Friday, September 5, 2008

Do Yoda Proud: Meditation 101

By Dick Ingersoll

Meditation means to be in a state where your body and mind are consciously relaxed and centered. Practitioners of this art report enhanced understanding, center, and concentration, as well as a more optimistic attitude in life.

Meditation is most commonly associated with monks, shaman and other spiritual controls. Nonetheless, you do not have to be a monk or mystic to enjoy its benefits. And you don't even need to have a particular place to practice it. You could even try it in your own front room!

Although there are several varying approaches to meditation, the basic principles never change. The most significant of these principles is that of eliminating obstructive, pessimistic, and drifting thoughts and fantasies, and soothing the mind with a deep sense of focus. This empties the mind of rubbish and prepares it for a higher quality of activity.

The negative thoughts you have - whether it be of loud neighbors, bossy officemates, that parking fine you received, and irritating junk mail- are said to contribute to the 'polluting'|"Cluttering"| of the mind, and closing them out permits for the 'cleansing' of the mind so that it may focus on deeper, more important thoughts.

Some practitioners even close out all sensory input - no sights, no sounds, and nothing to touch - and try to remove themselves from the chaos around them. You might now focus on a deep, insightful thought if this is your goal. It might seem unbearable at first, since we are all too use to always hearing and viewing things, but as you persist this exercise you will discover yourself becoming more conscious of all that is around you.

If you find the meditating methods you see on television threatening - those with ridiculously arched backs, and painful-looking contortions - you need not worry. The point here is to be in a relaxing position favorable to concentration. This may be while sitting cross-legged, standing, lying down, and even walking.

If the position permits you to be at ease and become centered, then that would be a positive starting point. While sitting or standing, the back should be straight, but not so as to be uncomfortable. In other positions, the only no-no is slouching and falling asleep.

Unrestrictive, breathable clothes makes a big difference in the process since ill- fitting clothes have a tendency to bind you up and leave you feeling tense.

The location in which you practice your meditation should have a soothing atmosphere. It might be in your front room, or bedroom, or any other area that you feel relaxed in. You might want an exercise mat if you plan to take on the more challenging positions (if you feel more focused doing so, and if the contortionist in you is screaming for release). You may want to have the place arranged so that it is soothing to your senses.

Absolute quiet helps most people relax and meditate, so you might want a noise free, undisturbed area far from the jingling of the phone or the humming of the washing machine. Pleasing scents also help in that regard, so having on hand many aromatic candles isn't such a bad idea either.

The monks you see on television humming those monotonous sounds are in reality just performing their mantra. This, in simple terms, is a short creed, a simple sound which, for these practitioners, holds a spiritual value.

You do not need to perform such; although, it would be beneficial to note that focusing on repetitive actions such as breathing, and humming help the performer to gain a higher state of awareness.

The principle here is center. You may also try becoming centered on a particular object or thought, or even, while keeping your eyes open, focus on a single sight.

One example routine would be to - while in a meditative state - in your head name every part of you body and centering your consciousness on that part. While in this process you should be conscious of any tension on any part of your body. Mentally visualize letting go of this tension. It works like magic.

In summary, meditation is a relatively risk-free practice and its rewards are well worth the effort (or non-effort - don't forget we're relaxing).

Studies have discovered that meditation does bring about beneficial physiologic effects to the body. And there has been a rising consensus in the medical community to further study the effects of such. So in the near future, who knows, that spiritual, esoteric thing we call meditation may turn into a science itself!

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