In this series we are going to cover the basics of meditation and how to meditate.
In this article we are going to cover a brief definition of meditation and follow it up with a relaxation exercise. Then in the following article we shall go into some more detail regarding different meditation techniques.
What is meditation?
Meditation actually means one-pointedness of mind. So we are meditating whenever we focus our mind on just one thing at a time.
That’s it…it’s that simple…this is all that meditation is!
Now this might come as a shock to you, as the cultural iconic images which we see, when we think about meditation are the evergreen image of the ancient saint, with grey hair and beard sitting in a lotus position (one left wrapped over the other), with a serene expression on his face, at peace with the cosmos!
Now nothing could be further from the truth. If you are interested in meditation, then the first step is to get all these silly concepts out of your head.
Silly Ideas about Meditation Debunked
- People who meditate successfully are all spiritual masters, at peace with the universe, and have beards and are middle aged or are old men of Asian origin.
- Meditators possess psychic powers and abilities.
- Mediators are free of mental harassment and life problems.
- Meditators are few and far between; only people with a special gift can mediate
This is all silly folks!
There are lots of ordinary people who meditate. They all have life problems, and most of them don’t have answers to all of life’s problems. Furthermore, meditation does not by itself develop psychic abilities and most importantly of anyone can meditate, when trained to do so!
So what are the benefits of meditation?
In order to assess the meditation we have to wonder what exactly it is:
Meditation is the ability to focus on ne taught at a time. That’s it, that’s all. I now it doesn’t very dramatic at all, now does it?
Thanks to iconic imagery of saints meditating, combined with the inability of most people to meditate, has resulted in mass confusion over meditation. Because most people cannot meditate, it is seen as mysterious and also many people who can meditate, have over the years acted in a kind of esoteric manner, which reinforces the ‘specialness’ of the meditator.
When in actual fact you can mediate and often do so. Any time you manage to think about one thing, for a while, and then you are meditating!
Where been a meditator differs from regular people are in their ability to enter a meditative state at will. That’s the key and this is the hard part. But thankfully this skill can be taught
Moving now onto the benefits of meditation, meditation does not impart mystic powers, nor are meditators capable of maintaining one-pointedness for long. So even if you meditate for years, there will be stresses and strains and uncontrollable thoughts, so why bother meditating?
When you meditate, you shift your conscious focus and this develops an improvement in our mental, emotional and physical well-being. Also, this shift is practically instantaneous. Literarily within a few minutes of beginning meditation a change for the better can be felt, and the better means:
- Feeling grounded
- Being in the here and now
- Mental restfulness
- Clarity of thought
- The ability to make up your mind
- Improved concentration powers
- Increased intuitiveness
- Better decision making
- More relaxed body and thus improved physical health and wellbeing
So mediation has amazing benefits, but those benefits come in little increments. So rather than thinking in terms of amazing changes, in our state of consciousness, think rather about a very small change, for a few minutes, which when repeated on a daily basis, over time, results in overall effects which equate with an increase in mental prowess and overall maturity!
Relaxation as Preparation for Meditation
We will go into more detail about mediation in the next post in this series, but for now let’s focus on relaxation. Relaxation is the unsung hero of meditation. I have talked to so many people, over the years who felt that they could not meditate, only to find that they are in a very tense and restless state. Including such obvious signs as eyes which flick backwards and forwards, anxious grappling of the hands, turning the head from side to side, knee jerking (which is very popular- having one knee bobbing up and down while sitting) and generally looking anxious.
Now sometimes you see these same tell-tales in people who meditate, but as a rule of thumb successful meditators know how to relax (well at least some of the time, as no human being is completely free of mental harassment). This ability to be relaxed most of the time, opens the doors to what the ancients used to phrase as “the rainbow bridge”. Now the rainbow bridge is not the bridge out of the movie Thor, but rather it is the bridge to higher states of consciousness. Now while nobody can remain in a state of utter relaxation for very long, taking time out to relax deeply, will over a period of time, develop an overall relaxed state, which will help us to enter into a meditative state, whenever we want to (or at least as often as is possible to do so).
So how to relax?
