as a preliminary step to practicing a mindfulness meditation during the day where one maintains a calm increased awareness of one's thoughts throughout activities of any kind.
For some people meditation is primarily a spiritual practice and may be closely tied to the practice of a religion such as monastic Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, or other contemplative spiritual expression. Many people in the world have meditated if only for a few moments by sitting peacefully without thinking, perhaps in a church or at home in silence. Traditionally, meditation is a means for guiding ethical qualities which can then be observed in behavior in a cultural group or society.
This is however, not a requirement for effective meditation. Meditation deals with contacting something within us that is peaceful, calm, rejuvenating and meaningful. Whether one calls this God, or soul, the inner child, or peace, theta-wave brain activity, or simply silence is not important.
Meditation is different from contemplation only in the form of technique practiced. Contemplation suggests a problem solving focus. Meditation is an active process where the subject remains fully aware of what the awareness is doing, but does not become involved in any given solution. It rather attempts to transcend this level of thought activity.
Self-hypnosis like meditation involves at least an initial period of concentration on an object or sound. In hypnosis one does not maintain an awareness of the present or stay conscious of the process itself. One enters a semi-conscious trance for purposes of relaxation only. If a hypnotist is present to act as a guide to the subject, problem solving may occur on subconscious levels and later conscious realization can be obtained.
Meditation involves concentrating on something to take the attention beyond the random thought activity that usually goes on inside the person's mind. This can involve a solid object or picture, a mantra, rhythm of breathing, or guided visualization. A mandala is a highly colored symmetric painting, or the picture of a spiritual teacher in a high meditative state is used frequently. Mantras are sound which have a flowing, meditative quality and may be repeated out loud or inwardly. The breath is also a common focal point. Guided visualization can help to bring one into a meditative state and also may be used once a meditative state has been reached to produce given results.
Any meditative technique can be helpful, and the person may need to experiment with several before finding the one most compatible and supportive for them. Finding the effective technique or combination for the individual becomes most satisfying, enhancing the life over time. Here are a few recommended guidelines for meditation:
- Set aside a specific time every day
- It should be done before a meal
- A specific quiet, comfortable place should be designated for meditation only.
- Sitting with spine straight and vertical is most often suggested, however, if physical disability causes discomfort, a prone posture with complete symmetrical placement of extremities and alignment of the vertebrae is acceptable. Take care not to fall asleep.
While meditation is beneficial at any time, most people who meditate agree that early morning is best as the clarity of mind, energy, and peaceful attitude can be carried into the activities of the day. Also, meditation is beneficial after a day's work before supper to clear the tensions of the day. Later in the evening is another appropriate time for meditation. Having at least one time daily to meditate helps to maintain regularity in the lifestyle. Many people find patterned or colored lights, meditative music or regular drum beats aid the process of obtaining a deeper meditative state.
When first learning meditation, 10-15 minutes is adequate. After regular practice, one becomes able to meditate for longer periods of time. Many people meditate twice daily for 20-30 minutes each time. The very experienced person may be able to sustain a blissful state for an hour or more. Although a living teacher is not required and much can be learned through books, beyond elementary levels, guidance is recommended. A teacher can be an invaluable aid in learning a meditation technique and continuing correct practice. Some techniques are spiritual in nature and others are mainly concerned with stress-reduction and peace of mind.
Any aid which works is applicable. The processes used to relax the eyes, the body, and the mind is an individual choice. If muscular discomfort or nerve pain is experienced while reaching a state of relaxation, make sure the position is not causing strain. During meditation, the awareness is heightened and one should expect to notice otherwise ignored sensations. This can be done without attachment and used as objects of the meditation. Frequently, these sensations dissolve without having to change posture. Remember, a quiet body contributes to a quiet mind. What is important is finding what works in the life of the person.
From Metempyrion Archives