Meditation is a journey deeper into your true self, your true home. Meditation is for everyone, whatever your spiritual path. It is a very practical and effective technique for creating a better life.
Meditation is the practice of bringing your attention inward, and allowing your mind to settle into stillness. In meditation, you withdraw your attention from the periphery of your consciousness into the center. This helps you experience a greater sense of inner peace and discover a reliable sense of inner guidance for your life.
Meditation is the science of bridging between your everyday self and your true essence or soul. It’s learning to become one with all that is, dropping the sense of separateness and duality. It can be an experience of emptiness and of the impermanence of all forms — physical, emotional, mental. It can be a powerful experience of the spaciousness of the present moment.
Meditation is called a “practice” — because it improves with practice. The more you practice, the better it gets. It’s like exercising an inner muscle.
While prayer is sometimes called “talking to God”– praising God or asking God for something, meditation is called listening to God or to your own inner essence — deep inner listening.
The goal in meditation is to still your body, emotions and mind, in order to experience your inner essence or soul. This creates a deep experience of inner peace and inspiration.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation helps you to reduce stress, and it develops a sense of inner peace, joy, and strength. Scientific tests have shown that meditation can lower your blood pressure, improve your memory and creativity, strengthen your immune system and help heal illness.
On a spiritual level, meditation strengthens your intuition, opens your heart, and helps clear out negative emotions. It helps you purify and discipline your mind, awakening and freeing it in order to directly perceive reality or truth and be more creative. Meditation helps you develop detachment from your physical and emotional reactions to outer events. And most importantly, meditation helps strengthen your connection with your essence or soul and helps you discover a your higher purpose in life.
Types of Meditation
There are several types of meditation, which can also be combined:
– steadying your mind and focusing energy and attention on an issue or task
– reflecting on the deeper meaning of a seed thought (such as compassion)
– observing with detachment your body sensations, feelings, or thoughts in order to deepen wisdom and insight into the nature of reality
–inner listening to receive impressions and inner guidance from your essence or soul
– using your mind to build positive pictures and giving them life and direction with thought energy (e.g. a visualization for healing)
· Invocative – calling in higher frequency energy (such as inviting
the presence of Spirit)
Establishing a Regular Rhythm and Place
It’s important to find a regular, comfortable place to meditate each day, where you won’t be disturbed. Meditating in the same place each day builds up a vibration there and makes it easier to meditate each time you use it. Clean and dedicate this area to create a sacred space, adding inspirational pictures, flowers, candle, incense, etc.
Establishing a regular rhythm with your meditation is essential. Ten minutes each day is better than an hour every once in awhile, as it creates a regular habit pattern and rhythm. Morning is best, as you are fresher at that time, and not yet caught up in the day’s activities.
Meditation in the morning sets the right note for the day. It connects you with higher spiritual energies and a sense of purpose. If you are just learning to meditate, the maximum length should be about thirty minutes. Before meditating, wait at least an hour after eating and several hours after drinking alcohol.
It’s best to take a scientific approach to meditation — experiment with different techniques and study the results. Proceed slowly and with caution. Meditation should be in balance as part of the rhythm of daily living. Observe the effects on your life.
Align your posture and relax your physical body. It’s best to sit up straight with your chakras or energy centers perpendicular to gravity. If you lie down, you may become too relaxed and fall asleep. Your hands can be folded in lap, or with palms up or down on your thighs. Your eyes should be closed, or if this is uncomfortable, leave them open and focus on one thing in front of you. You can tighten up each muscle group, beginning with your neck and shoulders, and then relax it (or you can do stretching exercises or yoga before meditation to relax your body).
Appreciate and send love to your physical, emotional and mental bodies before you begin the meditation, holding an attitude of cooperation, rather than suppression, of each aspect of your personality. It’s important to stay relaxed, yet aware and awake.
Focus on your breath.
Breathing in peace and stillness, and exhaling any tensions or worries. Deep breathing helps energize you as you bring in more prana or life force. Create a regular rhythm of inbreath, holding the breath, then outbreath.
You can count to seven as you breathe in, hold it for a few moments, and then exhale to the count of seven (or whatever rhythm works best for you) and release the cares of the day each time you exhale. If your mind wanders and you become distracted, always come back to the breath. With each breath, allow yourself to become lighter and more expanded. Experience the pause between the breaths expanding into infinity.
