Meditating works, and the benefits of regular meditation go
beyond the pleasurable state of mind achieved during the process.
This state of mind allows true relaxation, and it is also conducive
to creative problem solving. It gives you greater access to the
subconscious parts of your mind, thus making real change in yourself
a more practical goal. Let's look at one of the major benefits,
stress reduction, and then we'll describe a simple meditation
technique. After that you'll find some tips and links to other
relevant pages and resources.
Meditation and Stress
One of the more obvious benefits of meditation is the reduction
of stress. Imagine yourself rushing to the hospital to see a
friend that just received head injuries in a car crash. The roads
are icy, one of your headlights burns out, the traffic is crazy,
and the knob on the radio breaks, leaving a half-tuned station
blaring in your ears. Then you recall that you were trying to
decide when to quit your job and which type of business to start.
Are you ready to make the decision?
Obviously stress isn't conducive to good decision-making (or
good living), but sometimes we forget this lesson and push our
way through problems despite an overloaded mind. The scenario
above isn't necessarily more extreme than what's going on inside
our busy minds when nothing so obvious is happening externally.
Our "monkey minds" may take us on a wild, noisy ride
on icy roads with one headlight while we are just sitting there
eating breakfast. One of the benefits of meditation is that it
can tame those monkeys, lessening our stress level. Less stress
means better decision-making and better living.
How to Meditate
There are meditations for many purposes. The simplest and
most quickly learned are the types that involve just relaxing
and closing your eyes, while concentrating on your breath. There
are many variations on this technique, but the important thing
is to keep your attention on your breath. You also want to let
go of your thoughts as much as possible, but you don't want to
try too hard too push them away. Try the easy exercise outlined
A Simple Meditation Technique
Sit or lay comfortably, and close your eyes. Starting with
your toes,and working up to your head, become aware of each part
of your body for a moment, and feel the tension leaving that
part. Then bring your attention to your breath and begin watching
it. Breath through your nose, deeply at first, but then in whatever
way is most comfortable. As thoughts arise, dismiss them and
return your attention to your breath. Again and again return
your attention to your breath.When you are done, simply open
your eyes and take a deep breath.
You may notice that things look different; "new"
in some way that you can't explain. This is because in our normal
busy-minded state, we see what we expect to see-our idea of what
a tree is, for example, instead of just seeing the tree. When
our thoughts have quieted, we just see what is there in front
of us, without preconceived ideas. You may or may experience
this at first, but in any case, you should feel more relaxed.
To get the full benefits of meditation, your mind needs to
quiet down. This is the biggest stumbling block for most. Be
aware that your thoughts will most likely never leave you alone.
Your "monkey mind" will continue to chatter away no
matter what you try. So don't worry if you don't have "complete"
success. You can probably move the mental noise more into the
background, though, and reduce the volume. Try some of the following
tips, and remember that different techniques work better (or
worse) for different people.
Letting thoughts go: When thoughts or feelings arise
during meditation, it helps some of us to name them. It is like
writing something down so you can get it off your mind. Say to
yourself "Pain in my leg," or "Old argument,"
or otherwise label whatever is distracting you. Then return your
attention to your breath. If this doesn't help, just accept that
your mind will rattle on, but repeatedly bring it back to your
Releasing tension: If the tension in your muscles persists
when you are meditating, try tensing up each part of your body.
Hold the tension for a few seconds, then let go, perhaps saying
to yourself, "relax." Pay attention to the feeling
of release. By doing this, you are basically training your body
to relax on command. Another technique is to let a little tension
drain from your body with each exhalation. You'll notice right
away that it is easier to relax when breathing out, than when
Length of meditation: Try to meditate for at least
ten minutes to begin with, and work your way up to twenty minutes.
Longer meditations are beneficial, if you have the time, but
somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes seems to be useful to most
people. Also, once you have trained your body to relax, and have
gotten used to watching your breath, you can take two to three
minute meditative breaks during the day, when you need to refresh
your mind or relax.
Other Types of Meditation
There are more types of meditation than you could learn in
a lifetime, and many of them are subtly different in the benefits
they offer. Guided meditation may work better for those who have
too much difficulty meditating on their own. Prayer can be a
form of meditation. Meditation involving visualization can help
change habits and possibly cure some illnesses. Practicing the
Buddhist "meditation on the corpse" may change your
outlook on life. Once you seen the benefits of meditation from
the simple technique above, you may want to explore other forms.
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