A Meditation Primer: Method, Mantra, Mindfulness and More

picture of john kobikI’m old enough to remember the time when meditation got some rough treatment. It was seen as a practice for “hippie types” and health “nuts.” Meditation was considered, well, woo-woo! Today meditation is getting a much kinder reception as it proves its worth in areas like stress and anxiety reduction and addiction recovery.

This report takes some of the mystery out of meditation. It shows you how you can put meditation to work in your life.  

man meditatingMeditation refers to a state where your body and mind are consciously relaxed and focused. Practitioners of this art report increased awareness, focus, and concentration, as well as a more positive outlook on life.

Meditation is most commonly associated with monks, mystics and certain spiritual disciplines. However, you don’t have to be a monk or mystic to enjoy its benefits. And you don’t even have to be in a special place to practice it, although a quiet place is best. You can try it in your own living room if the TV is switched off.

Although there are many different approaches to meditation, the fundamental principles remain the same. The most important among these principles is that of removing obstructive, negative, and wandering thoughts and fantasies, and calming the mind with a deep sense of focus. This clears the mind of clutter and prepares it for a higher quality of activity.

The negative thoughts you have – thoughts of noisy neighbors, bossy colleagues, that parking ticket you got, or unwanted spam – are said to contribute to the ‘polluting’ of the mind, and shutting them out is allows for the ‘cleansing’ of the mind so that it may focus on deeper, more meaningful thoughts and ideas.

Some practitioners even shut out all sensory input – no sights, no sounds, and nothing to touch – and try to detach themselves from the commotion around them. You may now focus on a deep, profound thought if this is your goal. It may seem scary at first since we are all too accustomed to constantly hearing and seeing things, but as you continue this exercise you will find yourself becoming more aware of everything around you.woman meditating

If you find the meditating positions you see in books and elsewhere threatening, you need not worry. The principle here is to be in a comfortable position conducive to concentration. This may be while sitting cross-legged or on a chair, standing, lying down, and even walking.

A good starting point is a position that allows you to relax and focus. While sitting or standing, the back should be straight, but not tense or tight. In other positions, the only no-no is slouching and falling asleep.

Loose, comfortable clothes help a lot in the process since tight fitting clothes have a tendency to restrict you and make you feel tense.

The place you perform meditation should have a soothing atmosphere. It may be in your living room, or bedroom, or any place where you feel comfortable. You might want an exercise mat or cushion if you plan to sit cross-legged on the floor. You may want to have the place arranged so that it is soothing to your senses.

Silence helps most people relax and meditate, so you may want a quiet, isolated area far from the ringing of the phone or the humming of the washing machine. Pleasing scents also help in that regard, so stocking up on aromatic candles or incense isn’t such a bad idea either.

The monks you see on television making those monotonous sounds are actually performing their mantra. This, in simple terms, is a short creed, a simple sound which, for these practitioners, holds a mystic value. You don’t need to perform anything like that. Focusing on your breathing is enough.

The principle here is focus. You do not have to try to control your breathing or anything else, just be aware of it. You could also try focusing on a certain object or thought, or even, while keeping your eyes open, focus on a single sight.

One simple routine is to silently name various parts of your body and focus your awareness on each. While doing this you can be aware of tension in any part. Mentally visualize releasing this tension. This can be very effective.

Studies have shown that meditation does bring about beneficial effects to the body. And there has been a growing consensus in the medical community to further study these effects. In all, meditation is a relatively risk-free practice and its benefits are well worth the effort (or non-effort – remember we’re relaxing!)


JohnK 2-8-2016

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Clipart image of overheardOverheard:  “Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.”

                  ~ J. Krishnamurti

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