There are many relaxations methods but one very simple one, and a good place to start is the following:
- Either sit in a comfortable chair or lies down on a couch or bed, and make yourself comfortable. You can play relaxing music if you like (ideally through headphones).
- Once you feel physically comfortable, start to breathe in and out deeply. No need to force yourself to breathe extra deeply or to hold your breath, rather simply makes a slight conscious effort to breathe a little more deeply. In our busy lifestyles we tend to be stressed; also most of us hunch over a computer at a desk or over the steering wheel of our car, so we have a lot of tension and shallow breathing. So simply making a mental note to breathe a little more deeply, will immediately deepening your breathing and usually a sense of instant relief will come. Possibly you feel a shrug commenting on, in this case just shrug, yawn or whatever you need to do in order to de-stress yourself.
- Now we are going to begin from the top of your head and work our way down. What I want you to do is to either visualise these instructions or feel them. Some people are more visual and some people are more sensate than others. If you can visualise then do so, otherwise simply ‘feel’ the following instructions.
- Close your eyes and see an orb of bright white light about 12 inches above your head and several inches back from your forehead. Make a physical attempt to bring your eyes upwards, as if you are looking through your forehead (don’t mind the fact that your eyelids are closed –as we are using the infinite power of our imagination here as well as a gently key to relaxation, namely creating a little bit of fatigue in the eyeballs for a few seconds, as we hold our gaze upwards).
- Now imagine this light gently dropping down into your head and feel your entire head filling with bright healing white light. As the light enters your forehead, immediately drop down your eyeballs and feel the sense of instant relief. Feel the glow of relaxation through your head and feel your forehead relaxing; now you’re facial muscles relaxing, and your neck relaxing. See/feel the light entering into your shoulders and again immediately feel them slump back and relax, as all the tensions leave your shoulders. Feel the light descending into your chest and feel the glow spreading around your chest and back and trapezius, now they are feeling loose and limp. With that your arms starting with your biceps, then forearms relax, and become heavy, your hands become loose and limp and relaxed. The light continues down into your lower abdomen, lower back, then genitals and buttocks. Feel the relaxation as the glow moves downwards, down your thighs and hamstrings, knees calf, ankles feet and toes and even soles of your feet. You now feel deeply relaxed.
- Now go a little deeper by focusing a little on your breathing, With each deep in-breath see white glowing light energy (think it if you cannot see it) into you entire body and lighting it up like a bulb, and then as you release your breath, see a dull grey vapour leaving your body with every out-breath, relieving all the tensions, toxins and psyche debris. Breath in light and breath out toxins, gently breathe like this, no force just awareness.
- Keep this up for a couple of minutes and with each round of light, see the light increasing and the glow building up in the entire body and even surrounding the entire body, in a beautiful silver white aura of protection, health and safety.
- Now even let go of thinking about his light, don’t force anymore, simply take the subtle thought of light permeating everywhere and breathe and relax and drift, simply drift into a deep state of relaxation. Whenever you feel ready you can simply stretch out, yawn a little takes some deep breaths and get up. But for now, relax as long as feels good for you. Simply relax.
That’s it folks, anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes will do the trick. This is also a good time to get into diary writing, whereby you make a diary entry about your experiences. Maybe you see something interesting or have some feeling during relaxation session. It’s good to have experiences and even dreams, it’s also good to note them down and it’s even good to not take them too seriously, as everything is a sort of mental processing, as different impressions are processed through your system.
For the next week or so, if you try this exercise every day, it is a great precursor to meditation, as it introduces your mind to the rainbow bridge. What is stopping you from having deeper conscious experience in life is tension. Now there is absolutely no point in fighting tension, but relaxation is the key. Don’t fight the resistance, rather diffuse the tension!
Try it every day for a few weeks and you will probably start remembering your dreams, maybe feel some feelings you haven’t had before, or at least not for a while and perhaps you might find yourself dwelling on some past memories or taking up a new hobby. This is all good and suggests that the barrier between the unconscious and the conscious is becoming cleared, little by little.
Keep it up and come back next week for the next installment of introduction to meditation!