Introduction To Meditation
Meditation is the soul’s perspective glass ~ Owen Feltham
Meditation is a spiritual practice that dates back thousands of years, and is said to have originated from Asian countries like China, Japan, and India. To date, meditation is still widely used as a means to restore balance and peace of mind.
The word meditation sometimes invokes images of monks sitting in some dark monastery in a land far away. It can seem mystic, and foreign and not something that has any relevance to modern life.
But, don’t be too quick to judge!
While meditation does have its origins in Eastern practices, it is a practice that is widespread in Western culture and is highly recommended by medical professionals, holistic practitioners and is a viable alternative treatment method for many conditions, diseases and every day stressors, with many health benefits.
In this fast-paced world, stress and tension can build up easily, and squeezing even a few minutes of meditation in your daily routine can help achieve physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Meditation offers a variety of health benefits and there is scientific proof of its effectiveness for professional and personal well-being.
Scientific Evidence On Meditation
When you see a person sitting on the floor, legs crossed, eyes closed and humming a syllable rhythmically – you often wonder to yourself if this is all for show. More and more people are meditating and they say that it makes them feel better, it helps them focus and it helps calm them down and they may have a point.
Consider that meditation is an ancient spiritual activity. Buddhist monks do it; Catholic nuns and monks do it and even Christians claim to meditate on the Holy Bible.
But, more important is that everyday people all around you do it as well, including, moms, dads, teenagers, athletes, personal trainers, and corporate executives.
Meditation is focusing the mind on a thought. Most people who meditate say that they use the time to calmly sort out and label the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing.
A study of nuns in a Canadian convent was made in the 1990s because the nuns there all seem to live to an average age of 100. They are physically active even at their advanced age and they are mentally alert. The researchers noted that these nuns went to bed at an early hour, they ate food they grew in the convent garden, they scrubbed floors, walked for miles to visit the sick and to teach children in the farming community around their convent. They also did crossword puzzles, read, played musical instruments, sang, prayed and they meditated.
Recently, a California university has completed a study of the benefits of meditation. The researchers found that when people undergo a stressful situation, a part of their brain goes on overdrive. When they breathe deeply and slowly and take quiet time to process the situation they are in: labeling the thoughts and emotions they are experiencing, that part of their brain called the amygdala calms down.
What Meditation Does For The Brain
Meditation does not solve your problems, no. Meditation helps you gain new perspectives on problematic situations. And sometimes, that is all that you need to help you make sense of something puzzling or overwhelming.
A Harvard University study measured the thickness of the cortex of people who meditated and compared it with those who did not.
They discovered that people who meditated had thicker cortexes than those who did not.
Adults no longer generate new brain cells. The thicker cortex does not mean that those who meditate create new brain cells or grow brain cells. But, brain activity is carried out by electric nerve pulses.
The more brain activity, the more neural connections and neural pathways are made between different parts of the brain. When you do not use parts of your brain these parts generally stop making neural connections with other parts of the brain. You use it, or lose it.
This is what meditation can do for the brain – it actually helps make more neural connections.
These kinds of neural activity allow you to process emotions more efficiently, thereby giving you more feelings of calmness. It helps you become more creative in solving problems because you are better able to focus and look at a problem from different perspectives.
There was this lady who had to take a series of licensing tests to qualify and register as a professional. Her future career and future livelihood depended upon her passing the licensing tests so she felt pressured.
The licensing tests were to be given over four consecutive Sundays. In order to pass the licensing tests, she not only had to master eight subjects but she also had to be in good health to be able to actually show up for the tests for four consecutive Sundays. When the bell rang for the start of the exams, she remembered sitting still, breathing deeply and reciting something she learned as a little girl in Sunday School.
She recited Psalm 23 and imagined a little lamb being led by a loving and strong shepherd. She felt safe especially when she repeated the phrase “I will fear no evil.” It calmed her down and helped her focus on the test she was taking. She passed with flying colors.
Meditation helped calm her mind so that she was able to retrieve the information she had stored during her review. Meditation sharpens the mind and gives a sense of wellbeing.
Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation has many direct and indirect benefits.
Meditation cleanses the body and soul and leads to a more positive outlook towards life.
- Meditation is one of nature’s best cures for increased positivity, inner peace, stress reduction and a longer life.
- Many also say that it leads to enlightenment.
- It increases concentration powers and also blood flow in the body.
- Not only that, it focuses the mind on certain tasks and leads to more efficient work attitude.
- It also aids in a better metabolism.
Overall, it gives a unique glow to a person and holds wondrous powers to increase the level of happiness in a person.
