It’s interesting to marvel at how something that appears to be so simple can be so beneficial. To just sit and ‘be’. To meditate.
That’s just it. It’s simple, and it isn’t, at the very same time.
The act is simple. Sit still, focus on your breathing and continue to do so for about an hour.
Having the mental discipline to go beyond the reflexive, “thinking” mind and into a deep state of relaxation, however, is a challenge to say the least.
The benefits of meditation
Over the past 40 years, dozens of universities in the United States, Europe and India have conducted hundreds of studies on the effects of meditation on human physiology and behaviour. The research shows that meditation is effective in decreasing stress and anxiety levels, lowering blood pressure, increasing productivity and improving the ability to focus. And if that’s not enough to spark interest… 100% of insomnia patients reported improved sleep and 91% either eliminated or reduced their sleeping medication use, as published in The American Journal of Medicine.
So, how does one learn to meditate?
There are many different techniques of meditating to suit different personality types. Generally speaking, some techniques involve focusing on a particular object that’s outside of yourself, (i.e. a mantra, the sound of an instrument or a candle’s flame), whereas other techniques involve a broader focus, (i.e. the breath and internal body states). It’s really up to you to work out which technique suits you best.
Personally I love Vipassana meditation. Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnects and conditions the mind. Vipassana is also an art of living, and antidote to all the stresses and strains of life, providing a deep pool of peace and harmony within, resulting in a balanced mind, full of love and compassion. Ten-day courses in this ancient meditation practice are offered in every state of Australia and throughout the world, and if you’re serious about wanting to integrate meditation into your daily life, I highly recommend it.
However, if ten-days of total solitude is more than you’re ready for, your local health food store will most likely have flyers and business cards of meditation classes available in your local area, or you can purchase a meditation CD that will guide you through a practice.
Or, if you’d like to jump right in and start practicing on your own, here are a few tips that I’ve learned over the years:
• Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed and turn your phone off (or on silent mode).
• Find a comfortable place to sit cross legged in lotus position.
• Close your eyes.
• Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your nose.
• Avoid the urge to move, itch, scratch or adjust your clothes.
• Simply sit and observe the breath, and the sensations that are showing up throughout your body.
• Don’t fight the painful sensations hoping that they go away, and don’t hang on to the pleasurable sensations hoping that they stay. Accept that any of the sensations (pleasant or unpleasant) you may be feeling will indeed pass. Just as any cravings or aversions you have in life pass also.
The practice of mediation is a mental training. Just as we use physical exercises to improve our bodily health, meditation can be used to develop a healthy mind.
A final word: Please don’t be discouraged by the frustration of trying to still your mind. Starting anything new is difficult at first. Meditation is a life-long practice. Take baby-steps. Try at first to meditate for just 5 minutes a day. Then 10 minutes and so on. It’s far better to practice for a short period of time every day consistently, than longer durations less frequently.
What meditation technique do you prefer?
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