Different forms of Meditation
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What is meditation, what are some of the different types of meditation and what are the benefits of Meditation?*
While there are many different types of meditation, there are two general classifications: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. In concentrative meditation, you focus on clearing your mind to provide you with greater focus, concentration, awareness and clarity. In mindfulness meditation, you open your mind to become more aware of the things around you, such as scents, sounds and thoughts.
Concentrative Meditation: The easiest way to engage in concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Relax and count your breaths as you breathe through your nose. Take slow deep breaths, hold them for five seconds and let them out slowly. This helps you to get oxygen into the lowest portions of your lungs.
There are times when your mind may wander, but you refocus on your breathing and simply let your thoughts float away. You can also focus on an object when meditating or you may want to repeat a phrase or a word. This is called mantra meditation in which you can choose to repeat the word or phrase aloud or silently in your head as you deep breathe.
If you are agitated or worried about something, your breathing will be short and fast when you first start this type of meditation. As you start to relax, your breathing will slow down and become regulated. As you focus on your breathing or on an object, your mind will become absorbed with the regulation of your breathing and all other thoughts will lose importance or vanish from your mind.
Zen meditation; is one type of concentrative meditation in which you concentrate on the functioning of the heart. There are three main aims in this form:
1. to develop the power of concentration / focus
2. to awaken your inner sense of wisdom and knowledge
3. to recognize the strength, peace and love within your inner self
The idea is that once you are able to move from the thoughts of everyday life, you can reach that inner sense of harmony that exists in everyone. It helps to calm the mind and body to give you insight into the nature of your existence. You must be patient and persistent in meditating in order for your mind to become clear. If your mind becomes overwhelmed with thoughts, do not struggle to free yourself from them. As thoughts enter your mind, just begin by acknowledging them but imagine they are like clouds, simply floating by. With patience, in time, your thoughts will no longer disturb your meditation. If they appear in your mind at all, they will simply transform themselves into mist and float gently away. The awareness of your internal strength, peace and love will become your new focus.
Raja Yoga meditation; is another type of concentrative meditation that helps you to gain harmony of your mind, also enabling you to develop a sense of inner strength, peace and love (compassion). The life force of your body moves through the spine so that awareness is able to move into the "Third Eye", a point located between your eyebrows. Your mind is not passive and there can be many thoughts racing through it. With practice and a little imagination, you can free yourself of these pesky thoughts and focus on the real meaning of meditating. With meditation, you will achieve a pleasant feeling throughout the body and a calm peaceful mind. Meditation is a great form of emotional, mental and physical stress relief.
Mindfulness meditation; involves a passing parade of thoughts, sensations, emotions and images through your mind and body. You sit, walk, stand or recline if you wish with a meditating attitude. Instead of clearing your mind, you calmly allow your thoughts, sensations, emotions and images to enter. You welcome and acknowledge each as it presents itself, but you do not concentrate on any one of them. This form of meditation allows you to develop a heart felt approach to your external and internal environment. You do not react emotionally, rather you calmly draw strength and wisdom from the core of your being as you reflect on the life and nature of your experiences and challenges.
Instead of focusing on one individual thought, sensation, emotion or image, you allow each to become part of a bigger picture. This method of meditation allows you to see beyond limitations into the realm of possibilities and change. It trains your mind to meditate on things in your life which appear bigger than yourself or over which you believe you have no influence. One result of this form of meditation is a heightened sense of inner peace and strength that will enable you to go on with your life in spite what others may view as extreme difficulties. Another benefit of this form of meditation is a change in perspective that will allow you to see and experience life from many different points of view.
Guided meditation; is one of the easiest forms of meditation to learn and practice: Guided meditation is where a person or persons assist you in creating and following an imaginary image or story that moves you into a calm enhanced state of mind. Example: Meditate on a lone cloud on a hill, floating effortlessly through space and time. Imagine you are that cloud and with every inhale and exhale, you are blowing yourself gracefully across the heavens, forgetting all of the sorrow, pain and worry in the hills below.
The art of meditation takes many forms and titles:
Meditation has been practiced for over 5,000 years in eastern religious traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Other religions that have used forms of meditation include Janism, Sikhism, New Age, Taoism and Islam. Christianity and Judaism also have forms of meditation that can heighten devotion and create relaxation and peace in the body.
Yoga Meditation techniques; are used for health purposes to fight against anxiety, stress and chronic physical pain. By clearing the mind, relaxing the muscles and focusing on deep breathing, circulation, posture and concentration are improved. Yoga meditation is deeply tied to eastern religions and its goal is to improve health and well-being while reaching spiritual enlightenment.