Those who come in contact with such a human being will definitely be affected by all the positive vibes emanating from the person. It also increases inner control and strength to deal with hurdles and various unpleasant situations.
- People battling with depression will get good results from meditating regularly.
- In today’s fast paced world, meditation holds the remedy for many maladies and is the key to a more simplistic and earthy existence.
It should be done on a daily basis. In fact, a daily dose of five minutes can work wonders. It does not need a lot of time and effort.
Meditation is essentially one of the wonders of the 21st Century. In a world of deadlines and the rat race, one needs a way to relax and let go. The mind needs energy to focus that will help it to carry on. Also the body needs to be healthy and fit and that can only be achieved by proper regulation.
- Meditation prepares the body and mind for the long haul and it also helps to achieve a degree of happiness and peace.
- Meditation also binds the organs together and increases their efficiency.
- Overall, it brings about a positive outlook towards life.
- When used on a regular basis meditation has the awesome and all natural power to heal and balance.
The lists below provide the best reasons why so many are using this practice to achieve personal well being and professional success.
- Helps normalize blood pressure
- Reduces levels of blood lactate
- Improves the immune system and the body’s overall protection against diseases
- Decreases headaches, pain, and musculoskeletal problems
- Manage symptoms of asthma
- Helps fight heart disease and cancer
- Normalizes heart rate
- Helps reduce cholesterol
- Reduces symptoms of PMS
- Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke by 18% though its ability to curtain the thickening of artery walls.
- Reduction of symptoms of asthma, allergies, cancer, fatigue, and heart disease
- Increases energy levels
- Increases immunity to fight off disease
- Slows down the aging process
- Regulates body hormones and improves fertility rates
Mental and Emotional Benefits
- Decreases anxiety and nervousness
- Decreases stress
- Improves mood due to increased serotonin production
- Regulates sleep and helps with insomnia
- Can help sharpen the mind
- Increases self-awareness
- Prevents negative thoughts
- Promotes happiness by gaining a new perspective
- Promotes feelings of independence and confidence
- Increases creativity
- Increases serotonin production in the brain which results in improved mood
- Increases productivity
- Increases emotional stability
- Increases sense of intuition
- Enhances ability to resist impulsive urges
- Increased work and life satisfaction
- Helps with anger management and to decrease feelings of aggression and
- Increases compassion for others and tolerance
- Helps to hone problem solving skills
- Increases ability to concentrate and focus
- Facilitates a deep sense of self-awareness
- Instills a deep sense of self and wholeness
Elements of Meditation
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices.
1| Preparing The Body And Mind
Meditation means finding that place where all is quiet and peaceful and where you can be totally detached from the outside world only concentrating on one thing. There are several key elements to meditating.
2| The Environment
The ideal environment for meditating can be found anywhere, as long as it is free from any type of distractions. This includes, the beach, your bedroom or living room, or an office. Make sure the temperature of the room and/or your clothing is such that you will not be too hot or too cold.
Basically all you need to do it find the calmest part of your house or any zone that soothes you. It may also be in the lap of nature, like a park or your garden.
Many people also like to meditate in their balconies. Since meditation is a state of mental clarity, early morning when there is less surround noise is better.
3| Comfortable Seat
Have a comfortable place to sit. Some use a yoga mat, or a cushion to sit on the floor. You can also use a chair or even the couch, as long as, you will not be distracted by an uncomfortable seating position.
One of the most important elements of meditation is to have the proper focus, this means that there can be no distractions. This includes, family, office personal, outside noise, phones and anything else that can distract from the meditative state.
5| An Open Mind
Another essential element in the meditative process is an open mind since the main purpose of it is allow thoughts to flow through the mind without judging them.
A good traveller is one who knows how to travel with the mind. ~ Michael Bassey Johnson
6| Time of Day
One of the best options is to mediate early in the morning when you first wake. This allows you set the mind with a positive and peaceful outlook.
Another option is meditate right before going to sleep, this can help alleviate the stress and anxiety of the day and allow for a more peaceful night’s rest.
Of course, some mediate morning and night, and even at random times throughout the day when they feel tension and need to find peace and relaxation.
7| The Right Posture
While meditation does come in various forms, many forms can be started and accomplished with a simple sitting posture.
So, once you are in your own quiet world, sit cross legged on the floor.
The sitting posture facilitates:
- Proper breathing
The sitting posture also allows for the most comfort, and allows for optimal blood circulation and alertness while engaging in total and complete relaxation, which still maintaining the all-important alertness that is vital for mind awareness.
