The Whys and Hows of Meditation

The Whys and Hows of Meditation

meditation yoga

The Whys and Hows of Meditation

Meditation is a doorway into the unknown

It can help us get a sense of the mystery of who we are.

For thousands of years people have used meditation to move beyond the mind’s stress-inducing thoughts and emotional upsets into the peace and clarity of present moment awareness.

The purpose of meditation is to relax your nervous system which is in your spine from sending signals to your brain. Thousands of thoughts go through your mind every minute and slowing down all that chatter will cause your mind to become restful. Even during sleep, you dream and your body and mind do not rest.

20 Minutes of meditation is worth 4 hours of sleep.  In the beginning you will not be able to stop all your thoughts.  Just let them pass through your mind and if you start thinking about them, go back to your breath.

There are many reasons why people meditate. If you meditate regularly, you’ll know that even a short meditation in the mornings has the power to improve the way you experience your whole day.

The variety of meditations is endless and we will go over a few of them tonight, but the essence of meditation is singular; the cultivation of mindful awareness and expanded consciousness.

  • Exactly what are some of the benefits;
  • Relieves Stress and anxiety
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
  • Better sleep
  • Decreases blood pressure
Side view of woman sitting in lotus position on lakeshore with focus on stack of stones
Side view of woman sitting in lotus position on lakeshore with focus on stack of stones

A recent study at University of Mass. Center for Mindfulness found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in areas of the brain.  The Brain is a complex network.  Research in recent years has shown that the inherent plasticity of the brain means that we can create new neurons and lay down new pathways as the result of training.

One of the leading authors of the research into mindfulness meditation, Britta Holzel PhD says:  “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and increasing our well-being and quality of life.”

When you first begin to learn how to mediate, you will quickly  become aware of how scattered our mind is with thoughts, positive and negative and very little control or knowledge how they got there.  At this stage, we are easily distracted, have difficulty concentrating and probably worry about lots of unimportant things or worry about things that probably will never happen.

So when you start out with meditation, do not beat yourself up about your wild mind.  In time you will learn to work kindly with all the thoughts and find some clarity and peacefulness.

Let’s begin:  If you have never meditated, rule of thumb is start with anywhere from 2 to 10 mins. Learning to meditate is a process and takes time.  Try not to be concerned with expectations of what your meditation is going to do for you or what your experience should be.

Most meditations books tell you to sit relaxed, sit straight in a chair or cross legged on the floor.  If that is not comfortable, put your legs out in front of you.  If your body is well-balanced, your mind will also be in balance.   I prefer to meditate laying down.  This is not preferred as you may fall asleep and you really do not want to do that.  I have never fallen asleep and can meditate for a couple of hours.

Do not get caught up in the how—just do.   REMEMBER:  THE BEST MEDITATION IS THE MEDITATION THAT WORKS FOR YOU AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR LIFE.

There are several ways to meditate to be able to focus and concentrate and become aware of the present. Relieving the tension from your body by mentally scanning it starting with your feet and working your way up to your head will start to slow down your breathing.

  1. Breathing  –  Concentrate on breathing your natural breath in and out.  Always using your nostrils.  Whenever your mind wanders come back to your breathing.
  2. Other techniques include using mantras;
  3. WHAT IS A MANTRA? Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source.  Other mantras which I have givenwhat is a mantra you on a card a words that are powerful to you that you would continue repeating in order to focus and slow down your thoughts.  As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness.  Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts.   Here are some Mantras:
  4. OM  –  Translation  –The sound of the universe.  It’s the first, original vibration, representing the birth, death and re-birth process.  Chanting the sound OM brings us into harmonic resonance with the universe –this is a scientific fact!  OM is said to vibrate at 432 Hertz, which is the natural musical pitch of the Universe as opposed to 440 Hertz which is the frequency of most modern music.  OM is an idyllic way to begin and end a yoga or meditation practice and also comes in handy when you need to chill out.
  5. Om Namah Shivaya is one of the most popular Hindu mantras and the most important mantra in Shaivism. It is associated with qualities of prayer, divine-love, grace, truth and blissfulness.  Traditionally it is accepted to be a powerful healing mantra beneficialy for all physical and mental ailments.  Soulful recitation of this mantra brings peace to the heart and joy to the soul.  It’s meaning is “I honor the divinity withing myself”  This mantra was given to my by my guru Yogi Hari when I became Certified in Sampoorna Yoga.
  6. OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti “OM and salutations, peace, peace,  peace”

This mantra is usually changed at the beginning or end of a yoga class or ceremony as a way to offer peace and serenity to the recite.  Shanti meaning peace is uttered three times to bring peace to three different realms;  the physical, the divine or spiritual and the internal or mental.

  1. I am present, I am here, I am breath
  2. I am strong, I am healthy, I am whole
  3. I am happy, I am worthy, I am capable
  4. Guided Meditation –  These are guided imagery scripts that describe a peaceful beautiful place or situation to relax your body and keep your mind focused.
  5. Candle Flame or object Use a flame of a candle or other object to fix your gaze upon.  Feel that you are looking at the object with your heart and that you are travelling through it with infinite peace.
  6. Meditation music Listening to soft meditation music is another way of calmer your body and relieving stress.  Music has always been known as a healing agent.
  7. Silence Once you are familiar with the focusing, Silence is healing. Nothing beats silence.  Otherwise the music or sounds on the tape just drown out the chatter in your mind.  When we sit in silence, we actually get to experience what our mind is doing  This is where
  8. MINDFULNESS MEDITATION starts: Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and emotions.  There is also the practice of mindfulness during our daily activities, while eating, walking and talking.  For “daily life” meditation, the practice is to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, to be aware of what is happening and not living in “automatic mode”  If you are speaking, that means pahing attention to the words you speak, how you speak them and to listen with presence and attentions.  If you are walking, that means being more aware of your body movements, your feet touching the ground, the sounds you are hearing, etc.

Most of all, it is important to enjoy meditation.  You might like to try sitting with a hint of a smile.  Be kind to yourself.  Start meditation just a little each day.

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