The truth is meditation is a gentle, soothing, relaxing and comforting activity, which requires no religious or even spiritual motivation. Its benefits have been studied and validated and include stress reduction, normalizing of blood pressure and improving immune function. It increases the brain's production of endorphins (pain relieving, narcotic-like chemicals), and it can increase a person's creativity. Not bad for something that's free and, unlike most medicine, has no side-effects. We can safely say that the main purpose for meditation is good health. I approach health holistically, and I think meditation is great because it positively affects my physical, mental and spiritual well-being, though my deepest intention is for my Spirit.
To me, meditation is that period of time which I devote to going inward to find what I have never lost, but has become obscured. It is a time when I awaken and become aware of the moment and which hopefully teaches me awareness in all moments. It is a time to detach from my thoughts, which are repetitive and often not in my best interest. It is a time of stillness and quiet to allow the Divine within me to communicate in It's own way.
A Chinese proverb says, "There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same." Just as there are many religions and philosophies that guide us to the top of that mountain, there are many forms of meditation. The amount can be overwhelming for beginners, and even for those of us who have done it regularly for some time. Here are some, just to name a few: guided, Buddhist, Transcendental, Vipassana, Chakra, Zen, Krya Yoga, Christian, Mindfulness and many others. I recently discovered a website, http://meditationsociety.com/ , which so far documents 108 meditation techniques including one called "visualization of cellular healing" and another, "E=Mc2.(?) It's no wonder I have sometimes found myself wondering if I'm doing it right, if a different method is better, if I'm spending enough time, if morning is better than midday or night time, if guided meditation is better than silent meditation, if using a mantra is better than following your breath, if I should pay to get formal training, etc. I can say one thing in response to all my questions - RELAX! I doubt that God is actually measuring our proficiency and giving a prize to the most competent. If that's the case, who won? - Jesus, Buddha, Mother Mary, a saint or ascended being, Einstein, a pope, a yogi or the homeless guy in front of the supermarket thoroughly absorbed in observing his hand.
If you're starting, it's best to keep it simple. I started with guided meditations, which didn't quite silence my mind, as is prescribed by most forms of meditation, but which served to help me hypnotically rest in the visualization and learn that I wanted more. I've changed now, after experimenting with music, sounds, brain wave technology, mantras, total silence, contemplation, centering prayer and more. I've mellowed out. I try to meditate daily and my favorite method is to follow my breath in silence. But, I often meditate with Cd's that include kundalini, mindfulness, a form of pranic meditation and others. I hope God's okay with that. I recommend you experiment, until you find what suites you. You may find that you enjoy knowing a diversity of methods from which to chose.
- Watch your thoughts. Observe your thoughts. Be the neutral watcher and you'll find that thoughts pass you by as if they were riding a cloud. Let them be and the space in between the thoughts may become longer.
- Or follow your breath. Don't control your breath, just feel it, observe it, ride it. Thoughts may come. Go back to your breath.
- Or gaze at an object. A flickering candle, a flower, a tree can all transport you inward and quiet you. Observe the object without judgment. You are actually one with it.
- Or use a mantra or a special word. A mantra is a word or a spoken sound originating from Indian Vedic Hinduism. For a detailed explanation of mantras visit http://khandro.net/. A repeated mantra during meditation is useful as a focul point as well as a way of lulling one into a more trance-like meditative state. For example, repeat the mantra "Ohm". When the mind wanders, return to the mantra as a way to get centered and return to the meditation. One can also repeat a word which holds special meaning, such as, Love, Peace, Father, Mother, Jesus etc.
- As Tich Naht Hahn, (http://plumvillage.org/) the inspirational Vietnamese Monk, would say, "Enjoy." Feel the peace. You may consider that this time is devoted to loving yourself, and what could be more important?
- If you are so inclined, finish by saying a prayer. "Thank you," is always a good one.
Here's another way I like to meditate, which I learned from Richard Rohr,(http://cacradicalgrace.org/) Franciscan Priest, author and inspirational speaker. I say these words from the bible (psalm 46:10), then break them up as follows: