You need to learn how to meditate if you want to live a stress-free life. An effective stress management program includes stretching, progressive deep relaxation, breathing, meditation, and visualization. We’ll deal here with meditation.
Remember a time when you were totally absorbed in what you were doing. Hours may have passed, yet it seemed like only a moment. Remember what a good feeling it was to be completely absorbed in the moment – how acute your perceptions were, how clear your thinking was, and how alive you felt. This is meditation.
Meditation is simply focusing your awareness on something. It can be anything – your breathing, a part of your body, a sound, an activity. Meditation can produce a state of profound relaxation – but it is much more than this.
Whenever any form of energy is concentrated and focused, its power increases. Almost everyone has used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays on a piece of paper, burning a hole in it. A laser is nothing more than focused light – it is the same type of energy emitted by a light bulb, but because it is focused and coherent, it has the power to burn through steel. The same may be true of the mind, which is also a form of energy.
As with all energy, it seems that awareness may be concentrated and focused. Mind affects body When you are angry or afraid, you are meditating – concentrating your awareness very well – but you are meditating on your anger and fear. Since you are concentrating so well, your mind has a profound effect on your body – but it may be a harmful one.
When you are angry, worried or afraid, your blood pressure and heart rate may increase dramatically, your arteries are more likely to go into spasm, and your platelets tend to clump together and clog up your blood vessels. Fortunately, there is a bright side to this.
The mind may also have a direct positive effect on the body. If you know how to meditate properly, you can direct your awareness away from harmful meditations and toward beneficial ones. Therefore, the question is not, “Should I learn how to meditate?” – because you are already doing so – but rather, “How can I meditate in a healthy way?”
The physiological effects of the profound relaxation produced by meditation are beneficial to people with coronary heart disease. Regular meditation can reduce blood pressure significantly in many people with hypertension. Meditation quickly reduces heart rate and the oxygen requirements of the body by 10 to 20 percent.
Here’s how to begin meditation:
1. It is easiest to meditate when your body is relaxed. So, one of the best times to meditate is after finishing stretching, progressive deep relaxation and breathing techniques. If you do not have time, to do all of these, a few minutes of complete deep breathing will allow you to begin your meditation more easily.
2. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
3. Wait a few hours after eating.
4. It is best to keep your eyes closed.
5. Meditate for only as long as you feel comfortable doing so.
Forcing yourself to meditate can agitate your mind even further. Imagine your mind as if it were a bright but mischievous student. As a good teacher, you want to be firm, while maintaining a relaxed sense of humor – knowing when to let the reins out and when to pull them in.
Most meditative traditions recommend sitting in meditation at least twice per day, usually once in the morning and again in the evening, and usually for at least 20 minutes per session. This is fine, but it is best to decide for yourself how much you wish to meditate during each day.
In general, the more time you are able to spend in meditation without straining, the greater will be the benefits that you experience. When you are extremely busy, it may be tempting to postpone meditating, but it is at these times when meditation is likely to be of most benefit. There is almost always time during the day to meditate for a few minutes.
6. When your attention wanders, simply bring it back. This will happen over and over again, so do not get discouraged – it is part of the meditative process.
7. It is best to meditate when you sit with your back straight but not stiff.
8. It is best to remain as still as possible while you are meditating. You may find that this is not very easy to do at first. Just as your mind tends to wander during meditation, your body tends to become restless. If you can, try to ignore these distractions and continue meditating. If you are unable to do this, take a moment to do whatever you may need – change your position slightly, scratch where you itch, and so on – and resume meditating.
How to meditate
The easiest form of meditation is also one of the most powerful. It is based on bringing your awareness to your breathing. Sit in a quiet place, in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed, and your back straight but not stiff.
Without trying to control your breathing, simply become aware of it. Feel the air as it comes in and out of your nose. When your mind wanders, and you find yourself thinking about something else, gently but firmly bring your awareness back to just observing your breathing. To aid in your concentration, you may find that it is helpful to focus your eyes, even though they are closed, on a point in the center of your forehead just above the bridge of your nose.
Also, you may find it helpful to imagine that you are inhaling not only air, but also light. Now you are meditating.