Meditation Techniques: 101

Calm as a monk.

Meditation is most commonly associated with monks, mystics, and other spiritual disciplines. However, you do not have to be a monk or mystic to enjoy its benefits. You don’t even have to be in a special place to practice it. You can even try it in your own living room.

Meditation is a state where your body and mind are consciously relaxed and focused. Practitioners of this art report increased awareness, focus, and concentration. Consequently, they have a more positive outlook in life.

Although there are many different approaches to meditation, the fundamental principles remain the same. Fundamental among these principles is the removal of obstructive, negative, and wandering thoughts and fantasies, and calming of the mind with a deep sense of focus. This clears the mind of debris and prepares it for a higher level of activity.

Negative thoughts, noisy neighbors, bossy officemates, parking tickets, and unwanted spam -- all these contribute to the ‘pollution’ of the mind. Shutting these out ‘cleanses’ the mind so it can focus on deeper and more meaningful thoughts.

Some practitioners even shut out all sensory input – no sights, no sounds, and nothing to touch – representing total detachment from the commotion around them. Silence may seem deafening at first, since you are accustomed to hearing and seeing things. As you continue this exercise, you will find yourself becoming more aware of everything around you.

The common starting point is a breathing exercise. Aside from this, meditation also involves meditation positions. In media, you see those with impossibly arched backs and painful-looking contortions. You need not worry. 

The underlying principle is to be in a comfortable position that enhances concentration. Some people achieve this sitting cross-legged, standing, lying down, and even walking.

If the position allows you to relax and focus, then that is a good starting point. While sitting or standing, the back should be straight, but not tense or tight. The objective is to achieve complete relaxation but not to fall asleep.

What you wear can enhance the quality of meditation. Loose, flowing, and comfortable clothes help in the process since tight fitting clothes have a tendency to choke you up and make you feel tense.

The quality of meditation is enhanced if it is done in a soothing atmosphere. It can be in a living room, bedroom, or any comfortable place. Consider an exercise mat if you plan to take on more challenging positions (if you feel you will achieve more focus and if the contortionist in you is screaming for release!). You may want to have the place arranged to make it soothing to your senses.

Silence helps most people to relax and meditate, so you may want a quiet and isolated area far from a ringing telephone or humming washing machine. Pleasing scents also help and having aromatic candles isn’t such a bad idea either.

The monks you see on television making those monotonous sounds are actually performing their mantra. In simple terms, a mantra is a short creed and a simple sound that holds a mystic value. Repeated actions such as breathing and humming help them enter a higher state of consciousness.

One sample routine would be to silently name every part of your body while focusing your consciousness on that part. While doing this, be aware of any tension on any part of your body. Mentally visualize releasing this tension. It works wonders.

In all, meditation is a relatively risk-free practice and its benefits are well worth the effort (or non-effort – remember you’re relaxing!).

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