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The Basics of Meditation

The Basics of Meditation

by Barb Huning, MA

Meditation is one of the simplest tools you can use to help you become healthier, more loving, compassionate, content, self-assured, and productive. (And to help you tune into your natural psychic ability) It requires no belief or lifestyle change, is non-religious, is not time-consuming, and can be learned by anyone regardless of age or level of education. The transformation people often experience once they learn to meditate, and make it a regular practice in their lives, is to return to their natural state of being.

Yes, this quiet little practice can in fact change your life!

It is our birthright to move gracefully through our lives. There is a boundless well of inner self-help and guidance, inspiration, and healing at our fingertips. All we need to do is open the door. When you meditate, you open this door.

Below I offer some basic instructions for meditation. There are also infinite guided meditation formats which you can use. You will find a way of meditating which works well for you. You will also find that different approaches are perfect for you at different times, and different stages of your development. Once you are comfortable getting into the state of contemplation, you can begin a self-transforming journey which can last forever.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a process of moving from the scattered, unfocused state of our everyday consciousness to a state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity, and bliss. Thoughts generally consume energy in the process of their formation. Constant thought-activity, especially of random nature, can tire the mind and even bring on headache. Meditation attempts to transcend this rather chaotic level of thought activity. Through regular practice we become aware that we are not our thoughts but that there is an awareness that exists independent of thought.

Meditation involves concentrating on something to take our attention beyond the scattered thought activity that is usually going on in our heads. This can involve a solid object or picture, a mantra, breath, or guided visualization.

Typical objects employed include a candle flame or a flower. Some people use pictures, such as a mandala – a highly colored symmetric painting – or a picture of a spiritual teacher in a high meditative state. Mantras are sounds which have a flowing, meditative quality and may be repeated out loud or inwardly. The breath is also a common focal point. Finally, guided visualization is also considered by some to be a form of meditation. A guided visualization can help to bring one into a meditative state; also, visualization may be used once a meditative state has been reached to produce various results.

General Guidelines for Meditation

Put your expectations aside, and don’t worry about doing it right. There are infinite possibilities and no fixed criterion for determining right meditation. There are, however, a few things you should not do:

  • Trying to force something to happen.
  • Over-analyzing the meditation.
  • Trying to make your mind blank or chase thoughts away.
  • Putting too much emphasis on doing it right.

Often we experience sensations in meditation: emotions, feelings of changing size and shape, delight, awe, fear and so on. These are different for everyone, and are part of your own path. Allow yourself to witness and learn from the experience, but do not try or expect to repeat it, or to understand the experience. Accept what is there, ask for nothing and appreciate what is happening.

Although it’s best not to eat for 1/2 hour before and after meditation, it’s not necessary to meditate on a completely empty stomach. If you’re hungry, eat a little something.

Find a quiet, comfortable place to meditate. You can sit in a comfortable chair, on the bed, on the floor… anywhere that’s comfortable.

Eliminate as much noise and as many potential distractions as possible. Don’t worry about those things that you can not control.

When you sit to meditate, sit comfortably, with your spine reasonably straight. This allows the life force energy to flow freely up the spine, which is an important aspect of meditation. Leaning against a chair back, a wall, headboard, etc. is perfectly all right. If, for physical reasons, you can’t sit up, lay flat on your back.

Place your hands in any position that is comfortable.

If it does not go against your beliefs, call on a “higher source” for assistance in your meditation. This can be very helpful, but it is not absolutely necessary.

When to Meditate

While meditation is beneficial at any time, most people who meditate agree that early morning is the best time to meditate. Our bodies have cycles of receptivity for different kinds of activities, and very early morning is good for quiet contemplation and spiritual rejuvenation. Having an early morning meditation also lets us carry some of the energy and peace of the meditation into our daily activities.

Many people also meditate either before dinner or later in the evening. Others also meditate at noon. A short meditation at these times allows one to throw off some of the accumulated stress of the work-day and become rejuvenated for further activity. An important consideration is when your schedule will allow you to meditate. Having a time of the day set aside for meditation helps in maintaining regularity. However, it is better to meditate when you can, rather than not meditate at all. Don’t let an erratic schedule keep you from this helpful practice.