Calm your emotions.
Observe your feelings, as if you’re watching a movie — the melodrama of your own life. Become a detached observer, just noticing what’s going on, without reacting.
If you’re experiencing fear or anger or negative emotions, you can transform them by seeing your feelings as a ball of energy in your solar plexus chakra (at your navel). Visualize moving this energy upward to your heart, in order to transform these feelings into positive, loving energy. You can actually see it as a ball of energy, or you can just hold the intention of moving the energy up to your heart.
Another technique for calming your emotions is to visualize a calm, clear lake, reflecting the sun on a beautiful day; the water symbolizes your emotions; the sun symbolizes your soul or higher self. Visualize the lake being very still so it can reflect the sun clearly.
Still your mind:
Allow your mind to remain poised and alert. In meditation you are quieting the lower, rational mind and working with the higher, abstract mind. You are learning to focus the mind like a searchlight into the higher realms, in order to receive impressions and new ideas that can help humanity.
The mind is held steady in the light, perceiving a still greater light, the light of the soul which infuses it.
A good technique for calming the mind is to become a detached observer, noticing your thoughts without trying to stop or change them, and without judging them. Simply label thoughts that arise as “thinking”; label emotions as “feelings”; label physical experiences or discomforts as “sensations”. In the East, this is called Insight or Vipassana meditation and in the West it is called Mindfulness. You disidentify from your thoughts and feelings, saying to yourself, “I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts; I have feelings, but I am not my feelings.”
Focus your attention in the present, letting go of worries about the past or future: be here now. Don’t worry about the past or the future; be fully present.
Another technique for stilling the mind is to listen inwardly to the sound inside your head and keep your attention focused on it. Or you can repeat a mantra (a simple word or phrase) over and over, such as “peace” or “OM.”
Visualization is very effective, because energy follows thought. You can visualize pure white light pouring in through the center at the top of your head, called “the crown center”, and see the light circulating throughout your body, as you feel lighter and more expanded.
Align with your essence or soul:
A further step is to use your mind and will to penetrate into the higher spiritual realms, the realm of your soul or higher self, and to align with the great enlightened Teachers of humanity in all spiritual traditions, such as the Christ, the Buddha, etc.
This is called “building the rainbow bridge” or the antahkarana as its called in the East. You literally build strands of light from each of your bodies–physical, emotional, mental to their higher spiritual counterparts. You raise your consciousness to the vibratory frequency of your soul.
If you’re new to meditation, a simple way to do this is to visualize lines of rainbow light passing through what’s called the crown center or energy center at the top of your head, and then visualizing this light connecting to a star above your head, representing your soul and the higher spiritual realms.
If you’re a more experienced meditator, you can focus your energy in your ajna center (the brow chakra in the middle of your forehead) and then visualize a strand of rainbow light from the plane of your lower, rational mind to the plane of the higher, abstract mind (or manas as it’s called in the East). Then visualize a strand from the plane of your emotions to the plane of intuition or buddhi; and from the physical plane to atma or the plane of the higher will aligned with God’s will.
Then you can hold open your alignment with your soul for a few minutes in complete inner silence to receive impressions or guidance. This is referred to as the “higher interlude” in meditation. After a period of silence, you enter the “lower interlude,” where your brain is impressed with ideas received in the meditation and is stimulated into activity. Allow your lower mind to shape the energy or the impressions you received in meditation into usable thoughtforms for your life and work, and into a plan of action if appropriate.
End with a blessing:
The last step is circulation of the energy contacted in meditation as a blessing. The spiritual energy you received in meditation is released and directed into the world, to bring healing and transformation to individuals in need or to humanity as a whole.
You can visualize light, love and healing energy radiating out from the ajna center in your forehead to where it’s most needed in the world. It’s important to share and circulate the energy you’ve received in meditation so it makes a complete circuit of receiving and giving energy.
Lastly, visualize light, love and healing energy pouring down through your whole being, energizing and balancing your physical, emotional and mental bodies.
Some people like to begin and end their meditation by sounding three OMs (which can be done silently if needed). OM is a sacred word that helps to still the physical, emotional and mental bodies, and closing the meditation with three OMs helps distribute the energy.
After you end the meditation, you might want to write down anything you’ve received in meditation — ideas, visions, inner guidance — as a way to remember it and ground it so you can apply it in your daily life, as this is a key purpose of meditation.
