A Quick Guide to Meditation
Sitting in Silence
By Fiona Bramzell
Have you ever tried sitting still? I mean, really sitting still. No T.V., no music, no book or magazine just sit. Still. Try it.
How long did you last? If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t last long. Apart from when we are sleeping, there is never really any time during the day when we just sit and do nothing and believe me, it is harder than it sounds. The first time I tried, it seemed as though every second I had the urge to get up.
Now admittedly, I do have a short attention span (I’m a Gemini, it’s a natural trait!), but I was quite amazed at how automatic this need to move was. Finally I understood – this is why they use the term ‘practicing’ meditation. And, as you know, practice makes perfect.
But, why meditate? After all, in this age of fast technology and instant information, doing nothing is frowned upon. In fact, in western society, it is only when sleeping that most of us are still and often, due to the stress of modern life, the sleep we get is not as beneficial as it should be. There are numerous benefits to meditation, both mental and physical. The physical effects are mainly in reducing stress through lowering the heart rate, increasing the intake of oxygen and rejuvenation of the body’s cells. Just the thought of our cells dying off at an alarming rate as we age is enough to make me sit still and say ‘Om’!
At the very basic level, the affect of meditation on our mental state is obvious. The feelings of relaxation, peace and clarity are all very appealing. When the constant ‘chatter’ in our heads is silenced, even for a few moments, one is able to see things more clearly, and actually gain a more positive view of the world around them. And it goes without saying that happier people will naturally attract others. Everyone will want to be in your positive presence! Plus, a balanced mind will be able to deal with life’s problems, both big and small, in a calmer fashion and accept that struggles are just a natural part of being alive.
So, as you can see, there are many good reasons as to why one should learn to meditate. When starting to practice, it is important not to put too much pressure on your mind to ‘perform’. Don’t forget that there are those who have spent years practicing. Try to
think of your mind, when in a meditative state, as being akin to when you are in a deep sleep. In this state your mind and body are as one and there is no consciousness. In fact most people do nod off during the beginners phase!
However hard you find it at first, try to meditate on a regular basis even if you just practicing sitting still (and as mentioned before, this is no easy feat in itself.) Don’t attempt to ‘switch off’ your thoughts – simply let each thought come and pass, just as you would whilst relaxing. The more you attempt to completely banish thoughts the more insistent they will become!
Along with making the time everyday, the location is important. Make yourself comfortable but remain in an upright position. The lotus position isn’t necessary. Sitting cross legged and creating a triangular shape with your body is desirable in order to create a stable base. Some practitioners believe that facing a certain direction in line with the earths’ magnetic field is important but I don’t believe it’s essential. Comfortable, quiet and focused is what you should be aiming for at this point.
As in any relaxation, concentrate on your breathing. Try to breathe from the stomach area, not the chest, as these results in deeper, more beneficial breaths. I really find the one minute breath helpful for almost instant calmness i.e.: breath in for 20 seconds, hold it for 20 seconds and breathe out for 20. You might want to work up to this starting with 10 second periods. Close your eyes and concentrate on a point inside your mind.
Most people choose the ‘third eye’ to focus on which is located just between the eyebrows. If it helps, you can repeat words over and over (it doesn’t have to be the stereotypical ‘om!) You could even learn a certain mantra or chant, or just say words you feel are relaxing, like ‘peace’ or ‘love’. After a will you will be so focused on the combination of sound and breath, a state of trance will come naturally. Continue in this manner for your chosen time. Usually around 20 minutes is good to start but to my mind even 5 or 10 is useful for a beginner.
After a while, the act of meditation will become something that you will not only want to do every day, but in fact need to do. When the silencing of the mind has been achieved it will become something that is essential to your daily routine.
So go ahead, assume the position and ………..ommmmmmm!