What is meditation?
In its simplest form, Meditation can be described as the practice of seeking a state of no mindedness. To strive for a mental state where we strip away the unnecessary activities of the mind that burden us each day, leaving only clarity, tranquility and a stillness of the mind which helps us to discover our inner self and ultimately our true nature.
Dating back over 5,000 years, meditation has become a fundamental practice of many religions including Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and other religions, yet at the same time it transcends religion all together. Meditation is not a religious practice, it is a personal journey of enlightenment and self discovery.
Where Does Meditation Come From?
There have been many early recordings of meditation, some going back thousands of years although it is probably true to say that meditation has most likely been practiced in one form or another since the dawn of man.
It is widely accepted that the many forms of meditation originated in the East in countries such as China, Japan and India .
What Are The Health Benefits Of Meditation?
Meditation has been scientifically proven via many scientific experiments to improve overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being. As many illnesses are Psychosomatic, which means that they originate in the mind, it’s fair to say that many physical and mental illnesses can benefit from regular meditation.
Just some of the many health benefits of meditation include:
How Long Must I Meditate For?
With meditation, you will gain the most benefit when you meditate consistently for a short time each day rather than for long periods infrequently. Try to meditate for around 15 minutes each day.
When Is The Best Time To Meditate?
There is no right or wrong time to meditate, although it is not recommended to meditate when you are angry or upset.
The time at which you meditate is entirely down to your own personal circumstances and preference. As a rule of thumb it is common for practitioners to meditate either first thing in the morning or last thing at night prior to retiring to bed.
Many believe that by meditating in the morning, you adopt a meditative and calm approach to the whole day and put yourself in the perfect state of mind to cope with life's everyday stresses and strains. Others prefer to meditate just before going to sleep as this helps to rid the mind of negative or niggling thoughts which may prevent us getting a good nights rest. Either way, it is entirely your choice.
What Clothes Do I Have To Wear?
Your choice of clothing is also up to you. The main rule of thumb, is to wear clothes that are loose and non restrictive, such as a tracksuit. The main point is to make sure that you are comfortable. You could even meditate naked if you wanted to.
Some Misconceptions About Meditation
How To Do A Simple Daily 15 Minute Meditation
Where To Meditate
The goal with meditation is to seek a stillness of the mind that is calm, tranquil and free of any external or internal distractions. It is therefore important that you choose an environment that is free of any noise as this will distract you and make practice very difficult. So choose a quiet space at home where you will not be disturbed. If possible you can even meditate outside which is the preferred choice of many.
There are a number of ways to “sit” when meditating. Beginners have two options which are
1. Sit cross legged on the floor with your back straight, chin tucked in slightly and head tipped forward a little. This means that you are gazing downwards towards the floor in front of you. You will also need to place a soft cushion or two under your bottom which will help you to maintain the posture, straighten your back and prevent you from toppling over.
2. Another option is to sit on a chair with both feet flat on the floor with both knees bent. The head should be tilted slightly forward with eyes looking down towards the floor as with the technique above.
The right hand should be cupped in the left hand with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and elbows held away from the body slightly. The tongue should be placed gently behind the top teeth which helps to reduce salivation.
If you are meditating sitting on a chair, you can also place the palms of the hands on each leg if this feels more comfortable.
When You Are Sitting Comfortably
When you are sitting nice and comfortably, you are ready to begin your meditation practice.
1. Sit for a few moments allowing the mind to settle and become gently aware of its surroundings.
2. Close your eyes so that they are half closed.
3. Now, turn your thoughts to your inner breathing rather to what is going on outside.
4. Breath in slowly, gently and rhythmically.
5. Visualise that you are breathing in all the wonderful feelings and emotions in life such as joy, happiness, well-being, bliss, enlightenment, forgiveness and any other positive emotions.
6. Visualise the air entering through the nose and then follow it down through the windpipe, into the bronchial tubes and then ultimately, into and filling the lungs.
7. Once the lungs are nicely full, exhale gently expelling all negative thoughts such as anger, rage, greed and hatred.
8. Make sure both in and out breaths are consistent, long and smooth. You should be aiming at around two in breaths and two out breaths per minute.
9. If it helps, you can count during inhalation and exhalation. This will help the mind to gently focus on your breathing and prevent any negative or distracting thoughts from entering the mind.
When a thought arises, let it go. Simply continue to focus on your breathing and counting. Do not challenge the thought or try to clarify it in anyway, just accept that it is there and gently move it on its way.
At first you may find it difficult. You may feel like your mind is racing, full of thought after thought. “Did I turn the cooker off”, “That person was rude to me today”, “What time do I need to pick the kids up” etc. etc.
This is your “monkey mind”. This is our everyday mind which is busy and relentlessly keeping us from returning our mind to its natural state. This is perfectly normal. Don’t fight them. Just accept them and gently focus on your breathing and counting.
After consistent daily practice, your meditation will become stronger and you will be able to subdue your “monkey mind” that much faster.
If you wish, you can set a subtle alarm which can gently alert you that it is time to finish your meditation. After regular practice you will find that you will naturally know when it is time to “come round”.
Pregnancy and Meditation
Meditation during pregnancy is perfectly acceptable, in fact, it is fully recommended by many. Meditating when pregnant helps the mother to get in touch with her new baby and release any stress or anxiety. It can also help to alleviate many physiological symptoms associated with pregnancy including morning sickness, high blood pressure and heartburn.
If in doubt, please speak with your doctor or midwife.
Meditating When Suffering From A Heart Condition
Meditation has be known to help those who have heart conditions and high blood pressure. As meditation improves circulation, blood flow and helps to relax the arteries, it can be a fantastic way of reducing heart disease and strokes.
Tests that were performed by the Wisconsin medical college and the Maharishi University in Iowa , showed that of two groups, the group which practiced regular meditation, reduced the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack by around 47% compared to the group that did not practice regular meditation.
Once again, if you are suffering from any illness, please consult your doctor.