Sunday, December 27, 2015

Meditation Techniques

          Meditation is a way to explore your inner self. In today's society when people always have technology in their faces and when there is always something going on. This quite time with ourselves is much needed. It gives us peace of mind and solitude in an otherwise loud and busy world. Meditation has been around for thousands of years. The activity of mediation appeared in very ancient times. Historians located early cases in Phoenician commerce. The practice developed in Ancient Greece, then in Roman civilization. Roman law, starting from Justinian's Digest of 530 - 533 CE recognized mediation. Some cultures regarded the mediator as a sacred figure, worthy of particular respect; and the role partly overlapped with that of traditional wise men or tribal chief. Members of peaceful communities frequently brought disputes before local leaders or wise men to resolve local conflicts. This peaceful method of resolving conflicts was particularly prevalent in communities of Confucians and Buddhists. Meditation and forms of it has been around for a very long time. Meditation is also spoken of in the Bible, and there are accounts of Jesus sitting in meditation and prayer. In various cultures prayer is also a form of meditation.
          But what are some of the techniques. If you Google "meditation" surely you will find so many different techniques and tips. This can be very off putting to a beginner. Many people have it in their minds that meditation has to be done in a silent room or with slow music playing. This is not true. Continue to read some of the basic and beautiful meditation techniques below. 

Simple meditation for beginners

This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.

1. Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.

4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath. Maintain this meditation practice for 2–3 minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Concentration meditation

          A concentrative meditation technique involves focusing on a single point. This could entail listening to your breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong or counting beads on a rosary, star or sky gazing, etc. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer duration.
          In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

Mindfulness meditation

        Mindfulness meditation technique encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.
          Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge experience as “good” or “bad” (“pleasant” or “unpleasant”). With practice, an inner balance develops.
          In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.

Open monitoring meditation

          Instead of focusing the attention on any one object, we keep it open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgment or attachment. All perceptions, be them internal (thoughts, feelings, memory, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.), are recognized and seen for what they are. This is like becoming more aware of your surroundings on a very in depth basis. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without going into them. 

Vipassana Meditation

          “Vipassana” is a Pali word that means “insight” or “clear seeing”. It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. There is some conflicting information on how to practice Vipassana. In general, however, most teachers emphasize starting with mindfulness of breath in the first stages, to stabilize the mind and achieve “access concentration.” This is more like focused attention meditation. Then the practice moves on to developing “clear insight” on the bodily sensations and mental phenomena, observing them moment by moment and not clinging to any. Ideally, one is to sit on a cushion on the floor, cross-legged, with your spine erect; alternatively, a chair may be used, but the back should not be supported. The first aspect is to develop concentration, through samatha practice. This is typically done through breathing awareness. Focus all your attention, from moment to moment, on the movement of your breath. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Alternatively, one can focus on the sensation of the air passing through the nostrils and touching the upper lips skin – though this requires a bit more practice, and is more advanced.
          As you focus on the breath, you will notice that other perceptions and sensations continue to appear: sounds, feelings in the body, emotions, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in the field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing. The attention is kept in the object of concentration (the breathing), while these other thoughts or sensations are there simply as “background noise”.
         The object that is the focus of the practice (for instance, the movement of the abdomen) is called the “primary object”. And a “secondary object” is anything else that arises in your field of perception – either through your five senses (sound, smell, itchiness in the body, etc.) or through the mind (thought, memory, feeling, etc.). If a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes desire or aversion to appear, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labeling it with a mental note, like “thinking”, “memory”, “hearing”, “desiring”. This practice is often called “noting”.
         A mental note identifies an object in general but not in detail. When you’re aware of a sound, for example, label it “hearing” instead of “motorcycle,” “voices” or “barking dog.” If an unpleasant sensation arises, note “pain” or “feeling” instead of “knee pain” or “my back pain.” Then return your attention to the primary meditation object. When aware of a fragrance, say the mental note “smelling” for a moment or two. You don’t have to identify the scent.
        When one has thus gained “access concentration”, the attention is then turned to the object of practice, which is normally thought or bodily sensations. One observes the objects of awareness without attachment, letting thoughts and sensations arise and pass away of their own accord. Mental labeling (explained above) is often use as a way to prevent you from being carried away by thoughts, and keep you in more objectively noticing them.

Third Eye Meditation

          This is a way of focusing the attention on the “spot between the eyebrows” (called by some “the third eye” or "sixth chakra”). The attention is constantly redirected to this point, as a means to silence the mind. By time the “silent gaps” between thoughts get wider and deeper. Sometimes this is accompanied by physically “looking”, with eyes closed, towards that spot.

Chakra Meditation 

        For this meditation the practitioner focuses on one of the seven chakras of the body “centers of energy”, typically doing some visualizations such as white light. Most commonly it is done on the heart chackra, third eye, and crown chackra, but can be done on all seven in one meditation. This is a good way for opening, balancing, cleansing, or strengthening your chakra energy centers. 

Connecting With God Meditation

        In Eastern traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism) meditation is usually practiced with the purpose of transcending the mind and attaining enlightenment. On the other hand, in the Christian tradition the goal of contemplative practices is, one may say, moral purification and deeper understanding of the Bible; or a closer intimacy with God and or Christ, for the more mystic stream of the tradition. Here are some forms of Christian contemplative practice:
        Contemplative Prayer,  which usually involves the silent repetition of sacred words or sentences, with focus and devotion.
        Contemplative Reading, or simply “contemplation”, which involves thinking deeply about 
teachings and events in a spiritual book.
        Sitting With God is  a silent meditation, usually preceded by contemplation or reading, in which we focus all our mind, heart and soul on the presence of God.

Effortless Presence

         It’s the state where the attention is not focused on anything in particular, but reposes on itself – quiet, empty, steady, and introverted. We can also call it “Choiceless Awareness” or “Pure Being”. Most of the meditation quotes you find speak of this state.
        This is actually the true purpose behind all kinds of meditation, and not a meditation type in itself. All traditional techniques of meditation recognize that the object of focus, and even the process of monitoring, is just a means to train the mind, so that effortless inner silence and deeper states of consciousness can be discovered. Eventually both the object of focus and the process itself is left behind, and there is only left the true self of the practitioner, as “pure presence”.

Benefits of meditation

        There are various other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion. This involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditations techniques, such as tai chi, chi kung and walking meditation. Studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:
lower blood pressure
improved blood circulation
lower heart rate
less perspiration
slower respiratory rate
less anxiety
lower blood cortisol levels
more feelings of well-being
less stress
deeper relaxation

        It is worth mentioning that the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits. To put it as an Eastern philosopher might say, the goal of meditation is no goal. It is simply to be present. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated, or “enlightened,” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calmness of mind and sense of inner balance. The benefits on the body are clear, but the benefits of meditation on the emotional and spiritual aspects are very wonderful. Consider developing your meditation habits and see where they get you! Also consider documenting your meditations in a journal. As you meditate more frequently you may begin to see visions, but that is another article all together.

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