Meditations take many forms. Some meditative practices use soothing music to set the mood, some use no music. The recommended positions and styles of breathing will also vary. While there are some differences, ALL meditative practices agree on a few points:
- Breathing is of utmost importance
- The spine must be straight, whether lying down or sitting upright
- Effective meditation will enhance your physical health, mental health, and general well-being.
I have been involved in a number of different types of meditations: Yogi, Buddhist,
Yoga, guided visualization, breathing exercises, and I have created my own meditations to music, using what I had learned from guided visualization. None of these has proven better than the other, and I have found it handy to be able to know different methods for different situations.
Humans have been practicing meditation for at least 5,000 years. The earliest recorded meditational techniques have been found in Hindu manuscripts. The practice spread across Asia “with the advent of Buddha” (Foundation of Human Understanding). It took a couple of thousand years for meditation to become known to the Western world.
It is now practiced in almost all religions and is being recognized by big name healthcare firms as a valid and important practice for the upkeep of health. The Mayo Clinic has performed studies which indicate “meditation may help such conditions as:
- Chronic Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease” (Mayo Clinic)
No matter which form of meditation you decide to work with, it all begins with breathing. The most common form of breathing is to take a deep breath through your nose, hold it, then release as much breath as you can out of your mouth. I was once told to imagine the air I am breathing in to be silvery and pure. The breath I let out I should visualize as being any impurities being let out of my body.
Yoga practitioners use a specialized form of breathing called Pranayama or the Breath of Fire. While performing Yoga, you should breath in and out of your nose. If you concentrate, you can hear the breath in your head and it can actually sound as if a you are breathing fire.
Some religions use a series of prayers to induce a meditative state. Catholics use the rosary with repeated prayers, Hindus and Buddhists use mantras and prayer beads. I am partial to the Om mantra. I have been in a few circles which were strengthened by using the Om. It is very simple and surprisingly effective. Take a deep breath (through the nose), hold it, then release it by saying “om” with your entire released breath.
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Body position is probably just as important as breathing. Partly because if you hold yourself correctly, breathing will be easier. No matter how you decide to hold yourself, your spine must be straight. You may lie flat on your back, sit lotus style or cross-legged, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, for short meditations, you may stand up straight.
When going into a deep meditative state, you should attempt to relax your entire body. Begin with your breathing, of course. Then imagine a warming sensation spreading throughout your body. Most people like to start with the head/crown chakra, then let the warming sensation spread downward. Some prefer to start with the feet and work upward. No matter which way you go, do not forget your fingers and toes too!
There is much more I could tell you on the subject of meditation, but the truth is that in order to truly understand it, you need to experience for yourself. There are a number of guided meditations available on YouTube or for purchase through such places as Amazon or iTunes.
If you feel you need to come up from the meditation before it is over, count SLOWLY backwards from 3. With each number, feel your consciousness come closer to your awakened state. It is important awaken slowly or you may undo any good the meditation may have done.
“History of Meditation.” Foundation of Human Understanding. 2007. Foundation of Human Understanding. 2007 .
“Meditation: Take a Stress-Reduction Break Wherever You Are.” MayoClinic.com. 01 July 2008. Mayo Clinic. 19 Nov 2008 .
“Meditation.” Wikipedia. 12 Nov 2008. Wikipedia. 18 Nov 2008 .