Editors Note: When I had the idea to discuss the topic of meditation this month, I immediately thought of the one person I know that has had a solid meditation practice in place for years – by Brother-in-law Eric. Lucky for me, he just happens to be a writer as well. This post provides everything you need to know to get started with meditation. It’s the perfect beginners guide! Thanks Eric!
Technology is continually exploding the amount of information we process. The Internet has become a conduit for so much intelligence it is literally impossible to keep up. Businesses and social lives have been swept up in the momentum; the need to stay current, perform jobs, raise kids, and maintain a social lives means that we have to be thinking, communicating, remembering things all the time.
When we spend most of our time in our heads we run the risk of identifying ourselves with the contents of our knowledge.
We can get so caught up in accomplishing things and remembering dates and processing ideas that we never stop thinking. Even when we’re not purposefully thinking, our minds wander to ideas and objects, memories and daydreams, perpetually.
When the brain is overtaxed our whole self pays the cost with anxiety and illness.
Meditation aims to give our minds a break from thinking, if only for a moment. The beautiful side effect of the practice is that minor successes or even failures can still help to tone down our mental noise. When the noise is reduced we can begin to unwind ourselves from the web of language and thought and realize that we are more than this. We have higher faculties like love and inspiration to attend to.
How do I meditate?
When I first sat down to meditate I was stumped. My brain had always been thinking, so not-thinking seemed very strange. I enjoyed reading books about meditating, which of course filled my mind with concepts and terms and goals and confusion.
I started by putting on very sedate music and stared at a candle. This got my brain used to intentional down time and gave my mind something to focus on. I realized my mind wanders because it has been consistently inundated with words and thoughts since birth. Our minds, being brought up in the culture they have, don’t know anything else.
Getting the mind to relax is tricky. The brain is connected by the central nervous system to our entire bodies. If there is any agitation or tension then our minds aren’t working at full capacity. This is why the physical side of yoga is effective. Hatha yoga is meant to gently open and awaken our nervous system, and to circulate the natural energies (be they blood, electrolytes, oxygen, prana, whatever you like). It can be hard to find the time, but physical relaxation is a crucial preparation for meditation.
Get into a comfortable position, one that lets you sit still for a long time. Stillness is the best situation to be in for meditation. If you can relax enough to essentially ‘forget’ your body, you’ll be able to pay greater attention to your mind. Make sure you aren’t going to fall asleep. Just sit quietly and pay attention to your thoughts as they arise. New thoughts will probably bubble up from your subconscious mind. That’s okay.
Notice though that if you intentionally think about a subject, you can move your mind forward along that train of thought without getting too distracted.
An active attention tends to block out the rising of subconscious thoughts. But an active attention finds correspondences in memory and can digress and ramble on ineffectually.
To avoid this we focus attention on our breathing. Without straining, we want to relax into slow, full breaths while keeping our mind trained on the gentle flux of breathing. Subconscious thoughts will still bubble up. That’s totally natural. When you catch yourself thinking about something, understand that it’s just a subconscious bubble.
Let the bubble burst, let the thought go, and ease your attention back onto the breath. Guess what…more thoughts arise. That’s fine. The more we do it, the better we get (like everything), so there is no need for frustration at these thoughts.
Soon you’ll find that you’re catching the thoughts at finer and finer stages. Eventually you might find your attention is completely absorbed in breathing and very few thoughts arise, or the thoughts that arise are quieter, less defined. When your mind slows its thought-generating process, it gets used to the idea that it doesn’t have to constantly whirl like a top to stay up.
You might find a moment of silence. This generally comes with a feeling of bliss.
If you can get that far, you might just meditate for the rest of your life. It worked for me. I meditate at least twice a day and have not missed a single session in many years. It is not a chore; it is something I look forward to every day.
Meditation practice is very personal, and we each develop our own way in our own time.
If you’re looking for more information on meditation techniques, the following books are a beautiful bridge from an ancient Indian tradition to today:
Eric R. Schiller writes and makes movies and music in Toronto. A self-guided veteran of inner exploration, Eric blogs weekly at EricRSchiller.com about spirituality, philosophy, culture, and art. Follow him on Twitter @EricRSchiller.
When it comes to meditation – the resources today are endless. I have many different books and audiobooks which have accumulated over the years. Most recently I wrote about His Holiness the Dalai Lama‘s new book, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. This book features one of the most simple lessons in beginner’s meditation I have come across.
Regularly, Deepak Chopra has 21-Challenges through the Chopra Center which send you daily guided meditations in order to get you in the habit. And there is undoubtedly a Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meditation (so crude) as well, ensuring that the practice is accessible to anyone who may have a slight interest and veer toward that particular series.
It has become clear to me over time that meditation is not optional if ones goal is to find inner peace. Each time I read a new personal growth or spiritual book, or watch a film based on the subject, the topic of meditation and its importance surfaces. Many claim that the answers we are seeking in life will come to us much easier if we are in this meditative state. (Not to mention the overall health benefits!). A claim I have no trouble believing.
The obvious issue with meditation is that it is not something most of us have practiced our whole lives, and so we must create a new habit. Always tricky. Another obstacle is that of questioning results – Am I truly benefiting? I believe that one meditation session provides benefits immediately. Perhaps only surface benefits, but the rest will come.
Today I wanted to share a favorite Gandhi quote, which is completely relevant to this particular subject:
The spiritual weapon of self-purification, intangible as it seems, is the most potent means of revolutionalizing one’s environment and loosening external shackles. It works subtly and invisibly; it is an intense process though it might often seem a weary and long-drawn process, it is the straightest way to liberation, the surest and quickest and no effort can be too great for it. What it requires is faith an unshakable mountain-like faith that flinches from nothing. ~ Gandhi
We would love to hear your meditation stories.
Do you meditate regularly? Do you struggle with finding time? Do you believe you can find inner peace using other practices?
Please share below!
Imagine school-aged children being seated at their desks with their eyes closed – meditating. According to a recent article written by the London Evening Standard, this will be the reality for those attending a new London free school with an anticipated opening date of 2013. Students will receive instruction on Transcendental Meditation techniques once taught to The Beatles in a school setting; an idea that was originated by followers of spiritual “Guru” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Each day, along with their teachers, children will participate in meditation while seated at their desk with their eyes closed. According to Richard Scott, a leader in the bid for the Maharishi type schooling, children are able to think more clearly when their mind is “quieter”.
This quieter state contributes to increased responsiveness, which is ultimately seen in the results experienced. The school is described as a place where the focus is placed on the positive behaviors of students through the implementation of a “consciousness-based” education.
It is noted that benefits of this manner of instruction transcends socioeconomic status, benefiting not only middle class youth but inner city youth as well. Through the implementation of meditation in a school setting Maharishi’s teachings will reach a younger population in hopes that they might achieve more desirable, positive outcomes in the academic setting.
We already know many of the benefits of meditation, particularly TM – including reduction in risk of heart attacks, and relief from symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is interesting to hear that it is being introduced into a state funded school system as well.
Do you practice TM or any meditations by yourselves or with your children? We’d love to hear!
The Quarter-Life Crisis Part 1 focused on where much of society rests today on the spectrum of happiness and overall quality-of-life. Study after study reveal what we already know so well; that most of us are unhappy and many of us struggle with depression throughout our lives.
Yesterday, I shared a brief excerpt from Leo Buscaglia‘s book, Personhood. I wanted to draw attention to this chapter, as it summed up what many of us go through in life. We search, we find a temporary solution, and eventually we revert back to unhappiness. The cycle repeats itself over and over again.
Being in my late twenties, I am right in the midst of this generational rite-of-passage, or so it would seem. I have been on the roller coaster of down and back up, down and back up, and have learned a few things on the way.
Today I wanted to share some of the valuable techniques that I have learned along the way. Some were taught to me, some I read about, and some I learned through trial and error.
#1.) Get in touch with your intuition
It can be difficult to know at first, whether your inner voice is your intuition, or if it is simply the fear that has been instilled through the years. Slowly, over time I have learned to weed through the thoughts and feelings and have began to not only listen to my inner voice, but to trust it completely.
We all have an inner wisdom that goes far beyond our thoughts, we simply need to get in tune with this voice.
This takes practice and patience.
#2.) Question your beliefs
I grew up in a secular home. A Father with a Muslim background, and a Roman Catholic Mother. Though I have wished at times throughout my life that I had the security that I have always believed faith could bring, in retrospect I am happy that I had zero pressure growing up and the freedom to choose my own belief system.
I respect all beliefs, but like many others in Generations X and Y, I have some deep rooted issues with the institution of Religion itself. The separation it brings, and what is done in the name of preserving it in some cultures.
Questioning my beliefs led me through the gamut of many different religions, and I ended up right back where I began. But, with a much greater understanding of faith and perhaps much of the security and comfort I was lacking previously.
For those who identify themselves with a particular religion, sometimes when you begin to question your beliefs it can bring you an even greater understanding and appreciation for your religion.
#3.) Get in touch with nature
I am a city girl at heart, it’s true. However, I live on a farm and live in a city that is completely surrounded by nature. Parks are situated around lakes, and even when you are in the city, you are not far from a nature reserve.
Over the past year I have gained a new respect for Mother Nature and the peace and tranquility she brings us. If I go a single day without a walk, or miss out on a day outside, I do not feel as balanced. Spending time outside allows you to ground yourself and put things into perspective. It often forces you into the present moment as well with its beauty.
#4.) Read, Watch & Listen
The world is overflowing with literature about Spirituality and Personal Growth. If you don’t have time to read, download an audiobook from iTunes and listen on your way to work or on your jog.
If you don’t know where to start, I recently posted the Top 5 Best-Selling Spirituality/Personal Growth books. I have read and loved most of them. Each will contribute to your healing and growing.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to learn more. Watch for coincidences. There is a Buddhist proverb that says it best, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
There are many other changes that can be made to initiate positive change and growth. A healthy diet, meditation, yoga and many other habits could make a big contribution. In fact, meditation is in the news daily with its multitude of health and spiritual benefits.
Today I wanted to share some minor changes that can be made over time. Because, this will take time. Eventually we can all sustain a great level of joy if we work to achieve it. This does not have to be a fleeting feeling.
Spiritual author Deepak Chopra best describes the outcome of personal growth, which is not happiness, but bliss. “Bliss is a profound state of peace that comes from getting in touch with the immortal aspect of your being that is called the soul. Bliss is eternal and cannot be shaken. Happiness is usually situational.”
Deepak Chopra makes an appearance often on this blog. This is due to the fact that he is likely the most interactive modern spiritual leader, using Twitter and other forms of social media to interact with his readers and fans on a regular basis. He also has family involved in various realms of spiritual teaching, with his daughter and son, Mallika Chopra and Gotham Chopra both penning their own books as well as collaborating with their father.
A great example of how Chopra interacts with the online community is the upcoming Chopra Center 21 Day Meditation Challenge™ beginning on August, 15, 2011. The free program, which is in it’s second year, aims to challenge those who wish to form the daily habit of meditation. Studies prove that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, which is what has determined the length of the challenge.
Sign up for the challenge here and you will receive daily guided meditations and instructions from Chopra and business partner David Simon, M.D. Of the challenge Chopra said,
There is a common mistaken assumption that meditation is difficult or that it requires years of practice to receive its benefits. We created the 21-Day Meditation Challenge to offer people step-by-step guidance and help them experience first-hand how practical meditation really is and how immediate and profound the benefits are.”
Are you going to take the 21-day challenge?
Photo: Via Chopra Center’s Facebook
Spiritual author and MD, Deepak Chopra is taking his brand one step further this coming winter by launching a new video game with THQ Inc. featuring “useful tools and meditations, to help you find the mental, emotional, and spiritual balance within you.” The game, titled “Deepak Chopra’s Leela,” is not a new concept, however it will be one of the very few games of this genre available.
Chopra and THQ Inc. worked together and tested over 5oo prototypes of this game, which will utilize the Xbox 360 console’s Kinect system. The game, which translates from the sanskrit word “play,” features seven different exercises based on the seven Chakras. Chopra has taken care to ensure that the game is truly relaxing by making winning or finishing a game irrelevant.
“Leela,” which will launch on November, 8th, 2011 in the United States, is a stepping-stone for a new interactive way of integrating mind, body and soul, says Chopra,
It’s all doable now. We just have to bring it all together. If we can measure what’s happening in your body, your heart, your emotions, your breath and your mind, then there’s no reason why we can’t create a new generation of video games that can help accelerate the personal, psychological, emotional and spiritual development of human beings.”
Source: ABC News
Photo Source : Wiki Commons