The very mention of the word ‘meditation’ conjures an image of a person sitting on the floor, cross-legged, hands on the knees, eyes closed, in a dimly lit surrounding filled with aroma from incense sticks. However, while this could be one way of meditating, this is certainly not the only way to do so.
Before discussing ‘how to meditate’, let us first see what is meditation and what is the need to meditate
What Is Meditation?
The human mind is perpetually very busy with thousands of thoughts running through it every day. Thoughts which are triggered by the signals sent by our sensory organs. While the human mind is very adept at multitasking, the present times’ media explosion puts that additional pressure in terms of information overload and sometimes, leads to confused and stressed mind.
Meditation is the process by which one provides the mind a break from its routine hard work, shut it away from all the noise around and train to focus and concentrate on one instead of multiple objects, events and thoughts.
Types Of Meditation
An age-old practice, Meditation and its benefits have come to the fore in today’s world of hectic pace, busy schedules and pressures of multi-tasking. Meditation is being practiced around the world across nations, cultures and faiths. On account of this, there are different techniques for meditating which are governed by beliefs and values of the people across these cultures and faiths.
There are various techniques, however, some of the popular types of meditation are:
Focused Meditation – As the name suggests this requires the practitioner to focus on something internal like breath or something external like an object to stare at, sound to listen, counting beads. The key to success in this technique is to keep the mind’s focus and bring the mind back on track should it wander.
Spiritual Meditation – Mostly practiced by religions like Hinduism, this technique resembles raying where you seek a deeper connection with the Universe of God. This practice also uses aromatic oils and incense sticks to heighten the spiritual experience and can be practiced at home or place of worship.
Mindfulness Meditation – Most popular in the Western world, this originates from Buddhism. The practice encourages to pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind without being judgmental or without getting involved with them. You simply observe. This combines concentration and awareness.
Mantra Meditation – A very popular type of meditation, this is prominent in teachings like Hinduism and Buddhism. The practitioner recites a ‘mantra’ which is a word or a phrase, repetitively. Chanting of this ‘mantra’ leads the practitioner to being more alert to the environment and experience deeper level of awareness.
Transcendental Meditation – The most popular type of meditation and practiced by people across the world, this technique is an effortless method which does not require chanting of mantras, sitting in a particular posture or concentrating on breath or other objects. This is taught by a trained teacher on a one on one basis.
What Is The Need For Meditation?
While the primary reason to meditate is to give a break to the ever-busy mind for it to recharge and refresh, there are many other reasons that stand in favor of making meditation a regular practice.
Stress Reduction: Meditation allows you to not just rest physically and mentally, it also helps in reducing the production of stress related chemicals while increasing the mood enhancing chemicals.
Good Physical Health: A calm mind has a better control over the body. Meditation assists in reducing stress which in turn reduces blood pressure, keeps the other vital parameters in the body under check and within the required range. There have been instances where meditation has provided breakthrough in cases of chronic illnesses when used in conjunction with medical treatment.
Improved Mental Faculties: Regularly practicing meditation trains the mind to better concentration and focus. Studies have shown that over the long haul, this helps in improving memory, make the mind sharp and adept in quick, rational thinking and decision making.
Positive Thinking: Meditation makes it easier to direct the thought process towards positive outcomes rather than wandering towards negative happenings. By focusing on positive learning from seemingly negative events, meditation helps in moving forward instead of getting stuck with thoughts that pull us down. Meditation is an effective way to achieve emotional wellness.
Spiritual Wellness: The practice of meditation takes you onto the next transcendental level of understanding the meaning and purpose of life. It aligns your thinking with the Universe and you start looking at life beyond the superficial materialistic world. It focuses on the soul more than the body and leads you to attaining spiritual wellness.
Happiness: Removal of stress, better sleep, good physical health, positive thinking and emotional stability, all put together lead the practitioner of meditation to general happiness in life keeping sorrow, sadness, anger, jealousy, etc. in check.
How To Meditate
Let me stick my neck out and say that there are no hard and fast rules on how to meditate. To start meditation, you need to make a resolution to derive the benefits that come from meditation, come what may and for that you need to be practicing regularly – every day. The basic of meditation is to focus and concentrate on something – be it any object, a sound, a light or even your own breath. For this, you need to shut your mind from everything else which can cause distraction for your mind.
Different people/organizations advise different ways to do all of this. Unless you decide to follow a particular ‘Guru’ (individual or organization) where you would be obliged to follow the suggested method, my suggestion is to research the different ways of meditating and select the method which you find comfortable and easy for you to continue with in the long run.
Here is what I follow and suggest:
Identify a calm and peaceful place – Since you are trying to get your mind to focus and concentrate, it is imperative to find a place which has the least amount of distractions. A solitary room where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed or even if you intend to meditate in natural surroundings, find a place where you do not get disturbed.
Having said that, there is no binding to meditate in a solitary place. If you are busy the whole day, you can meditate even in your office or while commuting. Your business should not become an excuse for not following the meditation schedule.
Remove all material distractions – Ensure before starting meditation that you remove all the material distractions around you – phones, pagers, television, music devices (unless you are using it for paying meditation music), eatables and beverages, etc.
Sit or lie down – you need to be in a comfortable posture / position while you are meditating. Either sit down in a comfortable position – on a chair or on the floor or lie down on the floor or bed, whichever is comfortable for you. Try not to make too many movements while meditating as that tends to break the momentum of thought and focus.
Focus on what? – you need something to focus on while you are meditating. This could be an object in front of you or a candle flame or even your breathing – inhaling and exhaling. The idea is to be conscious of the present. Not to wander in the past or worry about the future. Chanting a word or a phrase or even a soft meditation specific music could be another way, however, that can be a distraction for some.
Start with 2 minutes – That should be easy…just 2 minutes a day, to start with. That is correct! Start small do this at least for 2 minutes (extend it more if you can) for a week and gradually increase the duration. You need to get comfortable with the idea of focusing without physical or mental disturbance.
Bring your mind back – Your mind will wander, for sure. The moment you realize this, bring it back to the present. However, do not sweat over this, do not start worrying that your mind is not paying attention towards meditation. If you take this stress, the purpose of meditation is defeated.
There is nothing wrong or right – Often people start worrying if they are doing it the right way. Remember, there isn’t any right or wrong way. Everybody can be different in the process, the ultimate goal is what counts.
A meditation partner or a community – While some people consider meditation as a personal exercise, some may find it difficult to carry on with this alone. In such a case, try to find a partner who can join you for meditation. Or if there is a community of meditators, join them. It is a good way to feel motivated.
Meditation is not easy as it requires you to idle your mind for some time, which, in today’s world is becoming next to impossible. More so because of that 6 inchesx3 inches device called ‘smart phone’. Chatting, checking emails, messages, posting pictures, planning meetings, etc. has become the norm of the day. However, you need to realize that these things can wait for a few minutes and make a commitment to meditate every day. While it may take a few days to settle into a habit to meditate, the benefits that you will get after a few weeks of regular meditation will be amazing and prompt you to continue with the practice, forever.