When beginning to meditate it can help us to find out what works best for us as an individual, how we can best relax initially, and to get rid of any preconceived ideas we have that we doing it “right” or “wrong”. Meditation doesn’t have to be all about sitting cross-legged and chanting Om if this doesn’t appeal to you, there are many different ways to meditate and you may already be doing it sometimes, without even realising! One of the keys to meditation, is about realising.
The Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are many and may include quietening the mind, stress and anxiety reduction, increased intelligence consciousness and awareness, stronger intuition, better memory, creativity, increased focus and concentration and pain relief. These benefits do not occur overnight, more often as a result of steady continued practise. Spending just 10 minutes a day is a small commitment to your wellbeing and self-development.
A form of meditation, that some may already be familiar with, is “counting sheep” to try to get to sleep. When we try to visualise sheep leaping over a gate in the field it may soon become obvious that suddenly we’re thinking about something else and have been for while without even realising it, we might not have even noticed when we actually slipped into another thought. This can demonstrate how untamed the mind, how out focus and concentration can so easily stray and how little control we may have over our thoughts.
Beginning to Meditate
When you first begin the most important thing is to be relaxed, initially just find a position that is comfortable for you, whether it’s sitting upright in a chair with your feet on the floor, cross-legged on a bean bag, or lying down somewhere. Try to find somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. Light some incense if you want to. Do what you feel you want to do, do what you feel guided to do; if you experience a moment of inspiration go with it. I couldn’t do visualisation meditations initially, because I was blocked, whereas I felt more comfortable with Insight (or Mindful) Meditation, where the flow of thoughts that come into the mind are watched. Some people work very well with guided meditation CDs and there are many of these on the market. Other people find that simply focusing on a piece or music composed specifically for meditation or relaxation. You know how you feel, so trust that. Work with yourself!
If you don’t feel like meditating, don’t force yourself to do it just because you think you should, go with how you feel — pay attention to your feelings, at some point you may naturally feel when you are ready to, that you want to cultivate a more disciplined meditative practice.
The subject of meditation can be quite confusing in that there seem to be many different types of meditation, such as transcendental, Buddhist, biblical, walking, chanting or mantra meditations, sound meditation, technology induced meditation etc etc. Perhaps we are drawn to the meditations that are most suited to us for that part of our journey and that’s part of trusting ourselves, instead of asking someone else. This is one of the wonderful things about meditation, we find our own answers! There is less of a need to go to others for readings or advice when we find the answers within – this is self-empowerment. Broadly speaking, meditation falls into two categories, mindful meditation and concentrative.
Mindful or Insight Meditation
This involves watching the thoughts that we have, becoming aware of them and just allowing them to occur, rather than getting attached to them, it is similar to daydreaming. For example while ironing or washing up we may become lost in our own little world, allowing the thoughts to flow naturally. If you can relate to this then that might be the natural way for you to begin. Making the decision to consciously meditate and setting the time aside, the process will be more powerful as there is conscious participation on your part and with this will come awareness of the thoughts that you are having. When we begin to consciously pay attention and watch the thoughts, this is when the insights and realisations occur and our own answers come.
Mindful meditation can serve to increase our self-awareness, including how our physical body responds, the patterns of thoughts that we have, the feelings that we have etc. The thoughts float by, we don’t necessarily become entangled or preoccupied with them, just let them float by and allow what naturally comes next to surface. This technique is good for unravelling insight and getting in touch with yourself, as threads of thought can often tangled up with other threads that we may not imagine could be linked. It can work very much like an untangling process as it allows thoughts to surface very naturally, at the pace that is right for us, from the subconscious. It can also be a time to allow ourselves the time to sit with feelings, sometimes painful ones, and just allow them to be there knowing that things do change and they will eventually subside. Pay attention to yourself – if at any point you feel uncomfortable stop meditating and if appropriate gain professional advice.
This involves focusing on something specific, such as counting the breath, malla beads, prayer beads, a candle, a flower, a mandala, a word or mantra, or a specific subject or issue that we would like to contemplate. As we focus on the specific item or thought, we consciously try to clear the mind of creeping thoughts, acknowledging them then gently pushing them away. This is where we really begin to gain control of the mind and thus we can understand from this how we can create our own realities by the thoughts that we choose.
Never the same twice!
When we have wonderful experiences during meditation, such as gaining insight, experiencing sensations that we’ve never had before, meeting spirit guides and angels, it is easy to fall into the trap of hoping that the next time that we meditate it will happen again. It’s never the same twice. By letting go of the outcome and our expectations of what will happen each time we meditate and being open to new experiences in the Now, we are also letting go of the ego’s desire. The more we try, the less relaxed we are, the more we close up, and so we learn to just allow and thus remain more open.
Barriers to Meditation
‘I don’t have the time’
This is something that is often said as a barrier or block to meditation and from this we can learn as it highlights our priorities – sometimes it may be relevant, other times it may be an excuse. It is about making the time for our self, prioritising our needs and taking care of ourselves. Meditation can be about 5 minutes a day to start with; meditating by counting your breaths in the bath or shower is a good start – work with yourSelf, work it in with what you do. Paying attention to what we are eating and being mindful of each mouthful is in itself a form of meditation. It is about becoming more conscious and aware.
‘It’s too noisy to meditate’
Great! We should be able to meditate anywhere, it might be a challenge to do so, but ultimately it serves us well to be able to block out the noise and stay focused on the task to hand – that is part of quelling the monkey mind!
‘I can it concentrate’
Then don’t force it. There maybe other matters that need your attention first. Perhaps there are certain thoughts that you have been pushing to the back of your mind, that are crying out to be heard. Listen to yourself, what is your Self trying to say to you? What are you not hearing or paying attention to? Or is it your mind playing tricks and a barrier to push through – you decide!
‘I keep getting interrupted’
You could try setting the intention that you will not be disrupted unless it is of importance (or you could always pull the plug on the phone). Letting those around you know that you are meditating and asking them not to disturb you is an important part of setting your boundaries.
‘I don’t feel like meditating’
That’s fine, you might find at some point you feel drawn to meditation, but it isn’t for everyone.
“Remember one thing: meditation means awareness. Whatsoever you do with awareness is meditation. Action is not the question, but the quality that you bring to your action. Walking can be a meditation if you walk alertly. Sitting can be a meditation if you sit alertly. Listening to the birds can be a meditation if you listen with awareness. Just listening to the inner noise of your mind can be a meditation if you remain alert and watchful.”Osho