The great thing about meditation is we enter into the very depth of our souls to discover a place of inner peace. Therefore, mediation can be practiced by people of different religions as well as those not currently practicing a religion. However entering into a meditative state does often put one in touch with some deeper questions about the true meaning of life and can give one a more spiritual outlook. Many people would like to meditate but feel that they don’t know how or don’t have the time to commit to it. I know that when something becomes a priority, I can always find the time. You may have to give up a lesser good for the greater good of meditation. It comes down to choices. The good news is that even just 15 minutes of meditation daily will be very beneficial.
Tips for Beginning Meditation. Posture is an important component. It is recommended that you sit with a straight back. You have seen lots of pictures of the “classic” meditation pose, with legs crossed on the floor. This is an excellent position as it signals your mind that this is a specific and different action. However, if you aren’t comfortable there, simply place yourself in a comfortable chair. Don’t try to meditate lying down as the temptation to fall asleep is high. Although Meditation is a state of relaxation, it is very different than sleep as you are fully alert and conscious. During meditation your sense of awareness is actually heightened. Don’t meditate on a full stomach, in other words try not to schedule your meditation just after eating. Having a nice essential oil or scented candle can help you to enter into meditation more easily. Associations repeated become programmed and will assist you to meditate.
The whole premise is to clear the clutter of your mind and quiet your entire being. It is recommended that you begin by taking several deep and exaggerated breaths. Thinking only of the process of breathing in and out to clear your mind. Another helpful technique is concentrating on a candle flame. Narrow your gaze to the small tip and block out all other thoughts. When you begin to have thoughts come racing into your mind, go back to focusing on the candle flame. The object you gaze upon can also be something especially meaningful to your religious beliefs such as a beautiful or inspiring painting. The important thing is that you concentrate on only one thing at this time. Many people use what is called a mantra to begin meditation. A mantra is the repetition of a sacred word. For example, you might repeat the mantra AUM a certain number of times or for Christians the name of Jesus. Repeating a mantra forces the mind to focus on a single thought.
The second step after learning to focus on one thing is to totally clear your mind. Achieving a silent mind is a challenge when we are so used to scattered thoughts, worries and noise but this feels incredible to take control while at the same time letting go. A technique can be to think of your thoughts as separate from yourself. When a thought comes, make a conscious decision to toss it out like a discarded paper. This empowers you to realize you can allow or reject thoughts. This is very freeing to see that your thoughts don’t have to control you but you them.
During this state, those who are Christian believe that God and the Holy Spirit will lead them to deeper spiritual truths as they become quiet and open. Those from more eastern belief systems will turn to a universal power to draw strength and wisdom from. Others that do not have religious or spiritual beliefs can still benefit from the physical benefits of the practice of meditation.
Here are some popular variations on meditation techniques:
- Guided meditation. Also called visualization where you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher. Christians will reflect on the life of Christ during guided meditations.
- Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is having an increased awareness and desire to live in the present moment. You focus on what you are experiencing in the present moment both during meditation and in normal activity. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without affecting you.
- Tai chi. This is a type of Chinese martial arts that is subtle movements and postures that are slow and graceful concentrating on deep breathing. So this combines mental meditation with physical manifestations of the meditation. Harvard Medical School’s Guide to Tai Chi.
- Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the movement. Great DVD for beginning Yoga.
Setting aside time daily to become still and quiet will always have a positive effect on you. So give yourself the gift of inner peace this Christmas.