Meditate in Moderation

More meditation is not necessarily better. Meditation taps into very powerful inner energies. These energies are very healing and uplifting, but it takes some time to become accustomed to their higher frequency, and is best done gradually.

Also, healing often includes the release of energy and emotional imbalances. This may be particularly noticeable when you are first beginning to meditate (during or outside of meditation). If this initial detoxification is accomplished gently, you will be more comfortable and enjoy the process of healing through meditation.

Generally the experiences when one begins to meditate are quite enjoyable. People often report feeling more peaceful, positive, loving and centered in daily life. Many experience new insights and greater clarity.

How do I know when my meditation time is up?

When you think that your designated time is up, open one eye and peek at the clock. This won’t bring you all the way out of meditation. If there is still time left, close your eye and continue. You can also set a watch alarm or musical alarm, or place a wind-up kitchen timer under a pillow.

Living Meditation…. Is it possible to learn to live from the calm state I experience while meditating?

Yes! Once you have become comfortable reaching the meditative state, you will find yourself able to “remember” the meditative state during your normal daily activities. This practice, called “mindfulness” or “living meditation” enables us to act, react, plan, conduct our relationships, do our work, and create our lives within the calm awareness of our connectedness and harmony with all creation. This does not mean you are in a deep meditative state all the time- otherwise you could not function. Practice this “remembering” whenever you find yourself feeling tense or upset, or while doing a repetitive activity like washing the dishes or walking. Continue your regular meditation practice as usual.

During this time you will continue to deepen your inner balance and feeling of connection with all of life, and engage in higher learning and healing. By having dozens of techniques to draw upon, no matter what situation you face in life, you will have a technique available to you to handle any situation which arises.

There are specific meditation techniques for emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual activity and reactivity, all of which bring a deep feeling of harmony. No matter what you are doing at any given time, you will be able to maintain a calm self-control that lets you avoid the emotional distress, mental confusion, and physical helplessness that not being in a meditative state can bring.

Beginning Meditation Technique

Observation of the Breath

The breath bring us life. It brings oxygen on the physical level, it brings life force on the energetic level, and it brings inspiration on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels. When our breath is full and open, we are vibrantly alive. Focusing on the breath is a wonderful way to revitalize ourselves on many levels. It is also a simple technique for calming and focusing the awareness. For beginners, it a simple practice which can be done at any time, and is for this reason is a great place to start in learning to meditate.

  • Sit in a comfortable, quiet place with your spine relatively straight to allow the free flow of life force through your breath.
  • Close your eyes, or if you prefer, sit with your eyes slightly open and gazing downward. If you wish, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind the teeth.
  • Take a few moments to allow your breath to become calm and regular, but do not force it- allow it to take it’s natural pace in and out of your body.
  • Place your hand, palm facing downwards on your tummy. Gently breathe in and feel your hand being pushed outwards as your intake of air fills your diaphragm – to a gentle slow count of 1.. 2.. 3.. 4..As you breathe in, feel it rising up the front of your body, reaching the top of your head as your lungs fill completely…
  • Hold your breath – without straining – to a gentle slow count of 1.. 2.. 3.. 4..
  • Exhale slowly to the same count of 1.. 2.. 3.. you exhale, feel the breath cascading down the back of your body, reaching your toes as you release the last of your breath..
  • And finally hold again for 1.. 2.. 3.. 4…
  • Continue to breathe in and out with awareness of your breath in this manner for as long as you are able. If a thought intrudes, gently guide the attention back to your breath. Do not try to push the thought away, but simply return attention to your breath.

Enjoy the experience of your own breath. With each breath, you experience the Divine Life within you.

NOTE: You should NOT feel dizzy, out of breath, or any ill effects from this “Circular Breath”. If you do, change the count until it feels comfortable for you. We all breathe at a different rate. There is no right or wrong way.

Enjoy! Barbara Huning

Barb Huning, is an experienced psycho-therapist who has dedicated her life to to helping people connect with the power and guidance of our Higher Selves.

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