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Meditation is a very powerful tool. As the mind quiets down, our sagging spirits are revived and we feel more in control of our lives. While meditation is part of many religions, it not a religion itself. It is a method of internalising the mind from its usual involvement in the busyness of life to achieve a deep state of relaxation and detached awareness.
Meditation has many different uses and it can be applied into practically every aspect of your life. Children do it naturally. Have you ever watched a child so absorbed in play that they aren't even aware of anything else? Meditation requires that you acquire this type of absorption. This absorption is what refreshes and heals.
This state is meant to be a prior experience to and lead to self-realization, though it can simply be used for the many benefits of inner peace and mental clarity. Different meditation techniques claim different benefits acquired in four levels: emotional - mental - physical - spiritual.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic doctors of India have used meditation for many thousands of years to maintain a healthy mind and body, bringing emotional and mental equilibrium as well as physical benefits. Transcendental Meditation (TM) uses a mantra, repeated mentally, to induce a state of deep relaxation. Research shows it lowers blood pressure, protects against heart and circulation problems and increases perception. You can also meditate by focusing on any mantra or an image such as a mandala or a candle flame, or on your own relaxed breathing. Other forms of meditation like “Vipassana”, observe in silence all that is going on outside and inside without getting involved.
Vietnamese “Mindfulness Meditation” aims to bring full attention to normal daily acts such as washing dishes, sweeping the floor or answering the phone. In yoga this is called “Karma Yoga” and is the yoga of mindful action. This type of meditation aims to still the busy mind, let go of past or future concerns and become present to the truth of now.
Australian psychiatrist Dr Ainslie Meares found a significant reduction of stress and discomfort in his cancer patients from using simple meditation techniques. Many doctors now suggest that their patients meditate as a regular component of their health management program. Heart disease, cancer, AIDS and immune disorders, all show clinical improvement from meditation practice, since the regular practice of meditation has been shown to enhance immune function.
Scientific research has shown that meditation has many great benefits such as:
Learning To Meditate
Learning to meditate is easy, but you must keep these three important factors in mind at all times:
1. POSTURE - the important thing is to keep the spine straight because this positions the spinal nerves correctly and helps keep you alert, rather than sleepy.
2. BREATH -
after you have relaxed and prepared the body, the breathing needs to be
slow, even and diaphragmatic. By controlling the breath, you directly
influence the autonomic processes in your body, like immunity,
circulation and digestion.
3. ATTITUDE - Try to have a relaxed, confident attitude. Don't worry about “doing it perfectly” Just take the time to practice and with time you will discover a method that works for you.As a beginner, you will notice that your thoughts keep wondering in one direction, then another. Keep returning your attention, as best as you can, to the objective of your meditation, whether it is the mantra or visualization.
To enable you to have better control in meditation, it is best to insulate yourself from outside influences. This can be done by creating a special place in the house or can be done by wearing a robe or blanket covering you from head to foot. You can use a spare bed sheet or light blanket for this purpose. Whatever you use, whether you buy a special robe, or make your own, this robe should be used for meditation only. You should not wear it for any other purposes and it should be kept safely away so that no one else can touch it or use it, because if another person touches it or tries it on, you then have that person's influence in the robe - which you are trying to avoid - and so you have another obstacle. By meditating under this insulated, isolated condition, you are more immune from outside influences.
DAYDREAMING while meditating will not produce the same results. Also planning shopping or other thinking processes while you sit there interferes with the desired outcome. If you are meditating, just meditate.
Breath Awareness Meditation
This meditation can be done morning or evening, before eating or a couple of hours after eating. Choose a comfortable position which allows you to sit upright, loosen or remove any tight clothing. Close your eyelids and keep the head relaxed and facing forward. Make sure your spine is upright and let your hands rest easily on your lap, palms turned upwards as a sign of receptivity. Inhale a full yogic breath to the count of four and slowly exhale to the count of six. Repeat up to 12 times. Assume normal breathing and observe as the body expands with each in-breath and contracts with each out-breath. The mind wanders but bring it back and simply observe the natural, uncontrolled flow of breath.
