“Meditation” is a subject that has come to the forefront in modern culture, over the last few decades. Of course, it’s common knowledge that meditation is a practice that has existed for thousands of years, in one form or another. With that said, we can rest assured that the current focus on meditation will “leave out” some of the critical elements that were originally associated with the practice. These unfortunate things tend to happen, because you just can’t condense an ancient practice into a “user-friendly” format that the general, modern day population demands. Let’s face it, the overall societal attention span is somewhat lacking.
Now for those who were expecting a “Meditation is good for this and that” article, fear not. I’ll include some of that a bit later in this treatise. But for now, I just want to make it clear as to what the original goals of meditation were – way back in the beginning. If this piques your interest, then there is information out there that will expound on this, as well.
The original forms of Meditation
When humans had evolved to the point in which they actually cared about things beyond eating, mating and basic survival, they began to question what was “out there”. That is, the “Great Unknown” became a point of focus. As such, deities and otherworldly forces were imagined and worshipped. But not everyone was content to be mere subjects of those things that had been created by their “mystics” (in order to control the masses). Some of the more intelligent and enlightened individuals understood that access to spiritual knowledge was not limited to their chosen “holy men”. It could also be a personal journey, as well.
Those early “seekers” eventually realized that by shutting off their internal dialog, they could become sensitive to other aspects of existence. These included external and internal energies that could be used for a variety of practical endeavors. For instance, some became aware of changing their bodies and becoming healthier, through physical discipline. Others discovered aspects of physical ability that seemed to go beyond the realm of the possible. Here is where you might see someone who could lower their heart rate and withstand temperature extremes.
Others reported becoming sensitive to energy and even “beings” that existed beyond the realm of our normal perception. Unfortunately, however, these levels of supposed sensitivity essentially took many years of practice and a problematic “divorce” from general society. Consider, if you will, the length of time that Kung Fu practitioners, in Chinese monasteries, dedicated to their meditation-related training. They weren’t going to the office 9-5 and then going home to show the wife and kids what they had learned that day. They were quite sequestered from everyday society.
But those individuals were pretty much accessible to the general public. As opposed to those who claimed to be able to enter other “spiritual realms” who hid themselves away in remote locations. So there was no way to tell if they were actually on to something or if they were just mentally ill.
Fortunately, it’s possible to obtain many of the benefits offered by meditation, without having to take up residence in a cave in Tibet. There are many different locations where a person can learn the basics of meditating, without having to interfere with their normal routine. It should be understood, however, that the benefits that you receive from meditation are directly proportional to the amount of time that you put into your practice. In this article, I’m going to take you on a simple journey that will set you on your path to effective meditation, if you wish. I say; “if you wish”, because meditation isn’t a “skill” that you can quickly pick up.
Unlike bowling or basic guitar playing, meditation (when done correctly) is something that becomes an essential part of you. In time, it will even define your personality and character. Those who have become dedicated to meditation practices will often receive comments from friends and family as to certain changes in their demeanor. They may receive compliments as to how calm and patient they have become. They may also receive compliments on their jobs relating to how much more efficient they are and how they have demonstrated a superior ability to be a team player. Much of this has to do with learning how to listen rather than act on preconceived impulses. Being able to sense the energy emanating from others goes a long way when communicating during a common work goal. It’s also a management-level characteristic that helps people get promoted in their professions.
Beginning your new focus on investigating Meditation starts with determining where you wish to practice. However, here is something to take into consideration. While honing your basic meditation skills in a controlled environment is normally necessary, eventually you can learn to meditate “on the spot” when you need to. What do I mean by “on the spot”? Well, think of a situation in which someone has walked up to you and is an argumentative mood. You can meet that person with defensive hostility of your own, or you can employ meditation techniques in order to deal with the situation.
By that, I mean you could immediately turn off your thoughts, as when you are in a normal meditative state. This allows the negative energy from the other person to be unable to hold onto any energy emanating from you. At that point, the other person will sense this on a subconscious level and become slightly confused on a deep level in a way that they may not be able to fully understand. It also identifies you as a “non-combatant”. While in this state, you will hear the other person’s issue and you can also sense if there are any additional issues that are not being verbalised. You are now effectively placing yourself on the same side of the other person.
