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Home » New to the Site? Begin here, Spiritual Practices

Meditations: A beginning

Submitted by on July 25, 2010 – 4 Comments

Imagine looking up at the clear night sky, at the millions of sparkling stars, away from the glare of the city-lights. Or staring out on the vast expanse of the blue oceans, all the way upto the horizons. Or waking up early to view the sunrise in the eastern sky. Or listening to the chirping birds in the still dawn. These are moments when we’re filled with a sense of wonder and awe. Our thought process stop momentarily and we experience an unexplained joy and peace without much effort.

The peace we experience appears to be because of external factors, like the sky or the ocean but it’s our mind, or more precisely, the silence in our mind that results in this peace. When we face the beauty and majesty of nature, the flow of thoughts stop and the mind automatically becomes like a clear pond, revealing the depths of our true nature. We have a momentary glimpse of joy and harmony in the silence where our mind turns meditative. It’s as if the peace was always there, within us, obscured by the thought flow; when the thoughts cease, we become aware of the inner harmony.

Such joy and harmony can be experienced anytime if we deliberately silence our minds, if we bring silence in our system of body, mind and intellect. This process of establishing silence is called ‘Meditation’ or ‘Dhyana’(in Sanskrit).

Why Meditate?—The Benefits

Meditation brings to our minds the pictures of recluses, sages and mystics, who lived away from the society, searching for the meaning of life or seeking God-realisation. It’s difficult to associate meditations or any spiritual practices to modern man, who’s in the thick of family, society and the material life. But the benefits that can be derived by proper efforts at Meditation makes it the perfect tool for our busy, stressed out lives. Many of the ailments, difficulties and problems that we face in our day-to-day living can be handled with poise, with the proper understanding and application of Meditation.

Peace and calmness are the first results of the practice of meditation. When we start the practice, many inner processes get initiated in our system. The continuous chatter inside our heads reduce and gradually we experience a clarity in our thinking and understanding. Our memory power and the capacity to concentrate for longer periods improve, so does the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. Innumerable researches have pointed out at the improved immunity and general well-being in the physical and mental health of individuals who meditate regularly. With clear thinking and the ability to be at peace always, we’ll be able to face any situation squarely. Just these benefits should be enough for any of us to take up meditations and make it an inseparable part of our daily routine.

People take up meditations for different reasons–for peace of mind, stress-relief or health benefits. Or to explore the spiritual areas, to find the meaning of life and to discover one’s purpose. Or even out of curiosity, to understand and explore this fascinating discipline, which has been practiced by individuals in different cultures across the world, since thousands of years. Any type of meditation begins with the simple effort at slowing down ones movements and turning the attention inwards.

How to Meditate

We start the silencing process at the level of the body, by sitting still in a particular posture. We can further silence the mind and intellect by focussing our attention on one thought and ignoring all other thoughts. In the beginning it may appear difficult to sit unmoved for more than a few minutes. Also the flow of thoughts will be more when we sit for meditations and it will look daunting to focus our attention and not get lost in thinking or dreaming. But the thoughts gradually subside and we will be able to sense calmness and relaxation. As with any practice, the key is to overcome the initial resistance and persist with the efforts.

A Simple Technique
1. Sit cross-legged on a clean mat, facing north. Close your eyes.
2. Pray to your elders and God.
3. Take seven slow deep breaths.
4. Then remain calm for 3 minutes.
5. Now imagine a lot of golden light coming from above. Let this light fill up your system.
6. Experience this Light and imagine that it spreads out to your surroundings. Practice this for 12 minutes.
7. Then offer thanks to your elders and Light(God). Lie down for a few minutes and relax.

This technique can be practiced by anyone and the results vary from one individual to another. Some may find it difficult to sit still while others may struggle with their thoughts. Yet with regularity and a bit of effort, almost anyone can experience calmness and feel refreshed after the practice.

Who can Meditate

Meditations can be practiced by any genuine seeker who wishes to improve his life and experience the benefits of this practice. Ideally anyone who’s above 12 years of age can takeup this practice.

Some obstacles

Practicing meditations is like climbing a mountain—the higher we climb, better the view and also bigger the obstacles. Understanding the difficulties in the practice can help us overcome them, so that we can derive the complete benefits. These obstacles are the general ones which anyone who begins the practice is likely to face.

Difficulty to sit
Many find it difficult to sit still in the beginning. Also, when we sit cross-legged, we may experience pain in the knees after sometime, especially when we sit for longer periods in the advanced stages. The aches and discomfort in the body can distract us from focussing our attention on the meditation technique.