The Perfect Pose And Breathing
- Use a cushion or yoga mat to for the most comfort on the floor.
- Cross your legs in front of you, and tilt your pelvis forward just a bit with the purpose of accentuating the natural curve of the spine. It’s a good idea to do this in front of a mirror until you master the pose.
- Position your head high so that it is aligned with the shoulders and the back is straight.
- Slightly tuck the chin inward.
- Relax the jaw, and other facial features, such as, the tongue, eyes, and brows.
- Rest your arms on your lap or knees. Palms can be open and laid up or down or you can cup the hands softly. No matter how you place your hands, they need to be supported so the shoulders do not feel any strain.
- Breathe deeply and naturally, and allow the chest and abs to rise and fall.
- Make sure your spine and shoulders move with you as you breathe. Take deep breaths into the chest area and open the chest completely.
- Allow yourself to relax completely while exhaling.
- You are now ready to meditate.
TIP: Another popular position for meditation is the Lotus, pictured below. This is where the legs are crossed, but, the feet rest inside the thighs of the other leg.
8| The Chakras
It is important to know about the 7 chakras in the body that travel from the groin to the top of the head.
Meditation activates those chakras and heals every part of your system and keeps it energized and healthy.
Each chakra is also represented by a special color as pictured on the right.
The specific colors used to represent the chakras are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. While meditating, it is important that you concentrate on any one of your chakras for optimum results.
Where you focus will depend on your goals, as each chakra is associated with a different function, as detailed below.
The Crown Chakra
- Location: Top of the head
- Associated with: Spirituality, will, and understanding.
- Color: Violet
Third Eye Chakra
- Location: Center of the eyes
- Associated with: Intuition
- Color: Purple
The Throat Chakra
- Location: Near collar bone
- Associated with: Communication
- Color: Blue
The Heart Chakra
- Location: Breast bone
- Associated with: Love and emotions
- Color: Green
Solar Plexus Chakra
- Location: Between breast bone and navel
- Associated with: Wisdom, and intellect
- Color: Yellow
The Splenic Chakra
- Location: Belly button
- Associated with: Creativity
- Color: Orange
The Root Chakra
- Location: Pelvic area
- Associated with: Sexuality
- Color: Red
9| Color Therapy
There is also the concept of color meditation wherein you imagine a color entering your body, filling your system and as you breathe out you can imagine that it forms a mist around you. The colors are usually those of the chakras along with the golden color which is thought to be a very strong shield.
You can also change the color imagery while meditating.
Each color affects a specific chakra and finally after a while, your body will be surrounded by a strong aura that nobody and nothing can break.
18 Types of Meditation
The following list will help you understand the types of meditations are widely used so you may choose an option that suits your needs. Also, keep in mind that you can use more than one of these in creating a well-balanced routine.
1| Guided Imagery Meditation
Also referred to as, visualization or guided imagery, this type of meditation involves the senses. With the help of a guide or a teacher, you are instructed to form relaxing images of places, people, and situations in your mind. Guided imagery takes you through an entire story that’s intent is to take the mind to a place of serenity and positive imagery.
2| Mantra Meditation
With a mantra, you think of a relaxing word or phrase, and mentally repeat it to avoid some other thoughts distracting your calmness.
Based on increasing conscious awareness, this type of meditation lets you focus on the present moment. To perform this type of meditation, you have to be consciously aware of your thoughts, emotions, and other present experiences.
4| Qi Gong
A combination of physical movement, meditation, relaxation, and breathing exercises, this type of meditation originated from traditional Chinese medicine and is meant to restore and maintain balance.
5| Tai Chi
A form of Chinese martial arts, Tai Chi involves deep breathing practices while performing a series of postures and movements paced in a slow and graceful manner.
6| Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation is a form of meditation where all distracting thoughts are pushed away and ones goes into a completely relaxed state of awareness. During meditation a mantra is repeated silently in order to transcend the typical thinking process, to be replaced by pure consciousness. This results in rest, stability, and perfect stillness that facilitates the elimination of mental boundaries.
The aim of yoga is to achieve concentration and balance that will encourage you to take your mind off everything else and rather focus on the moment. During yoga, you need to perform a series of poses and breathing exercises that calm the body and the mind. Yoga, as a workout provides a plethora of health benefits for the mind, body and soul.
8| Deep breathing
Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils. Focus your attention on the breathing alone and listen to the sound of your own breaths. Aside from helping you relax, a number of health benefits has been associated with deep breathing exercises such as decreased muscle tension, improved circulation, and reduced respiratory problems.
