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Meditation 101

Meditation 101

Meditation is a practice that brings to an individual balance on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.  Historically, meditation has been used to develop insight and wisdom, as well as inner harmony and spiritual growth.  Today, the health benefits of meditation are widely known and it is being used as a method to treat anxiety, stress and depression.

Traditionally, there are two main types of meditation:  mindfulness meditation and concentration meditation.  In Mindfulness meditation, the goal is an increased awareness of one’s environment without concentrating on specifics within the environment.  In Concentration meditation, the goal is to still the mind by focusing intensely on one item, such as a mantra or one’s breathing.

Meditations can also be used to project harmony or well-being to others.  An example of this is the Metta Meditation, which sends out the energy of loving-kindness from the one meditating out to the world to alleviate suffering and foster loving-kindness between all living beings.

Meditation is not difficult – anyone can do it.  It is simply a state of “being”.  While there are many schools of meditation that are different in technique, the goal is similar:  to still your mind and body so that your awareness does not differentiate between you and the object, event or thought that is the focus of your meditation.

Meditation is not something you can force or work at.  It is more of a question of “letting go”.

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To meditate, you really need only two things:  a place and a time.  Here are some basic steps:

  1. Find a place to meditate.  A quiet place free from distractions is helpful.
  2. Find a comfortable position.  While the mental picture of meditation might involve sitting in lotus position on a mountain top, neither of these are particularly comfortable to beginners.  Try a comfortable chair where you can sit with your back straight.  You want to be able to completely relax while still staying awake.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Keep your breathing as evenly as possible.  With each breath, relax different parts of your body until your body feels free from tension.
  5. Quiet your mind.  This is the most difficult part as our minds are much more active than we realize.  If a though comes to mind, acknowledge it and let it go.  With practice, the spaces between random thoughts will increase and eventually disappear.  Focusing your attention on your breathing or a Mantra can help.

That is basically it.  A good tip is to start with short intervals and gradually extend the length of the meditation.  Don’t get frustrated if you don’t do it perfectly at first.  Learning to quiet your mind takes practice, but the benefits from a regular meditation schedule are worth it.

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