There are many different types of Yoga meditation techniques including: Mantra, Trakata, Chakra, Vispanna, Raj Yoga, Zazen, and Nada Yoga. All of them include focusing on breathing, entering into an alternate state of consciousness and focusing on a strong sense of inner self. Beyond being conscious of one's breathing, there is a wide variety of techniques that help with reaching the developmental goal that the person is aiming for which include:
1. Upward meditation which acts to reverse the pull of gravity on the consciousness by lifting the consciousness out of the body.
2. Mind centered meditation in which the mind is a blank slate.
3. Monastic meditation which involves exploring death's mystery.
4. Observer meditation where you watch your thoughts and emotions as they happen from an outside perspective,
5. Passive meditation where the mind makes no judgment similar to daydreaming or sleep.
6. Fantasy based meditation where the person goes to an alternate place in his/her mind.
7. Trance meditation which includes rhythmic chanting or drumming.
8. Denial meditation or Dualistic meditation where divisions in the universe are realized and questioned.
9. Religious meditation where one thinks about an inspiring religious leader.
Transcendental Meditation TM; was introduced in 1957 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, disciple of the Indian spiritual leader, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi developed programs and initiatives to promote transcendental meditation and spent time touring the world teaching what he had learned. The TM meditation technique involves sitting with one's eyes closed for twenty minutes, twice a day and not contemplating but setting up a framework for the mind to move inwardly instead of being flooded with different ideas and feelings. Transcendental meditation is a relatively new form of meditating in comparison with Yoga and Buddhist meditation. It was developed as a way of developing the mind so that a person can rise above, or “transcend”, beyond the noise and stress of daily life. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi travelled the world teaching his spiritual regeneration and enlightenment.
Transcendental meditation had its beginnings in the Far East and then spread to the western world. In1961 after three years of travelling and teaching, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi realized that he needed to train his followers so that they could spread this form of meditation even further. The first international training course was held in Rishikesh, India in 1961. As more and more people all over the world realized the benefits of this form of meditation, scientists began researching it and by 1970 the first scientific papers were published espousing the technique. Since then there have been hundreds of such documents published, all of which show that transcendental meditation:
• helps to reduce the stress levels in the body leading to overall good health
• helps to increase a person's creativity
• helps to heighten the intelligence level of the meditator
• brings about self-realization
• could actually help you to live longer
Transcendental meditation does not have any religious affiliation, but it did have a political association in the Natural Law Party. This political party was formed in 1992 with the goal of using the principles of the meditation as a way of finding ways to solve the problems of society – crime, injustice, economics and environmental issues.
Basic transcendental meditation courses are generally expensive and in spite of the high cost, an estimated five million people all over the world have taken these courses. There are also advanced courses available for extra costs. This process of meditation is relatively easy to learn in the seven-step procedure used in the four days of the course. Each day begins with a two hour lecture and the instruction starts with a ceremony performed by the instructor after which the students learn the technique and start practicing.
The principle behind the technique of transcendental meditation is that the source of all thoughts is the deepest level of the subconscious and is far beyond what the normal senses can experience. In this meditation, the practitioner takes one thought or sound and focuses on this so that it can be experienced in the deepest possible way. The Maharishi compared it to a bubble of water that starts deep in the water and is only visible when it reaches the surface. He said that our thoughts are the same way – they start in the subconscious and rise to the conscious level of the mind.
In January, 2008, the Maharishi retired as the chairman of the transcendental meditation organization. He passed away the following month in Vlodrop, Netherlands, where he had lived for almost 20 years, coordinating his centers of teaching through an organization known as the Global Country of World Peace.
Musical Meditation: Music is a tool that is not only used for entertainment but for healing as well. Certain tones and chords can stimulate brainwaves, produce deep relaxation, increase the ability to learn, relieve stress, and even heal the body as a result of listening to and feeling the music. Almost everyone has experienced deep feelings from a song a favorite artist plays or an experience at a concert. Music can increase self-growth and fulfillment in certain areas of one's life. Meditation music is one of many forms of music that can accomplish this. It acts to correspond with meditation practices to promote self awareness and relaxation as well as deep connection. It is also used in spas during massages to help the patient relax fully.
Color and Light Meditation: Like musical meditation, specific colored light projections and natural sunlight can stimulate brainwaves, produce deep relaxation, increase the ability to learn, relieve stress, and heal the body. A relaxing 20 minute meditative bath of late afternoon direct sunlight on the exposed surface of the face, eyelids, forehead and upper body can stimulate and balance the entire endocrine system and provide a daily dose of vitamin D (eyes closed and sunglasses off). Specific colored light projections are used everyday in modern medicine to treat a variety of conditions but they can be used effectively to augment meditation as well. Each color or combination of colors will elicit a variety of physical, mental and emotional responses depending on the individual.
