Meditation: What It Is, How To Do It, And Why You Should

Here's a simple way to do powerful meditation

Posted Nov 02, 2014

Meditation involves various methods of mental and physical focusing that often lead to a lowering of tension and anxiety and an increase in contentment and tolerance of frustration. Most meditation techniques are very old and are often connected with Eastern philosophy and the teachings of various Indian gurus and Oriental philosophers.

Perhaps the most widely known meditation method is “transcendental meditation,” or TM, which is usually associated with the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi began teaching the technique throughout India in the 1950′s, ultimately launching the world-wide TM movement.

In the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, the TM movement swept across the United States. Indeed, huge numbers of people flocked to TM teachers to learn how to “unlock their hidden potentials” through the TM method.

Many advocates of TM made rather exaggerated claims about its merits (suggesting it can raise IQs, eliminate the need for sleep, and cure psychological problems) and needlessly surrounded it with secrecy and a compelling mystique. Beyond the unwarranted hype, however, the fact remains that TM and other related methods of meditation do have very real mental and physical health-promoting effects.

Meditation appears to be a natural process, perhaps a “fourth state of consciousness,” quite distinct from waking, sleeping, or dreaming. Meditation does not require much mental or physical control, any drastic changes in lifestyle or belief system, nor does it involve hypnosis or suggestion.

In essence, meditation methods produce a physiological state during which the activity of the autonomic nervous system is reduced. This leads to a lower heart rate, reduced blood pressure, more efficient respiration, and better nutrient absorption which, in turn, results in a variety of positive mental and physical effects, such as reduced levels of worry and anxiety, enhanced mental focus, greater energy, and an increase in emotional well-being.

So, how does one meditate? Basically, here’s how it’s done. (Keep in mind this is only one of several commonly practiced meditation methods.)

The first step is to

• get into a comfortable and relaxing position.

This can be sitting up, reclining, or lying down, as long as the position is comfortable for you.

Next,

• breathe deeply and evenly.

Instead of expanding your chest, try to let your abdomen rise when you inhale and fall when you exhale. Let the air flow in and out with as little effort as possible making sure not to breathe more deeply than is comfortable for you.

Then,

• think of a neutral or pleasant sounding word with two syllables, or two, single-syllable words.

Just about any words will do as long as they do not conjure up any negative or emotionally unsettling associations. This is what is called the "mantra" and it’s what one focuses on during meditation.

For starters, let’s use the word pair "warm, calm" as our sample mantra. Once comfortable and breathing easily,

• think or silently say to yourself the first word, "warm" as you inhale.

• As you exhale, think the second word, "calm."

The mantra is silently chanted during the entire inhalation-exhalation cycle. So, during the whole time you're breathing in, think the word "warm" (stretch it out like "wwwaaarrrmmmm...") and during your entire exhalation think the sound "calm" (like "caaaaalmmmmm...").

While relaxing, and focusing on the rhythmic chanting of the mantra in cycle with your breathing,

• let your thoughts, sensations, emotions and mental pictures float passively through your mind.

Try not to push away or hold onto any particular thoughts or images no matter what they may be. Just let any and all thoughts come and go without any conscious interference and try to do this for about ten to twenty minutes without interruption. So, like clouds simply float in the sky on the currents of the atmosphere, let any and all mental experiences passively float on the currents of your consciousness, into and out of your awareness, as though you're merely a spectator of what you notice.

• If at any time you realize you’ve stopped chanting the mantra, just pick it up again,

silently speaking with your mind's voice into your inner ear, “wwwaaarrrmmmm, caaaalmmmmm" in rhythm and synchrony with your breathing.

While 20 to 30 minutes of daily meditation is generally recommended, a lot of people prefer to practice mini-meditations - three to five minutes - several times a day. You need to experiment to determine what suits you best. After a period of consistent practice, many people notice being more calm and energetic, less worried, and more mentally focused.

Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.

Dear reader,

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Clifford

This post is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be a substitute for professional assistance or personal mental health treatment by a qualified clinician.

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