Becoming physically fit helps us to overcome this obstacle. Another hint is to have a walk for 10 minutes, half an hour before meditations. Then sit on the floor, stretch your legs and gently rotate the feet for a few minutes. This will help the muscles to relax and you’ll be able to sit comfortably.

Thoughts
The thoughts are always present in the background but they become evident when we try to establish silence in our system. We may find it difficult to ignore them and focus our attention on the meditation technique. It’s easy to lose focus and slip into thinking or day-dreaming—and gradually lose interest in Meditations.

The only way to overcome this is to ignore any thought which may present itself. Everytime our mind wanders, we have to bring it back to the visualization. The thoughts will reduce gradually and we’ll be able to meditate successfully even if any thoughts are present in us.

Inertia and Lethargy
Meditation is not a one-time activity but a continous process, which has to be regularly practiced over many days, weeks and months. It’s easy to become lethargic after the initial excitement wears off and we may find it difficult to motivate ourselves to sit for the practice. This can happen in any field of endeavour and is not unique to Meditations.

Defining our goal in meditations and constantly reminding ourselves of it helps us shake off the Inertia whenever it arrives. Also, if we keep in mind the various benefits and advantages of meditations, and envision the ways in which it can positively impact our lives, we can overcome the lethargy and find motivation for the daily practice. Persistent effort is the key to overcome these obstacles.

Over-Excitement
In the beginning, out of enthusiasm people may practice the technique for more than the prescribed time-period or more number of times in a day. This will lead to the over exertion of our body and system, which will not be properly tuned.

We have to practice for shorter durations in the beginning and gradually increase the duration as we advance in meditations, with better techniques.

Expectations
The various benefits of meditations cannot be derived at the first attempt or within a few sessions of practice. It takes time for our system to get used to this discipline and gradually we’ll be able to experience the effects like calmness and improved concentration. The higher benefits of meditations like Psychic experiences, Visions and Spiritual experiences require more efforts over a longer time-period. When we sit for meditations, our effort should be to establish silence in our system and not wait for any results to manifest.

More hints for successful meditations

To derive more benefits from meditations, it helps to follow these hints.
1. Meditate at least once every day at the same time, preferably in the morning around sunrise. This is the time when we’re refreshed after a night’s sleep and our system can be guided to silence with more ease.
2. Choose a clean, airy place free of disturbances. If possible, meditate at the same place everyday.
3. Have a bath if possible. Have very light food before meditations as an empty stomach will distract or a heavy meal will make us fall asleep.
4. Wear loose clothing. Choose a comfortable mat to sit on.
5. Sit comfortably with an erect spine but don’t keep it too rigid. Place the palms one above the other on the lap.
6. Focus your gaze at the mid-brow point for better concentration. Look straight ahead and close your eyes. If the gaze lowers during the practice, return it to the mid-brow point.
7. If the attention wanders during meditation, gently bring back the focus to the technique (experiencing light). Persist until it becomes effortless.

What is Light?

The Light we imagine during meditations is not the physical light which is visible to the naked eye. This Light is the Universal Intelligence out of which the entire creation got manifested. In our scriptures, we refer to this Light as Parabrahma, the formless God who created the Universe and the worlds. Different cultures and religions refer to this Highest intelligence as the Supreme God.

In ancient times, every individual could link up to this Supreme Intelligence directly and communicate with it. As Kali yuga or the dark age began, we lost these faculties and had to depend on priests, rituals and ceremonies. As time passed, God became obscured behind dogmas, religions and beliefs. Humans lost touch with Nature, with their innate divinity and came to believe themselves as finite beings, with life being reduced to just a material existence, between birth and death.

Spiritual practices like Meditations help us re-establish this contact with Life, with Nature and with the Divine.

Conclusion

Meditation has long been considered as a tool for self-transformation, self-discovery and spiritual enlightenment and not just as a stress-relief, health improvement practice. Apart from the immediate benefits, a meditator can easily recognise a reduction in negative traits like anger, impatience and jealousy over a period of sustained practice. He will find it easier to develop positive qualities like accommodation, compassion, unconditional love and a healthy regard for all life.

Meditation purifies and transforms a person for the better. This fascinating practice has been the road on which seekers across millenia have travelled with various purposes– from simple stress-relief to healing to self-discovery and ultimately enlightenment. Anyone with a genuine intent and sincere efforts can derive the benefit, for which he pursues meditation.

We should take up the practice with a sense of adventure and an open mind. The journey may be easy or arduous but the revelations and discoveries that await us on this road make it one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.

Additional Reading –
Meditation – The Journey (Part 1)
Meditation – The Journey (Part 2)

copyright © 2010 VishwaAmara.
Permission is given to copy and redistribute these articles, on condition that the content remains complete, all credit is given to the author and is distributed free.

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