You’re present and alert but the only thing you’re conscious of is existence itself.
People take drugs, do extreme sports, have sex, go on vacation, watch television, listen to music and engage in countless other activities to achieve a mental state where the word thoughts, images and memories that usually occupy the mind are replaced with something better.
Now an increasing number of people are turning to meditation to get to a place where the mind is silent but awake.
But just what is meditation? It’s challenging to describe because there are so many techniques and categories of meditation. Ironically, there are heated arguments about defining meditation and its various permutations.
Generally speaking, meditation is a deliberate, focused attempt to clear the mind of its regular, habitual patterns of thinking and inner dialogue.
The goal is to replace that regular ambiance with unencumbered awareness or awareness that concentrates exclusively on a repetitive sound or word (mantra), on breath, on some particular part of the body, or on a moral concept or life topic that you want to examine from all angles.
Meditation has been clinically studied by academic and medical researchers. They’ve discovered how it works to produce a wide range of benefits, including lower blood pressure, better sleep, fighting depression, decreasing stress disorders, and increasing your overall enjoyment of life.
Studies show that meditation changes brainwave patterns, breathing, heart rate, and hormonal balances to create healthful states of being and alleviate the health-reducing effects of stress, conflict and overwork.
Some meditation is linked to “religious” teaching such as Buddhism and Hinduism. However, most forms of meditation (including those with links to religion) are not about religious indoctrination at all.
They are primarily intended as a way to defragment and cleanse the mind so a state of pristine awareness can be experienced.
In this state of awareness, meditators may choose to just cruise along enjoying the peace and quiet of a mind free from thoughts, words and worries.
Other meditators use the peace and quiet to examine a life issue, relationship or moral precept…with the goal of becoming a better human being, of bringing more good to their world.
Meditation is used as a healing tool and as a “spiritually recreational” experience. Some meditators report feeling a sense of extreme well-being, even euphoria, when they’ve achieved deep meditative states.
Other meditators report that the “bliss” of meditation helps them overcome drug and alcohol addiction or the use of prescription anti-depressants, because meditation gives them an endorphin-assisted “high” that combats a perceived need for drugs or alcohol, or alleviates the darkness of depression.
And meditation is sometimes combined with visualization. The mind is cleared and silenced, and then the meditator creates a visualized set of images, feeling states or hoped-for outcomes that are intended as transformative. In some ways, this process resembles self-hypnosis.
There are a couple of pieces of “required” equipment that are useful for almost all meditators.
Because meditation is traditionally done in a cross-legged, upright sitting posture, most meditators rely on meditation cushions to help them align their pelvis for more comfort and balance.
In meditation training, meditation teachers often use a gong or other audible device to signal the start and end of meditation sessions. For personal meditation on your own, it’s best to get a meditation timer that sounds like a gong and gives you the ability to set varying meditation durations.
As you might expect, quality meditation equipment is hard to come by. Many meditators enjoy talking to Jay Suthers of the online store, Sage Meditation. Jay himself is a meditator; he has dedicated his professional life to providing you reliable, classy and functional meditation equipment.
When you talk to him and hear how calm and pleasant he is, you get a glimpse into what meditation can do for you.
Jack Kornfield presents the benefits and techniques of meditation in his book Meditation for Beginners, which is a useful non-sectarian introduction to meditation.
And, yes, be aware that some organizations and individuals use meditation instruction as a way of making huge amounts of money, or as clandestine religious recruitment.
Mediation is not an escape from reality. It’s safe, clinically-proven and easy to do almost anywhere you’ve got privacy. When you’ve gotten familiar with meditation, you’ll enjoy the way it restores you.
© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2010
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Thursday, 26 August 2010