Corinne McLaughlin is co-founder of the Center for Visionary Leadership and has been teaching meditation and spiritual development for over 35 years to a wide variety of groups, from Findhorn Foundation in Scotland to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agnecy.
For information: [email protected]; www.visionarylead.org
DIALOGUE WITH SELF A Dialogue of Self and Soul BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?
My Self. The consecrated blade upon my knees
Is Sato’s ancient blade, still as it was,
Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
Unspotted by the centuries;
That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
From some court-lady’s dress and round
The wooden scabbard bound and wound,
Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.
My Soul. Why should the imagination of a man
Long past his prime remember things that are
Emblematical of love and war?
Think of ancestral night that can,
If but imagination scorn the earth
And intellect its wandering
To this and that and t’other thing,
Deliver from the crime of death and birth.
My Self. Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
Five hundred years ago, about it lie
Flowers from I know not what embroidery—
Heart’s purple—and all these I set
For emblems of the day against the tower
Emblematical of the night,
And claim as by a soldier’s right
A charter to commit the crime once more.
My Soul. Such fullness in that quarter overflows
And falls into the basin of the mind
That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
For intellect no longer knows
Is from the Ought, or Knower from the Known—
That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
Only the dead can be forgiven;
But when I think of that my tongue’s a stone.
My Self. A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;
The finished man among his enemies?—
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what’s the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?
I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.
Kinesthetic or Feeling Meditation
In kinesthetic meditation techniques, you focus on something you can feel. This is a sensation in the body.
Body scan meditations belong in this category. They have a roving object of focus. You start with the bottoms of your feet and become more intimately aware of the sensations. Every couple minutes you work your way up to the calves, knees, thighs, genitals and all the way up, relaxing into the experience along the way.
Breathing meditations are often in this category because you are paying attention to the feeling of your breath.
Senses are the objects of sensory meditation techniques. Candle gazing, moon gazing, campfire gazing, the kinesthetic techniques mentioned earlier, listening to your indoor fountain or a beautiful song are all sensory techniques.
Pay attention to the sense itself and don’t focus so much on the object of the sense. E.g. the experience of hearing the crickets on your patio.
In this type of meditation technique, you focus on the breath. You may just watch your breath without controlling it, or you can breathe deeply through the nose.
There are different yoga pranayama techniques that can each become meditations. Some are complex and some are simple. Alternate nostril breathing and Ujjayi are some of the more popular ones.
In one type of breath meditation, you just focus on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils without judging how deeply you are breathing.
The focus here is on concepts. All you’re thinking about is love, beauty, infinity, God, the Buddha Mind, cosmic consciousness, peace. You’re only picking one of these, of course.
This type of meditation often brings a flood of intuitive insights as you become more intimately connected with the reality behind the concept.
Remember mindfulness. If thoughts or distractions take you away, note them and go back to your concept.
Movement meditation techniques include Tai Chi Chuan and certain Qigong exercises. You’re concentrating on the fluid movements in these disciplines. They are kinesthetic and often have a goal of eventually feeling the more subtle experience that many refer to as “energy”.
I learned one movement meditation in a Mahayana Buddhist monastery that utilized organized hand movements. The more you practice the more awakened you become to what’s happening within you. You take in a lot more of that experience as you increase your capacity for experience.
This class of techniques usually ends up in other categories mentioned earlier. It includes Tai Chi and many Qigong exercises as well as various chakra meditations. You’re working with very subtle processes that we tend to experience as “energy”, at least after some training and patience.
Some people practice movement and kinesthetic styles of energy meditation. Others do visualizations, using their minds as radio dials to “dial into” very subtle systems in the bodymind.
These are the major types of meditation techniques that you will come across. Other ways in which they vary, other than the meditation object, include how people warm up for meditation and how they integrate meditation into daily life. Those aspects will be explained later on.
Which Meditation Technique is the Right One?
Remember when I said that meditation is the art of falling in love? How do you choose the technique that you are most compatible with? The short answer is that you find an object that you can fall in love with.
This might take some experimentation. Start with something that really compels you to concentrate on it. This is something that invites a state of deep loving absorption. Try something else another day. This is how you do it in a nutshell.
Are there any meditation types I missed? Do you have experiences you want to share about techniques that you’ve tried? Leave a comment below.8