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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beginning Meditation

Techniques, Benefits & Beginner’s How-to
Meditation is simply a way to train the mind to relax and to learn to have control over the thoughts that wonder through the mind and any external stimuli.
Like any other practice, one will start meditating for short periods of time, sometimes as short as three to five minutes to begin with, in order to build up the habit of “being still”. It is generally very difficult for a beginner to sit quietly for a long time or to manage to empty their mind from all the bombarding thoughts. So be patient with yourself and have fun with it.
There are several techniques for learning to meditate and different types of people are attracted to different ways of learning to be still.
One of the easiest ways to get into meditation is by focusing on the breath or a mantra and concentrating on it in order to keep your mind busy and not allow other thoughts in. This is called Concentration Meditation.

Concentration meditation
This technique of meditation focuses the mind on the single subject at hand in order to avoid thinking of something else. It is hard to keep the mind blank, if not impossible at times, so giving it something to do helps with achieving focus.
This focus can be reached by following the rhythm of your breath, repeating a word or phrase mantra, listening to repetitive sounds such as bells or a gong or staring at a candle flame.
Breath: If you begin with the breath, one way of keeping your mind still, is to count down your breaths from 30 to 0, every time you exhale. You will notice that sometimes wondering thoughts might break your concentration and you get swept away into all kinds of spinning thoughts and imagery. As soon as you notice that your concentration has been broken simply return to your countdown resuming with the last numbered exhale you remember.
Mantra: Using a mantra is easy and helps keep your concentration. A mantra can be one word such as “Om” (the most powerful sound in the universe according to yogis – the sound of “I am”), or it can be a phrase that makes you smile or feel good. You can either make up your own mantra, such as “I am loved”, or you can borrow some phrase that you heard or read and you resonated with. If you are working through something in particular, pick a mantra that is a positive resolution to your problem. For example if you need more financial support say something like “financial abundance is available to me now”.  It helps to use your mantra as an affirmation as well, and post it around your house, your work place and anywhere where you might see it again and again to remind you of your goal.  Be creative; post a sticky note on your morning mirror, in your car, place one in your gym bag or your wallet.
Your brain gets trained like any other part of your body and the more your practice the better you get at it. It is common that you will start with five minutes of meditation and work up to a longer time as you train your brain to be still. Be patient, enjoy the process and persevere. It gets better, I promise! Soon your concentration will improve and eventually you will be able to meditate for one or more hours if you so wish.

Mindfulness meditation
Another form of meditation is through the Mindfulness meditation technique which encourages the practitioner to observe wondering thoughts as they drift through the mind. As I mentioned above, thoughts will come your way no matter what. The trick is to not be judgmental; simply notice them, make a note of any messages they might bring and move on to the next thought that comes by. Try not to sit there and analyze every thought that passes through your mind. Just notice and move on.  Over time, you may notice that your thought process follows a certain pattern and by observing those thoughts you will gain insight on how to balance the thoughts that come your way.

Walking meditation
This is another way of focusing your mind while being in motion. This is especially beneficial for people who have a hard time sitting still, or people who love being out in nature while meditating.  Walking meditation is a mindful way of walking, noticing every step that you take and breathing in rhythm with your steps. It can be practiced indoors or outdoors, in labyrinths, beaches and just about any place you want. You can sneak in walking meditations at any time of the day, upon waking, at work, at school and at night before going to bed to calm you down. This kind of meditation helps us be aware of our connection with earth, touching boldly the soil with each step that we take and feeling the energy that courses through our body and everything around us. It is beneficial if the weather and environment allows, to enjoy the walking meditation barefoot and feel the connection. Walking meditation is relaxing and helps you release any issues you might be working through in a very soothing and calm way.
Placing one foot in front of the other let the energy guide you and allow life to unfold one step at a time.

Benefits of meditation
Meditation has a vast array of benefits in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms. I would venture to say though that the most important thing we get out of meditation is learning to be present. In today’s busy world we forget how to be present and enjoy each moment as we dash from one activity to the next often barely taking a moment to breathe. Regular meditation helps slow down time in a way and calm the waters of life.
As far as research goes, it has been proven that by eliciting relaxation in the mind, our bodily systems responds by a means of reset, allowing health and vitality to resume.
Herbert Benson, MD, from Harvard University Medical School, was a pioneer in what he termed the relaxation response after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”
        ©        Some documented short-term benefits to the nervous system after meditation are lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, slower respiratory rate, improved blood circulation, less anxiety, more feelings of well-being, deeper relaxation, improved healing times, lower blood cortisol levels, less stress.
        ©        There are definitely long term benefits as well, some of them documented such as improved memory, better control of thoughts forms (negative vs. positive), improved immune functions.

In some beliefs such as the Buddhist philosophy,  it is thought that the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated, or “enlightened,” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calmness of mind and sense of inner balance.
How to meditate: Simple meditation for beginners
Since you are planning on making meditation a regular activity, it might be beneficial to create a space that is quiet and cozy for you in order to fully experience this moment and completely relax.
 1. Find a place where you will not be disturbed and sit or lie comfortably.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Breathe easily and effortlessly.
4. Focusing your attention on your breathing feel the breath entering your nasal cavity and flowing through down to the abdomen, filling your belly and then slowly exhaling, deflating the belly and noticing the warm air exiting your nostrils.  Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. Should your mind wander and get distracted by other thoughts, simply return your focus back to your breath. Maintain this meditation practice for 3-5 minutes to start, and then slowly increase the meditation time as you are able to stay connected longer.
Training your mind and body to sit for a period of time and bask in the stillness of the moments helps us learn to be completely present in every moment. After all, life is happening now. What happened yesterday we have no control over and what will happen tomorrow we can only control if we are mindful right now. By looking ahead and worrying about what will come tomorrow we completely miss today and the joys that it can bring. So give yourself the gift of NOW and let your body, mind and spirit rejoice in the life that you are creating each moment.

Private and group Meditation classes are available upon request and are sometimes scheduled throughout the year. Join this site and receive an update of class schedules and occasional posting of articles and videos.

Blessed be,

Corinna

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