While no technique can be 100% effective, you will soon acquire a reputation of being someone who is fair and is willing to listen to another’s point of view. Once this characteristic defines who you are to others, people will tend to approach you with your perceived positive trait already in their minds. Negativity will then be seen to “oddly” diminish around you and may even rub off on others. This effect can easily be witnessed in those who are successfully engaged in politics. Even if you vehemently disagree with them, you may notice a change in your hostility level when meeting with them face-to-face. Try it and see.
Your physical “meditation chamber” environment
However, for starters, you will need to pick a quiet spot in your home, office or any other location in which you know that you won’t be disturbed. Make sure to set up that area in a way that promotes calmness and a sense of security. It should be lit in a way that feels like twilight and there should be good, clean ventilation. Your goal is to create an atmosphere that is conducive to a calm state of mind.
The very air around you should be made to feel as if you are establishing a underlying vibration that is harmonious with your meditation goals. This is the primary reason why incense is employed in a meditative environment. It’s important not to mistake the use of incense as merely a non-essential “backdrop” to your meditation space. For example, incense has been employed in Buddhist temples for thousands of years. And, if you understand Buddhism, it’s not prone to doing things in order to facilitate Hollywood posing and to create an atmospheric movie set. There’s a reason for it.
Centuries of testing and observation has led incense experts to the discovery of what works best when it comes to preparing the body for optimum meditation experiences. By releasing a calming aroma, an incense stick will allow your mind to focus when you are in the process of meditating. In many Far Eastern traditions, those who are preparing for meditation engage in a “ritual”. The reason for this has to do with “sweeping away” the general concerns of the days and to signal to your mind and body that now is the time for a completely different activity. Eventually, the incense will not only have a calming effect on your body, but will also serve as an automatic indicator insofar as to the way your thoughts are to be directed.
Also, it’s important to understand that we have different physiologies when it comes to the way that our bodies react to different substances. Therefore, it’s best to try out different incense aromas and take note as to how they affect your meditation sessions. This will provide you with the knowledge as to the type of incense that is optimum for your personal experience.
There are other things that you can do in order to create your personal meditation “chamber”. These can include the use of candles that are placed in a configuration that you feel enhances your overall sense of tranquillity. One thing that you need to take into consideration is that you will want to avoid the use of scented candles that may interfere with the effects of your incense aroma.
Another item that you may want to consider is the overall color of your meditation surroundings. For example, you will wish to avoid being surrounded by bright red colored walls when you’re meditating. The color red has been scientifically linked to an agitated state that is counterproductive to peaceful meditation. A deep blue will promote a more peaceful setting. If you don’t have the ability to change the actual color of the surrounding walls, you can try hanging up blue curtains in your meditation space. This can be done with curtains over the room’s windows or placed along the walls, or both.
And, finally, you can even add quiet music that can help you facilitate a meditative environment. There are many musical tracks that are designed for this purpose. They can even be downloaded from online at no cost. Choose the music that suits you. Just make sure to loop the music for continuous play. You don’t want your music to come to an abrupt end in the middle of your meditation!
Your meditation chamber tranquillity
Now that you have set up your basic (surface) meditation environment, you will want to ensure that all the other environmental aspects are in order. For example, it’s best to choose a meditation time in which you are unlikely to be disturbed. This is particularly important if you have children or on-call/management job responsibilities. Therefore, you should set up your meditation time to correspond with your particular schedule. This is where discipline comes into play. Since many of those who are not really “serious” regarding meditation will choose an easy time for them to set aside. This might be after dinner or just after getting home from work.
While, on the surface, there is nothing wrong with any time one chooses, there are other factors involved. If you’re one of those people who can’t guarantee a solid “quiet time” after dinner – then don’t choose that time – even if it it’s “convenient”. The interruptions that you will endure will only add to your stress level and negate your meditation goals. The same holds true for those who try to meditate just before going to work and have not yet learned how to completely and effectively meditate. These individuals will find aspects of their daily job assignments creeping into their conscious, from their sub-conscious minds. This also negates their meditation goals.
This is where that “discipline”, that I mentioned, comes into play. You may find yourself in a position in which your meditation time needs to be scheduled in a manner that reflects your true quiet time. For some, this may mean late at night or very early in the morning. There are many traditional disciplines in which meditation is performed just before the sun is beginning to rise. At that time, the world may seem to be “asleep” and you can become one with yourself.
A simple meditation technique
When it comes to meditation training, there are quite a few techniques that one can discover. Some are relatively complex and can be difficult to master. This is why you have so many different schools and theories for practicing meditation. But, I’m quite sure that you don’t expect a detailed panorama of the schools of Meditation training in this particular article. That’s fine. Because, fortunately, Meditation is something that we, as human beings, have been gifted with without having to climb a mountain and seek a mystical yogi to mentor us.
