Meditation is one of the most important daily activities we can undertake for our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Typically, we do little to support out spiritual well-being, which is a great mistake, since just as our physical health impacts our emotional and vice versa, so too does our spiritual connectedness impact our physical, emotional and intellectual health. No part of us operates in isolation from any other part, and all seek harmony with each other.
What is Meditation?
We have a lot of different parts to a healthy us, and they all need taking care of. We need to eat well and exercise to maintain our physical health, we need to foster loving, caring relationships, and we need to feed our spirit.
There are innumerable ways we can do this – many people pray, practice a particular religion or faith, do yoga or t’ai chi.
Meditation is a simple, easy practice, that with regular attention – as little as 10 minutes twice a day – will lead to improved physical and emotional health, greater focus, a sense of peace and calm, and more insight into dealing with and developing your life.
When we combine healthy living with positive relationships and positive daily practices, we’re happier and we have more power to create a happy, fulfilling life for ourselves and for those around us.
It’s important to sit comfortably. You don’t have to sit in lotus or do anything fancy with your hands. Sit in an ordinary straight-back chair or lounge chair that supports your back and allows you to sit comfortably without slouching. If you have back problems and you can’t sit then lying down is fine. Have your feet sitting flat on the floor several inches apart (don’t cross your legs), and your hands and arms either gently by your side or comfortably in your lap.
Tilt your head slightly up. Open your mouth a little. Close your eyes.
Try my beginner’s meditation:
Many forms of meditation focus on breathing. We will try several methods and you’ll be able to choose what works most comfortably for you over time. Whether you are focusing on your breathing or something else, just breathe normally most of the time, and preferably in through your mouth. If you’ve been taught to breath through your nose (and with your mouth closed), then that’s fine too. When you first sit to meditate, take several deep slow breaths down as deep as you can into your body and fully exhale.
When we talk about focus in meditation, it’s not a deep concentration. It’s a very light concentration; nothing should be forced in meditation. You can learn to meditate with different things to focus on: light, your breath, a mantra… You will find, if you are concentrating too hard, that you’ll have a dense, fuzzy or aching sensation in your forehead, above and between your eyes; this is a sign to lighten up in your concentration. You may also find it helpful to move your awareness from this spot either to much lower in your body or to outside your body.
Many people tell me they can’t meditate because they keep thinking. Thinking is a part of meditation and it is not wrong to find yourself thinking. We begin to meditate with a light focus on, say, our breath, and then after a while we will naturally find that we are thinking. At that point, we simply return gently to the focus on our breath. After a while, we will again find ourselves thinking, and again we return gently to our breath. This process repeats throughout meditation. You may find that you think a lot or not much at all. You may find that your usual meditation doesn’t have too much thinking but that from time to time you will have a meditation that has a lot of thinking; or vice versa. No meditation is better or worse than any other and there is nothing to be gained from analysing and evaluating our meditations.
As you focus on your breath or your mantra… your mind and body quieten. As they quieten, they heal; as they heal, they release negative energies and these are expressed most commonly as thoughts. Other responses you may notice include: twitching, restless legs, excessive yawning, general restlessness, aches and pains, vivid colours and lights (seen with your eyes closed), smells, and others.
You may drift off into sleep, or into some other level of consciousness where you’re not fully present. You may feel apart from your body. None of these experiences is unusual or problematic.
People often like to describe having had ‘a good meditation’ or ‘not a very good meditation’. There is no good or bad. Some sensations will feel more positive than others (vivid colours, floating out of your body), and others negative (pain, restlessness), but in fact none of these are positive or negative.
You may wish to play quiet background meditation music if it helps you to relax. It’s not necessary but it may be your preference.
Guided Meditations – following are several meditations from my colleagues, with links to them and their work:
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Here are a series of short meditations from the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
5 minutes breathing meditation:
4 minutes mindfulness meditation:
10 minutes wisdom meditation:
10 minutes mindfulness of breathing meditation: