At its very essence, meditation is the state of consciousness having removed all else—thoughts, memories, and any outside distractions—leaving behind only consciousness. The resulting state of peacefulness, increase in ability to focus, and reduction in stress are a few of the benefits of meditation, and some of the reasons there are millions of devotees of the practice.
Origins of Meditation
Historically, meditation has been used since the Vedas in 1500 BC, evolving within the Hindu religion and eventually becoming part of the practices of Buddhism as well. There is also evidence of meditation being a part of early Judaism, particularly among practitioners of Kabbalah, and the practice continues today in various forms within the Jewish religion. Christian monks used a sort of meditation while reading their biblical texts in order to obtain a more complete understanding of them, and many in the Christian church would acknowledge that the act of praying the rosary (which requires the recitation of 53 “Hail Mary’s”, among other prayers) is a form of meditation for Christians. St. Albert the Great (1200 AD – 1280 AD) was quoted as saying, “One gains more merits from meditating lovingly on the Passion than by scourging oneself most severely or by fasting on bread and water every day of one’s life.” It is clear that throughout history, meditation has been an important part of man’s search for elevated understanding of life and self.
Steps for Successful Meditation
While there are myriad ways of practicing meditation, there are certain steps that seem to be exercised fairly universally. Generally, expert practitioners of meditation agree on employing most of the following steps in order to perform successful meditation:
- STEP 1: Allocate an area that is conducive to achieving a meditative state. In other words, find a space where distractions are at a minimum. Some practitioners recommend the lighting of a candle or incense before meditation to set a certain tone or create a relaxed atmosphere.
- STEP 2: Sit on the floor or in a chair with the back straight. While some prefer a cross-legged or “lotus” posture while meditating, this pose is not required and is, in fact, not practical or even possible for those with physical limitations, and most experts agree that as long as the back remains straight and the shoulders back, a full meditative state can be achieved. (Lying down is not usually recommended, especially for those new to meditation, as it can lead to sleepiness.)
- STEP 3: Relax the mind and try to remove all thoughts from your consciousness. Some find this easier to achieve through focusing on breathing, inhaling and exhaling deeply and focusing only on the sound and the feeling of the air going in and out of the body.
- STEP 4: Silently repeat a mantra you have chosen in your mind without moving your lips. A mantra may be something as simple as “Om” (Sanskrit for “one song”). Its main purpose is to help you achieve a state of clear-mindedness, but it may also instill in you a sense of inner peace which continues long after meditation has ended. You may choose instead to visualize on an object or deity, such as Shiva or Jesus. This can be more challenging for some than mantra repetition, however, as it may spur thoughts affiliated with the object of your visualization, so this may be a style more suited to expert meditators.
- STEP 5: Continue the repetition or visualization for 20 to 30 minutes. (Some advanced practitioners meditate for much longer sessions, but 20 to 30 minutes of true meditation will provide anyone with excellent benefits.) In the beginning, you may wish to start with shorter durations and work your way up to longer meditation sessions.
- STEP 6: Once you have completed the five steps above, it is important not to abruptly go back about the regular business of your day, but rather allow your mind and body some time to readjust and move gradually into a more conscious state. Keep your eyes closed for a few minutes after your meditation session is completed and you feel you are ready to end the session.
While the steps above are the basics of most modern-day meditation, there are many variations of basic meditation which are also widely practiced, a few of which are described below.
Types of Meditation Widely Practiced Today
Mindfulness meditation, which has its roots in Buddhist Vipassana teachings, is a great place for those new to meditation to begin. The practice of mindful meditation involves simply being present and observant of one’s physical being, including inhalation and exhalation and the somatic experiences of our body. When thoughts enter the mind, we can simply acknowledge them and re-focus our minds on being present.
Primordial Sound Meditation
The origins of Primordial Sound Meditation, or PSM, are with the Vedas of India, but Deepak Chopra and David Simon are credited with founding the latest techniques of PSM and (re)introducing it to the masses. Using Vedic formulas, a precise “mantra” or sound is given to you which is based on the sound vibrations of the universe at the exact location and moment of your birth. The concept is that by creating a personalized mantra that is unique to you, you will achieve the ultimate fulfillment obtainable through meditation.
Zen (Zazen) Meditation
While quieting the mind in a seated position is a part of Zen (also called “Zazen”, Japanese for “seated”) meditation, it differs from other meditation forms in that it generally requires eyes to remain semi-open throughout. Hands, palms facing upward, are resting one on top of the other on the lap, with the tips of the thumbs touching. Maintaining this hand position is believed to assist in retaining focus throughout the meditation. Many Zen Meditation practitioners prefer the presence of a teacher or guide during their practice.
Sanskrit for “coiled one”, Kundalini differs from many other forms of meditation in that its goal is accessing the energy found within the base of the spine. The deep meditation entered into while practicing Kundalini meditation is said to result in spiritual awakening and enlightenment. In order to achieve the ultimate benefits of Kundalini meditation, a variety of different breathing techniques (pranayama), hand placements (mudra) and mantras may be required and will vary based on the objective of the meditation. For example, the techniques used may be quite different if your goal is to eliminate addictive behaviors than if your intent is to increase your energy output.
The practice of transcendental meditation, or TM, is said to be the most widely practiced of all meditation styles throughout the world. It was founded in India in the 1950’s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, although it also finds its roots in Vedic traditions. Although the Maharishi had already trained thousands of his countrymen to practice transcendental meditation, it became most popular once embraced and brought stateside by celebrities such as The Beatles and members of The Beach Boys, and is now said to have more than a million devotees. While the practice of TM requires adhering to specific breathing techniques and repeating a mantra, most practitioners complete a course to become proficient transcendental meditators. During the training, each student is assigned a confidential mantra which has been divined from a variety of factors, sometimes including the year the instructor was trained. It is generally advised that transcendental meditation be practiced twice each day for 20 minutes per session.
Eliminating Barriers to Successful Meditation
While many newcomers to meditation can find it difficult to embrace, with consistent practice and effort, successful meditation can be achieved by anyone. Eliminating barriers to achieving your meditational goals are crucial to your success. One such obstacle may be attempting to meditate in an atmosphere that does not allow complete immersion in your practice. Be sure to create an environment that will allow your mind to be free from distractions. Another common issue is a feeling of sleepiness when the practice of meditation is embarked upon. One way to combat this issue is through changing your meditation schedule to engage at times when you are more rested. Many beginners also find that feeling fidgety or anxious is a sign that perhaps, “meditation is just not for me.” In fact, the opposite is true. You will find that, with the continued practice of meditation, you will be more capable than ever of controlling your restlessness and disquietude. The key is to persevere and enrich your knowledge and skill, as you will with each meditation session, regardless of the style you prefer to practice.
© 2017 5th Dimensional Quantum Healing & Awareness by Author: Roisin Herrera