9| Body scanning
In this type of meditation, all attention is focused on the different body parts, as well as, the sensation each of them brings: warmth, pain, tension or relaxation. By combining this with deep breathing exercises, you can bring relaxation to each of your body parts.
While it is common to use religious mantras during meditation, you are free to use a personal mantra that you repeat silently to maintain focus and concentration. You may also pray using personal prayers or those used in your religion.
11| Walking Meditation
Meditation done in combination with walking is not only relaxing, but, is good for the health as well.
While it might be best to choose a peaceful place to walk, you need to focus on the movement of your legs and not on the destination.
12| Reading And Reflecting
Reading poetries or religious passages is not only inspiring, but, very relaxing especially if you reflect on them afterwards. You may choose to reflect alone by writing your thoughts down or by talking to your friend or guide.
13| Energy Focus
Energy focus meditation involves focusing on the energy that flows through your body and finding a center, a place of complete relaxation and wholeness.
In this method the eyes are open and fixated or gazed on a particular object.
In visualization meditation the eyes are closed and focused on a particular image of a peaceful place, such as, something in nature, a beach, the mountains or a lake, just to name a few. A lot of the guided imagery will take you through a particular visualization.
- This method can also be very powerful for creating a visualization
of things you want to happen in life, for example in professional and personal success, where a scenario is created that takes you through all your dreams as if they already happened.
This method involves listening to meditation music, which is a very specific genre, all while focusing on breathing.
17| Positive Affirmations
Affirmations are positive phrases you tell yourself as if they are already true. This is a popular and widely spread practice to re-program the subconscious and to steer the mind toward some goal, which, in effect can change behavior and also the general outlook one has on life.
Affirmations can be used to raise self-esteem, for weight loss, to deal with stress, to alleviate anxiety and bring inner peace, to deal with work stress and anything else really.
- I am beautiful
- I am a fat burning machine
- I am at peace with whatever happens at work
- I can do anything
- I can deal with my problems
- Nothing is too big for me to deal with in a healthy manner
- I am healthy
- I am loved
- I am full of energy
- I am worthy of love, peace and happiness
- I am worth of self care
18| Movement Meditation
In this type of meditation one first establishes a place of centeredness and then moves their body in various ways while focusing with great concentration on the feelings stirred by the movements.
How To Meditate
There’s no single correct way, time, or place to practice meditation. You can do it on your own, buy a CD that guides you through specific imagery or mantras or join a class.
Two Meditation Scenarios
- For Mantra meditation you can say a word or phrase aloud while focusing solely on the sound of your breaths. So inhale deeply and exhale with the word for as long as you can. For example, in many cultures, the word ‘OM’ is said to have a deep impact on the mind and is easier with the breathing control and regulation.
But you can also choose your own word if you so desire. The entire concentration should be on inhaling and exhaling of air and on the word monitoring. This is one of the easier ways to meditate and it helps clear the mind faster as all the focus is on the voice.
- A harder way is to close your eye, and to imagine something in your mind’s eye. It can be anything – a flame, a bright light, an emotion or even a past memory. Just remember that it cannot be anything negative.
It is difficult to grasp and hold on something like that for a long period of time, but, if one can do so, they are assured peace of mind like no other. And, with practice, this and other forms of meditation get easier. Be steady in your breathing and hold on to that one thought in your mind. The concentration power goes up infinitely and positivity flows in the veins.
The Time Commitment
Meditating does not have to take hours, many find just a few moments even in their busiest day to escape to the land of inner peace. This improves their mood, productivity and reduces stress and anxiety.
If you haven’t already fit in meditation in your daily schedule, now would be a good time to start.
It is entirely up to you how you choose to meditate. There are many audio tapes, videos, and classes along with many websites that offer structured meditation exercises and can provide you with all the information that you might need.
You can therefore create your own special meditative routine.
It is also advisable that your keep changing the processes so as to keep your body invigorated and energized. If you need company and are starting out, there are many meditative groups and classes that you can join.
You are a cosmic flower, OM chanting is the process of opening the psychic petals of that flower. ~ Amit Ray, OM Chanting and Meditations
All in all, what is important is that you meditate because that will ultimately give you a fabulous life. Which method you use, with whom you do it, which color you choose, what you wear and whether you do it solo or couple it with yoga or other exercise forms is entirely up to you.
Whatever method of meditation you choose, it is important to focus and enjoy what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, especially when you’re still starting out. What matters is that you are able to relieve stress and feel better as a whole, which is the main goal of meditation.
So go ahead and give yourself all the peace in the world through the power of meditation.