Meditation Changes Lives
Have you always fancied meditating but never been quite sure what it was all about or how to get started? Meditation has become part of my life since I was seriously ill about 8 years ago. I started to meditate out of desperation. I had a big need to survive and so I was prepared to try anything. I’m so glad I did. Not only did I survive but I’ve come to depend on my meditation practice to keep me in touch with my inner self and through it I have learnt to go with the flow of life.
Debunking the myths
To get to understand meditation bit better, it’s really important to take a look some of the myths and mysteries surrounding it and to get quite clear in our minds what meditation is not and is not.
Firstly, meditation is not concentration. When you concentrate on something your attention is firmly fixed on the activity or subject. With meditation you simply remain in a state of awareness without focusing on anything in particular.
Secondly, meditation is not relaxation. Yes, meditation makes you feel relaxed but that’s only part of the story. Many times, during courses, people announce that they are attending the course “to relax” but this is not the primary reason for meditating.
Next, meditation is not a religious practice. Anybody, regardless of nationality, religion or background, can meditate.
Nor is it self-hypnosis. In hypnosis the subject will very often lose his awareness of the present. By contrast, when we meditate we stay conscious of the process and remain very much in the here and now.
Finally, meditation is not thinking. Our mind chatter starts when we waken up and finishes when we go to sleep. It takes us through the ups and downs of the day. It never stops. Meditation allows us to rise above the thought process and to enter into a state of awareness that is independent of these thoughts.
A bit of background
It might help us decide if meditation could be for us if we know a little about its origin. Mankind has always been super-curious about the universe and his place in it. Since the dawn of time, he has asked questions like: “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” Why is there so much suffering?” “Is anyone in control of everything?” and so on. As man evolved, he started to look for answers. Two groups evolved. Some individuals went in search of answers in the outside world and, as a result of their search, discovered laws of nature and began the world of science.
Another group decided to look within themselves. They reasoned that if a creator created the world then the creator had also created them. To find out more they needed to go further within and their search gave rise to meditation. They dared to enter deeper and deeper within themselves, and, in their meditative states became aware of a supreme consciousness which is present throughout the whole of the universe.
Why meditate? The benefits
Meditating takes us inside ourselves to search out the supreme consciousness for ourselves, and there are benefits to doing this in our everyday lives.
Meditation can benefit the meditator, it can benefit the meditator’s family and friends and it can benefit society in general.
With practice, the meditator feels calm and at ease, memory improves as does self-confidence. Situations that provoked an angry response no longer hold sway over us. Work and study benefit, and the meditator enjoys a healthy mind and a healthy body.
Family life becomes more satisfactory and there is an increased ability to be self-disciplined and focused. Self-discipline leads to an atmosphere of honesty and trust and there is a greater willingness to care for other members of society.
The majority of serious social problems originate from mind degeneration. In a perfect world, with everyone meditating, problems of crime and social injustice would be diminished.
Can anyone meditate?
The big, loud answer to this is “Yes.” Anyone can meditate anytime, anywhere.
Meditation is a systematic way of quietening our mind so that we can contact our true self or at least become aware that it exists. If you have a mind and you know how to read or listen then you have everything you need in order to start meditating. No matter who we are, we are all part of the same consciousness.
To make things easier if you have never meditated before, there are a couple of things you should know. Firstly, meditation is really quite a simple process. Our objective is to travel from our logical, analytical mind to our intuitive mind. In order for meditation on be most effective, you should develop habits which will enhance your practice.
- First of all, find a special place and decide to use it for meditating. It may be a place in your house or it may be a favourite place in your garden. Wherever you choose, treat it with reverence. This is the place that will inspire you.
- Secondly, choose the time of day that suits you best to do your meditation and practice at the same time each day. Establish a routine. Many people find it best to do their meditation when they get up in the morning before their daily routine starts. You could also meditate just before going to bed as it may help you sleep better.
- Next, prepare yourself physically as well as mentally. If you don’t take a shower, wash your hands and face, put on some loose, comfortable clothes and take off your shoes. Don’t eat a large meal just before you meditate.
- Now, sit comfortably. We often see people sitting cross-legged but it’s not really necessary. Just be at ease. The important thing is to keep your back straight and I often find that sitting on a cushion on the floor with my back lightly supported by a wall, works well. An upright chair with your feet firmly on the floor is good too.
- Once you have got yourself comfortable, relaxed but alert, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice as your breath enters your nostrils. Start to count your inhalations and exhalations. Count the inhalation and the exhalation as 1, then repeat for 2. Try to keep your focus on the breath. Thoughts will enter your mind and that’s OK. Just acknowledge them, let them float through and then quickly return to your breathing. Each time you become aware of a thought entering your mind, go back to the beginning and start again at 1. See if you can make it to 10 breaths.
- Don’t try to meditate for too long at the beginning. Five to six minutes at the outside is probably sufficient. If you have a Zen clock or just the buzzer on your watch, set it for the amount of time you want to meditate.
- At the end of the time, open your eyes slowly, stretch your arms and legs and go about your daily life. Don’t rush this, leaving a meditative state needs the same respect and celebration as entering and being in the state.
From my own experience, meditation is worth a try. Many medical practitioners are recommending it nowadays in place of medication. I cannot actually put into words the changes that have occurred in me since starting my meditation practice but I am aware of changes, changes for the better. It takes time and commitment to begin to feel these changes but I certainly recommend giving it a try. The ancient wisdom traditions of the world are beckoning us and the world has never needed them more.