"Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak."
- Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Meditation, created thousands of years ago, is when the mind is free from agitation. During meditation, our minds create a sense of balance for we are not reminiscing of the past nor anticipating the future - we find awareness and contentment within the present moment.
Let us briefly explain what meditation is and is not.
What meditation is not:
Thinking or contemplating
Daydreaming or fantasizing
Arguing between thoughts
Intensifying the thinking process
Hypnosis or autosuggestion
What meditation is:
A quiet, effortless, one-pointed focus of attention and awareness.
The amount of damage stress can do to the body is significant, so imagine how our mind and bodies will flourish when our stress levels decrease. During the practice of meditation, we relax the autonomic nervous system and muscular tension by focusing the mind on say, our breath. Deep breathing alone helps to bring more oxygen to the brain, resulting in the ability to think more clearly.
For example, when you see a person taking deep, exasperated breaths when they’re angry or nervous, they are attempting to control their emotions. This act is our mind’s initial response to calming the nerves in stressful situations so we can act appropriately. Pulling the mind away from our worries, fears or other thoughts darting back and forth in our brain gives us a chance to mentally take a step back, observe, and approach the situation with a more relaxed and clear way of thinking.
This helps us to better our relationships and communications with others for we are able to better control our reactions, such as anger.
Breathing Exercises have an enormous amount of benefits in preparing the mind for meditation and improving health. This may also be used as a meditation technique, for we are focused only on the breath.
1) Begin seated in a simple cross-legged position or sitting with your legs extended out in front of you (suitable if you have any knee pain). If you need to, you can practice sitting against a wall.
2) Before getting started, make yourself as comfortable as possible so you avoid feeling discomfort during your meditation. You can always place a pillow underneath your tailbone and/or knees for more comfort and support.
3) Let your palms rest on your thighs or knees, then relax your shoulders down and soften any tight muscles in your face - such as the corner of your eyes, forehead, jaw.
4) Breathe in deeply through your nose, and out through your mouth.
5) After a couple times of deep breathing, you can switch up the breathing by inhaling and count to 4 seconds, then exhale and count to 8 seconds. This will teach us to lengthen our exhales.
* Often throughout the day we hold our breath when we are hard at work or lost in our studies and other stressful situations. This counting exercise helps to teach us how to lengthen our exhales, take notice of when we are holding our breath, and letting it go.
6) Continue for 5-10 minutes, or listen to your intuition and meditate for as long as you feel necessary. A goal to work up to can be 30 minutes or even, an hour.
Just as there are many different paths to climb a mountain, there are also a variety of meditation techniques.
All have the same goal: achieving a state of inner concentration, calmness, and serenity.