What is Meditation?
Meditation is a state of consciousness that differs from the norm due to the induced inner calm and stillness. Ultimately, the objective is the attainment of supreme spiritual peace. The restless activity of the mind is surpassed as meditation takes the mind to a more peaceful and deeper space.
Even when we sleep our mind is working, and in the hectic lifestyles we lead these days our mind is usually working overtime to begin with. Our mind is as important as our bodies, and it’s vital that we look after them. Call it mental maintenance if you like. Through meditation we can teach ourselves how to relax our minds and release them from stressful thought processes; even if it’s only for a short period of time each day it helps just that little bit.
Meditation is unlike deep sleep, because you’re still awake of course. Sure, you’re relaxed but it takes active mental effort to maintain that state of relaxation.
In order to meditate it is important to concentrate and direct the mind to focus on a single subject. By doing this, the mind and body can become integrated within the present moment in time with enhanced clarity and sensitivity.
Sitting still may feel peculiar at first, and you might think you’re just simply wasting your time. In actual fact you’re making excellent use of a relatively short span of time, by retraining your mind to be more creative and effective. Your mind and body will refresh themselves as a result of these short periods of inner quiet.
Meditation will help you to understand yourself, and gain new perspectives on life. People spend so much time seeking happiness when all they really need to do is look inside themselves. They will discover their true nature & abilities, making them more able to get the most out of each day.
Just like other yogic paths, meditation is nondenominational. What I mean by this is that there are a variety of religious traditions that practice meditation, not just one to which meditation is specific, though Buddhism is most commonly associated with its practice.
The daily practice of meditation is a cumulative process. Every session builds on top of the previous session in order to increase your willpower, concentration, and helps you to gain control over your mind.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is beneficial for everyone, but it is particularly useful for stress management. Meditation will teach you how to manage stress appropriately which will have a knock on effect upon your physical health and emotional well-being. It can sooth the nervous system, balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, centre your attention, give perspective and clarity, improve your concentration powers, memory, confidence, grants a sense of purpose, frees the spirit, and increases spiritual strength.
Practicing meditation can be as time consuming as you make it, but even by practicing only for a few minutes each day you will gain the benefit of training your mind to fall more easily into a meditative state, until a few minutes meditation, freeing your mind of worldly stresses and cares can be deemed as akin to taking a nap.
Training your mind through meditation will promote uninterrupted sleep, in that you will learn to control the mental thoughts and processes that cause disruption in sleeping patterns such as unpleasant dreams and nightmares. Brain wave patterns have also been shown to alter through the practice of meditation, that once in a meditative state there is an increased count of slow alpha waves, which are attributed with drowsiness. Yet both hemispheres of the brain remain active, and so this drowsiness is directly transferred into a very relaxed yet alert and attentive state whilst meditating.
After the age of 35 our brain cells die off at a rate of 100,000 a day, and these are not replaced. The benefits of meditation can reduce this decline which directly lowers the rate of senile onset.
Overall, the benefits of meditation are far-reaching and can assist or alleviate many problems or ailments that an individual may experience or suffer from. In many cases, the root cause is addressed such as problems within the biochemical makeup of the body, as opposed to simply dealing with the symptoms as many modern medicines do.
Where & When to Meditate
Whenever you decide to meditate, try to make sure sure it’s at least an hour after eating. Meditation has most benefit when performed at the same time for consistency, especially if performed during times of the day where you are not in demand; such as early morning, evening or just before bed. Meditating in the same place is also said to be of benefit.
It’s not a good idea to meditate when you’re busy, or are stimulated with caffeine or alcohol which may well cause distractions to your session. If you meditate after a big meal or simply when you’re tired, you may fall asleep.
Likewise, meditation is best practiced when full of positivity, as the act of meditating focuses your mind, it can be detrimental to meditate when you feel upset as those feelings can be harnessed and overall the meditation session will have done more harm than good.
It may be a good idea to dedicate a quiet and peaceful area for your meditative practice, somewhere where the troubles and stresses of day to day life melt away and you can be at peace with yourself. Make sure you’re comfortable, warm, and that any background noise that can be turned off is off.
Meditating outside can be tedious due to the amount of external noise that cannot be controlled such as passing traffic; but if you can find a spot of natural beauty that isn’t disturbed by noise, such a location will help the transition of entering the peaceful state that meditation provides.
Sitting is the most common position for meditation, and when most people think of meditation they will picture someone sitting on the floor cross-legged. Seated meditation can also be performed whilst sat in a chair with legs uncrossed and feet firmly placed on the ground; this may be the easiest position for beginners. When seated on the floor it may be an idea to place a pillow underneath you to elevate your back and help point your knees to the floor.
Highly recommended by teachers, walking whilst meditating involves the unison of movement and breathing so that each step becomes your focal point. Relax your arms by your sides and move freely. It is often best to practice meditative walking in tranquil areas such as the beach, a meadow or park. Remember though, that destination is not your objective.
This is another meditation that is often recommended for those who find sitting difficult, and martial artists find that it builds physical, mental and spiritual strength. Stand with your feet hip-to-shoulder-distance apart. Knees are soft, arms rest comfortably at your sides. Your whole body should be aligned in good posture; shoulders rolled back and down, chest open, neck long, head floating on top and chin parallel to the floor. Either keep your eyes opened or softly close them.
Lying down, known as the ‘corpse pose’ in yoga is another common position in which meditation is undertaken. To do this, simply lie your back down on the floor ensuring your knees and neck have appropriate support. Place your arms at your side with your palms facing upwards, touch your heels together but allow your feet to fall to the floor pointing away from each other. You can meditate in this position with your eyes open or closed, but many may find themselves drifting off to sleep if they choose to close their eyes.
How to Meditate
As mentioned above, pick a time of day where you will be uninterrupted, choose whatever position is comfortable for you, wear socks and cover yourself with a blanket if necessary to ensure you don’t get cold. Whatever posture you choose, stick with it for the duration of the session. It may be a good idea to place a clock somewhere you can occasionally glance to in order to keep track of time, however is this is too distracting a timer or alarm clock can be used. Make sure that the alarm is quiet, or is at least muffled in some form (such as being placed under a pillow) so as to minimise any abrupt disruption to your meditation session.
Breathing if a key element in the practice of meditation, so first of all draw your attention to that, taking deep breaths to consciously relax any known area of tension in your muscles. You may find that your mind wanders continually whilst meditating but you shouldn’t let it discourage you; simply refocus your mind once you realise it has strayed and resume your meditation. Continue your practice for the duration you decided upon before you begun, and when you have finished be sure to slowly exit your meditative state rather than leaping up as this may counterman any positive benefit you have just spent time achieving.