Meditation is the art of silencing the mind. When the mind is silent, concentration is increased and we experience inner peace in the midst of worldly turmoil. This elusive inner peace is what attracts so many people to meditation and is a quality everyone can benefit from.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
I’ve been meditating twice a day for the past 9 years because I enjoy it. It may seem strange, but I feel happiest when sitting in perfect silence. The experience is difficult to express in words. It is akin to the “peace that passeth understanding”. It is also true that every meditation is not the same. Sometimes meditation is a struggle to control the mind, while at other times it feels effortless.
These are some of the benefits of meditation:
- Improved concentration – A clear mind makes you more productive, especially in creative disciplines like writing.
- Less bothered by little things – Do you sometimes allow yourself to get upset by little things? It is the nature of the mind to magnify small things into serious problems. Meditation helps us detach. We learn to live in the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or future. We do not worry about meaningless things, but see the bigger picture.
- Better Health – There have been numerous studies pointing to the health benefits of meditation. The reason is that meditation reduces stress levels and alleviates anxiety. If we can reduce stress, many health benefits follow.
- Knowledge of Self – Meditation enables us to have a deeper understanding of our inner self. Through meditation we can gain a better understanding of our life’s purpose.
Is Meditation Religious?
The great thing about meditation is that our philosophy/religious belief is not importanct. Meditation is about consciousness. The beliefs of the mind become trivial. We dive deep into the heart of the matter to gain access to our soul – our inner reality. Therefore, mediation can (and is ) practiced by people of different religions or no religion.
But I don’t have time To Meditate
Many people like the idea of meditation, but feel they don’t have enough time. When you really want to do something you can find time. Get up earlier or watch 30 minutes less TV. Meditation requires an investment of time, but clearing the mind makes the the rest of the day more productive. Nothing is better than the feeling of inner peace. What is the point in being tremendously busy but unable to enjoy it? Meditation is not about retreating from the world; it gives us inspiration. Whatever you do, if you have peace of mind, your work will be more enjoyable and productive.
How To Meditate
Like anything worthwhile, meditation requires practice. To get the most from meditation you need to do it every day. This requires a place and time where you will not be disturbed. Check out this cool mindmap pdf for inspiration: meditation.pdf
- Sit with a straight back. Don’t try to meditate lying down because you are likely to fall asleep. Meditation brings relaxation and peace but at the same time this is a dynamic peace. Meditation is quite different than the relaxation of sleep. When we really meditate, we are fully alert and conscious. Our sense of awareness is heightened. Afterwards you’ll have a positive feeling for the world and a renewed sense of dynamism.
- Don’t eat before meditating. After a heavy meal your body will be lethargic with digestion.
- It is not necessary to mediate in the lotus posture. It is fine to meditate in a chair, as long as the back is straight.
- It is helpful to take a shower before meditating.
- Burning incense and having a candle are not necessary, but they can add a little extra inspiration.
- It is good to meditate early in the morning. It is said the best time is 3am, although, I feel it is more important to be awake and not sleepy, I meditate at 6.30am.
One Pointed Concentration
However you learn to meditate, you must learn to concentrate on one thing at a time. Usually, the mind tries to hold several different thoughts and ideas at once. When you sit down to meditate for the first time, you realize how cluttered the mind is. Mediation teachers have described the mind as a “mad monkey”. However, the mind can be tamed and forced to concentrate on a single thought.
One helpful technique is concentrating on a candle flame. Narrow your gaze to the small tip and block out all other thoughts. When you get distracted, go back to focusing on the candle flame. You can also use other objects like a small dot or flower. The important thing is that you concentrate only on one thing at a time.
Another way to learn concentration is through the use of mantra. A mantra is the repetition of a sacred word. For example, you might repeat the mantra AUM a certain number of times. Repeating a mantra forces the mind to focus on a single thought.
After you’ve practiced concentration and learned to focus on one thing at a time, you can proceed to the next stage: no thought at all. Achieving a silent mind is difficult, but when to attain it the experience is powerful. A technique I advise is viewing your thoughts as separate from your self. When a thought appears, make a conscious decision to throw it out of your mind. Over time you realize that you are capable of allowing or rejecting thoughts. Your real “I” is not a collection of thoughts, but something far deeper. This is the most significant realization of meditation – that you do not have to be a slave to your thoughts.
Through meditation, you attain the power to control your thoughts, and on occasion stop them completely. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t attain a silent mind straightaway. It takes time and practice. There is nothing really else to it; meditation is a simple and spontaneous action. Unfortunately, our mind is used to complication and it takes time to unlearn bad habits.
Tejvan Pettinger is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. He lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher. He also offers mediation classes as a community service and updates a blog at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration, a collection of articles on meditation and spirituality.