What Is Meditation?
Meditation is simple but minds make it complicated.
Meditation is found in all cultures around the world. Buddhists, African Shamans, Hindus, Taoists and even Christian and Islamic traditions have their own versions of this spiritual practice. Meditation could be described as the foundation of all spirituality. Various types of meditation exist but they are all held together by the common thread of being still and silent. Meditation can be divided into two broad categories. These are insight or mindfulness meditation and concentration meditation. In concentration meditation you cancel out all things and focus on one object. In insight meditation you become aware of all things in the present moment while thinking nothing. In this article we shall be focusing on mindfulness meditation because the benefits are more far reaching.
The Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation has countless benefits, including helping to heal heart disease, activating chakras and kundalini energy, improving concentration, reducing stress, and improving health in general. Meditation can improve every single thing in a person’s life and is one of the easiest ways to end suffering and achieve total freedom. It’s easy to learn and it’s something you have forever once you learn how to do it.
Concentration is needed in every day life. Concentration enhances performance. Few people have the ability to focus on one thing completely. Stray thoughts usually come to mind taking us away from the present as we perform the mundane tasks of life. People think about the bills, their families and other things. Sometimes the mind is nowhere near the present activity.
A person dedicated to mindfulness meditation will have found true happiness and will be fully immersed in the moment’s activity no matter how mundane the task is.
Although making plans for the future is an important activity in life, one should not be concerned with this on a regular day to day basis. Focusing on the task at hand each day is the most important thing. Children are better at living in the moment than adults because they are more carefree. As people get older they become more complicated and are less able to live in the moment. Mindfulness meditation aims at bringing back the mind to the state of moment to moment awareness enjoyed by children.
Many professionals have used meditation to help them achieve greater focus in their respective fields.
Located all over our bodies are energy centres. These centres are known as chakras. There are seven major chakras. Most of these chakras are inactive in the average person because of poor food choices and a lack of exercise and meditation. Meditation is one of the easiest ways to activate these energy centres. The more relaxed a person becomes the better energy is able to flow through the body. Dedication to silence and stillness leads to better energy flow and the opening up of these energy centres. The opening of the chakras can lead to the rising of kundalini, a powerful feminine energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine. When activated it travels through the chakras straight to the head creating a burst of divine energy.
The first chakra located at the base of the spine is responsible for safety. The second chakra is located in the lower abdomen and is responsible for sexuality, feelings and creativity. The third chakra located in the solar plexus deals with trust in self and others. The fourth chakra known as the heart chakra is located at the centre of the chest. This is the chakra that controls love. The fifth chakra or throat chakra is located at the throat centre and is connected with self expression. The sixth chakra or third eye just above the eyebrows in the centre of the forehead brings clairvoyance, clarity and intuition. The seventh chakra is located at the top of the head. This chakra connects us to the universe.
How To Meditate
There are various positions, places and rituals that are connected with meditation. Stillness, silence, straight posture and slow deep breathing are consistent throughout all these variables.
Once the position of meditation is taken say and do nothing. Keep your mind focused on attention only, observing whatever comes your way without attachment and thinking nothing good or bad of these things. If a bird flies by, a car honks or someone shouts be aware without adding or subtracting anything from them. When thoughts arise and you get distracted slowly return to focusing on pure awareness.
Focus on breathing in and out from the stomach. Counting breath is one of the things used by beginners of mindfulness meditation. Mentally counting your breath will help to improve concentration and still the mind. Ultimately you should think of nothing so counting breath is something beginners do until they can move to the stage of pure awareness. If you are having problems with focusing you can start with this. Become completely still allowing only the breath within you to move. Take deep breaths from the belly, inhale and feel your stomach expand with air then exhale. As you exhale pull your stomach back pushing your navel to your spine.
Your eyes may be closed or open. Closed eyes shut out distractions but may lead to sleep and day dreaming. In traditions such as Zen the eyes can remain half open while gazing down.
Meditation may be done on the floor, standing, sitting on a chair or lying down. There are even special meditation sofas called Zafus.
The easiest position is to lay flat on your back, close your eyes and place your hands at your sides. As you lie on your back breathe deeply and feel your breath in your toes. Gradually this will extend to ankles and calves until you feel the breath moving from head to toe.
A more challenging position is to sit barefooted on a chair with your back straight. Going barefoot allows absorption of earth energies through the soles of the feet. Sit at the chair’s edge and keep the spine straight.
The Seiza or kneeling position is the easiest of the floor meditation positions. Seiza was used by the Egyptians and is a popular way of sitting by the Japanese. Simply place your knees together on the floor and sit. You can place a cushion under your knees and one between your bottom and feet. This position is not recommended for long periods.
Cross Legged Positions
While cross legged positions are the most challenging they allow you to channel more energy into the body. Cushions are used with cross legged positions to lift up hips and align the spine.
The Burmese position is the easiest of the cross legged positions. This involves placing both calves on the floor one before the other. For balance it’s best to switch calves for each session.
In the half lotus position you sit on a cushion, placing one foot on the opposite thigh and the other tucked underneath. Both knees should touch the floor. As with the Burmese position legs should be switched each session for balance.
The full lotus position is the most difficult and should not be rushed. It is best to work your way up to this position gradually. This position is a step up from the half lotus. In full lotus you place left leg on right thigh and right leg on left thigh. As with the other positions you should switch legs for each meditation session
A good practice is to stretch the entire body before and after meditation, placing emphasis on the back and legs.
Loose clothing, no shoes. Meditation can be done nude.
Meditation is most effective when done twice a day. First thing after rising and at night before sleeping. The effects of morning meditation will last throughout the day and meditation at night will ensure a peaceful sleep. Meditation can last anywhere from ten minutes to hours or even days. You can start with ten or fifteen minutes and extend it as you progress.