Meditation can be a twofold experience. On a physical level, it can be used to combat stress, promote health, for pain management, to help you sleep better and to generally enhance your mood. However, on another level it is also though to be able to expand your consciousness, help you develop your latent psychic abilities and put you in tune with the collective unconscious of those around you.
Quality is better than Quantity
Meditation has been practices for thousands of years, most famously by the Buddhists, for whom it is a fusion of mind, body and soul. Buddhists practice meditation for hours on end in order to reach the state of Nirvana in which the secrets and mysteries of life and the universe are revealed. While, for most of us, the ability to practice meditating for hours on end is simply too time-consuming to be compatible with our 21st Century lives, we can invest a small portion of our time in this relaxing pastime. In this instance, quality is better than quantity, so here are 10 tips that should enable you to get the most from your meditative sessions:
1) Be mindful of your spine. According to the Buddhist belief, your body and mind are inextricably linked; what affects one, will affect the other. In order to achieve a well-balanced state of mental health, you must also focus on your physical health. When meditating, your posture is important and slumping can not only lead to physical pain, but psychic blockages too. The Hindus believe that there are vortexes of energy positioned throughout the body and poor posture can hinder the flow of energy through them. Ensure that you sit as straight as you can, without it being uncomfortable.
2) The stereotypical image most of us have is of someone sitting with their eyes closed. In truth, most serious practitioners meditate with their eyes open, albeit with their retina relaxed and in soft focus. The purpose of meditation is not to drift off and allow your thoughts to gambol in the fields of your imagination. Rather, it is to try and exist from moment to moment. In meditative beliefs, there is no past or future; there is only now. Meditating with your eyes open allows you to maintain that immediate presence and connect with the moments around you, as they occur.
3) In much of our lives, we are not entirely present. Consider car journeys you may have taken; it is possible to drive some distance without being fully aware. We have inbuilt autopilots that can dominate all the senses so, while we appear to be functioning as per usual, our minds are elsewhere. Think of those journeys you have undertaken where you don’t remember much about the journey itself. If meditation is to encourage a conscious existence in the here and now, then it sometimes pays to have something to focus on, be it an object or, as we shall see, your breathing.
4) Focussing your mind on your breathing is a great way to actively encourage the link between your psychic and physical selves. Initially, there’s no need to be regimented about the way you breathe; just allow it to happen and register it on a conscious level.
5) A more advanced meditative technique is to count your breath. While this isn’t a regimented approach, you may find that you drop into a regular pattern of breathing as a consequence. On your outbreath, begin counting from one and aim to finish on the count of four. There is more to this than you might think, and in the instances where your mind wanders you can use that first ‘one’ to return your mind to the here and now. Counting your breath is a great way to anchor both your body and your thoughts, rooting both in the present.
6) Emotions can be a barrier to achieving a meditative state, but they must be acknowledged or they will fester and become manifest in negative ways. The problem with emotions is that they carry with them mental and physical distractions. A lot of our time is spent reliving events and wondering if we could have changed the outcome. Rather than dwelling on the circumstances behind these feelings, it can be helpful to distance ourselves from them and concentrate on the physical feelings they engender. For example, if you are feeling angry then take the time to notice how it affects your breathing, your heart rate and even your stomach. By focussing on the physical sensations, we are still giving the emotions room to breathe, but keeping our minds focused on things other than the causes and ‘what ifs’.
7) While there are inordinate numbers of meditation CDs available with mood-enhancing music, part of the point of meditation is to quieten the mind. This, however, is impossible if we cannot hear what our brains are up to! It is better to sit in silence, so that you can hear the thoughts you are experiencing and then use the counting of your breath to rein it in and pull it back to a more peaceful state.
8) While the Buddhist monks can meditate for considerable lengths of time, it is not always possible for us to do so. In addition, day-long meditative sessions are not something that we are immediately prepared for. It is far better and more productive to build up, incrementally. Begin with a length of time that seems eminently possible, such as ten minutes at a time, and build from there.
9) Your environment can affect your mood, wherever you are. Bearing this in mind, it can be helpful to create your own special place, dedicated to meditation. You can fill the space with items that will help you focus or even that carry good memories and pleasant associations. Many people like to surround themselves with naturally occurring materials, such as wooden statues, stones and crystals. This sanctuary doesn’t have to be enormous - the corner of a room, cordoned off by a curtain, can be just as effective.
10) Meditation should be enjoyable. Scientists have found that, simply by looking upwards, raising your eyebrows and smiling, you can enhance your mood. Meditation is not supposed to be a chore, and as daft as it might feel, starting your session with a smile can help put you in a more positive frame of mind.