One of the most astounding things of meditation practices is that they all stem from one single aspect of mental discipline. That aspect is the development of the discipline of learning to turn off one’s thoughts! Show me someone who has successfully learned to turn off their thoughts and I’ll show you a Meditation Master in the making. The entire basic structure of attaining any benefit (or some perceived “super power”) from meditating revolves around learning to turn off one’s thoughts while accessing certain portions of your brain.
So, how do we go about beginning all this? Well, it’s far simpler than most people would expect. But like a large number of “simple” things, it can also be quite difficult. In Japanese philosophy, it is noted that sometimes the most difficult thing to do is reducing something to a perfectly simple form. If you have ever tried writing an effective haiku, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
With that said, I want you to consider, for a moment, just how many thoughts are going through your mind at any one given moment. Face it, we are constantly running thoughts through our head. The reason for this has to do with our transition from an infant to a child that needs to communicate with those around them. There is a point in time, when the child understands the need to “agree” with others regarding the surroundings around them. Being unable to agree with the common perceptions held by the majority is a definition of mental illness.
Therefore, we have learned to constantly run thoughts through our heads on a regular basis. Can these thoughts be stopped or our attention focused to a pinpoint? Of course they can. But try it for a moment. How long are you able to completely turn off your “internal dialog”? Most likely, it’s no more than a few seconds, if you’re not a regular practitioner of Meditation. And therein lay your fundamental task for your first foray into Meditation.
After you have set up your Meditation Space, choose an object; such as a crystal or candle flame that you can focus on. While looking at this object, slowly relax and endeavour to shut off all your thoughts, a little at a time. Practice this as often as you can and you will soon begin to develop the basis for more advanced meditation.
Overall benefits of Meditation
Now that we have discussed some of the aspects of meditation training, let’s take a look at its benefits and advantages. Even on a relatively simple level, Meditation can help you with the following:
- You can eventually learn to use Meditation anywhere you happen to be. There are two main meditation practices. The first one involves focusing on a single point and closing out your perception of all other stimuli. The second, however, involves turning off your thoughts and tuning in to all the outside stimuli within your immediate environment. This type of meditation can be used in a variety of circumstances, from riding on a bus to sitting at a restaurant table.
- It can be used to decrease your blood pressure. There are those who are susceptible to the problems associated to high levels of stress that can lead to high blood pressure. Regular meditation can work to relieve these issues and help maintain a healthier medical profile.
- Improving one’s sleep patterns can be accomplished. These days, more and more people are suffering with the inability to maintain a good sleep pattern. This may be due to the increasing complexities of modern life and the increase in sensory input from electronic sources. Meditating can assist with training the mind and body when it comes to on-demand relaxation. This can lead to more peaceful slumber.
- One may develop greater control over addiction problems. Continuous practice of meditation can help one learn to control certain aspects of their minds. This includes addictive cravings. The mental awareness that comes from meditation can isolate an addictive impulse and thus place it under a “spotlight” as a behavior that needs to be controlled.
- Increase of one’s attention span may also be achieved. Disciplining of the mind can lead to many different mental benefits. When you meditate, you are training yourself to develop a deeper sense of focus. This will translate well into your everyday mental activities.
- Your level of self-awareness can also be increased through meditation. When you are meditating, you are placing yourself in tune with your innermost self. At that point, nothing inside you is being covered over with excuses or misinterpretation. When this occurs, you will find yourself receiving various revelations about yourself and your situation(s).
- Anxiety levels can be placed under control. While some anxiety can be useful, since it can spur us on to helpful activity, too much anxiety is debilitating. When people are over-anxious, they can suffer from physical problems (high blood pressure, etc.) and mental issues, as well. Obviously, when one meditates, they are creating the opposite state of mind. Anxiety is removed and replaced with a sense of tranquillity. These benefits can be immediately realised.
- A sense of connection to the universe around you is developed. This means that you will eventually become aware of a highly useful fact that is presented in Metaphysics. That is the reality that we are all connected on some level. This connection not only stems from within our personal selves, but to the environment around us. This knowledge can lead to levels of useful empathy that can answer many questions which will serve to make our lives more harmonious and productive.
Meditation is something that can be approached on a very simple basis, at first. But for those who continue to practice its basics, a door can be opened to an enormous number of possibilities.