Bhramari is both a pranayama and a meditation. It produces a humming sound like a bumble bee. There are two sounds, one with inhalation and one with exhalation. The inhalation is the same as ujjayi, while the outward breath is louder and longer. Bhramari is a powerful reliever of stress and cerebral tension, alleviating anger, anxiety and insomnia. It has a soothing effect on the body and mind. It is used in yoga to relax, go inwards, awaken sensitivity and to raise the awareness of subtle vibrations and sound. It is recommended to help the mind become introverted as an aid to relaxation and as a meditation
Sit in any meditation pose, not laying down, before eating or a couple of hours after eating.The first finger of each hand is placed in each ear to block out sound and apply a small pressure to receptors in the ear. Keep the eyes closed and the teeth slightly apart. Breathe in with Ujayii, breathing out make a long Huuuummmmmmmmm or Ommmmmmmmmm sound. Practice for 5-10 minutes at any time of the day.
So Ham Meditation
This meditation can be done any time day or night, before eating or a couple of hours after eating. Choose any comfortable position upright or laying down which allows you keep the spine straight. Loosen or remove any tight clothing. Close the eyes and keep the head relaxed. The hands rest on the lap or on the floor if lying, palms turned upwards as a sign of receptivity. Inhale a full yogic breath to a count of four - exhale to a count of six. Repeat up to 12 times. Assume normal breathing and simply observe as the body expands with the in-breath and contracts with each out-breath.
Begin to mentally repeat the mantra “So” (pronounced sew) on each in-breath and “Ham” (pronounced hum) on each out-breath. “So” means “I” and “Ham” means “am”, then when they merge together it also makes “Ham so” which means “That which is” or “Truth.” So in effect you are saying to yourself “I am truth.” You can also use the English or Chinese equivalent words if you prefer.
The mind will wander but gently bring it back and simply observe the natural, uncontrolled flow of breath.
Walking meditation can be done almost anywhere anytime to help keep you centered and calm. Choose any mantra or prayer like: Gayatri mantra; Om mani padme hum; Om namah shivay; Hail Mary full of grace, blessed is the fruit of thy womb – Jesus
Any mantra that you feel comfortable with is fine and you simply repeat it mentally in time with each step as you go about walking. It sets up a rhythm and grounds the mind as you go about daily business, helping to keep mental and emotional distractions at bay. Remember to keep on the lookout for cars and other dangerous things.
Om Chanting Meditation 1 - Short Aum
This meditation can be done morning or evening, before eating or 2 hours after for ten minutes or so, gradually increasing time up to twenty minutes. Choose any comfortable seated position which allows you to sit upright, loosen or remove any tight clothing. Make sure your spine is straight and if in a chair also have the bottom of your feet resting on the floor to keep you grounded. Keep the head relaxed and facing forward. Close the eyes. Inhale a deep breath to the count of four and slowly exhale to the count of six. Repeat five or six times, then assume normal breathing. Mentally repeat the short mantra “aum” (or Amen) over and over without moving lips or tongue. As you mentally repeat the mantra “aum - aum – aum” if any thoughts arise, just gently push them aside.
Om Chanting Meditation 2 – Long Aum
This meditation can be done morning or evening, before eating or 2 hours after for ten minutes or so, gradually increasing time up to twenty minutes. It is very calming and centring and also helps to focus the mind inwards. There are many versions of this practice, simple and more complex. This is the easy one. Choose a comfortable upright seated position. Make sure the spine is straight and if in a chair have the bottom of the feet on the floor to keep grounded. Keep the head relaxed and facing forward. Close the eyes. Inhale a deep, full yogic breath to the count of four and slowly exhale to the count of six. Repeat five or six times, then assume normal uncontrolled breathing. Inhale again in a full yogic breath then chant out load but quietly the long mantra “aum” (or Amen) during the long exhalation, contracting the abdomen in at the end to comfortably extend the out breath. More advanced practitioners can move the awareness up the spine with each in-breath and down the spine with each out-breath and aum chant. Feel the vibration expanding out in all directions.
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