Trouble learning how to meditate: Learning to meditate can be a real task for some people. You may be uncomfortable sitting in what you think should be the correct posture (there really is no "correct" posture). You may simply be unable to quiet your mind and control the flood of thoughts entering your brain. (that's OK there is a mindfulness technique just for that problem). You may have fears about what meditation really is and whether the practice of meditation is against your religious beliefs (every major religion in the world has practiced meditation techniques for centuries). Whatever your reason for not experiencing meditation, I can assure you there are many more reasons why you should.
Meditation relieves stress, focuses the mind, heals and balances the systems of the body, boosts the immune system, controls chronic pain, brings wisdom and insight into problematic situations and opens your heart up to receive love and give compassionate understanding.
Challenges You May Face When You Meditate: Being able to stay focused when you meditate is one of the main challenges that you face when you first engage in meditation. In meditation, you focus on your breathing or an object and try to clear your mind. Thoughts will start to come to mind, which you should acknowledge and then let them pass on. Sometimes, if you are feeling stressed about some situation, thoughts of this kind may overpower you and you feel as if you should dwell on these to try to find a solution. Forcing the issue is not the way of meditating and will keep you from the true purpose.
When you first start your meditating session, you need to have a place where you will be free from distractions. This includes noise and images. You can block out the images by closing your eyes, but the daily sounds are often more difficult to block out. This is why most people choose the early morning hours to practice meditation. The rest of the household is asleep so you have some time to yourself when you won't be interrupted.
Learning the various positions and being able to hold them for a length of time is a challenge for beginners. While most people have the idea that you have to be in a sitting position to meditate, you can meditate when you are walking, lying down, kneeling or standing. The sitting positions are the hardest to master, even when you sit on a chair because it is hard to maintain the same position for up to 30 minutes at a time.
When you start to meditate, you also want to give yourself a few minutes at the beginning for your mind and body to relax. It takes a few minutes for this to happen and for your breathing to become regular. You want to let the tenseness out of the muscles in your back and neck and learn to breathe deeply. This means breathing in through your nose so that you take in the maximum amount of oxygen which can then get to the deepest portions of your lungs. Hold the breath for a second or two and let it out slowly.
There are no rules for meditating: The main goal is for you to see results from the session – whether this is simply a way of relaxing, finding a solution to your problems or finding a way of reaching a state of inner peace and calm. During the session, if you do not allow your thoughts to consume you, you can learn to see and understand them in a different way.
One of the main objects of meditation; is to become more effective in the way you handle the stress in your life. In time, you will no longer act impulsively and become angry over every little thing. Once you grasp this concept, you will be able to have a happier life and live longer as well. Achieving perfect health by simply relaxing seems a little bit too easy. Even so, according to cutting-edge scientific research from researchers at Harvard Medical School, deep relaxation has a remarkable effect on a wide variety of medical conditions. This research illustrates that in long-term practitioners of relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, far more "disease-fighting genes" were found present and active in comparison to individuals who practiced no relaxation or stress-relief techniques. Researchers found particular genes that protect from certain disorders and ailments "switched on," due to what they call "The Relaxation Effect" a phenomenon that is beginning to cause medical professionals to believe this relaxation effect is just as effective and powerful as any medical drug. The upside to natural relaxation techniques in comparison to medical drugs is that risks of negative side effects some of these drugs can cause are eliminated. Dr. Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School explains how the research is so critical because it signifies how a person's state of mind influences their body on a physical and even genetic level. Jake Toby, hypnotherapist at London's BodyMind Medicine Centre explains relaxation as an action the body takes when the "parasympathetic nervous system switches on linked to better digestion, memory, and immunity"
With scientific research proving that relaxation techniques can boost immunity, improve fertility, lessen irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, lower blood pressure, and prevent inflammation that is linked to heart disease, arthritis, and asthma as well as some skin conditions, it is no wonder that people who value their health or who have become frustrated with traditional medicine are looking deeper into finding ways to relax naturally and reduce their stress on a daily basis.
The easiest way to start off when practicing guided relaxation is to count your breaths as you inhale and exhale. Deep breathing relaxation methods, which involve inhaling through your nose as deeply as you can, will help your body start to relax. Hold this breath and then let it out slowly through your nose. Your heart rate will start to slow down and your muscles will start to relax. When learning relaxation meditation, remember to have a focus for the meditation. It requires work to focus your mind on one point and you must be engaged in all aspects of meditating. During relaxation meditation, all kinds of thoughts will come to mind. You have to learn how to recognize these thoughts and then dismiss them so that you are still actively involved in the guided relaxation. This is one of the main reasons why you need to choose a quiet place for meditation where you will not be interrupted by the normal sounds of your life when you are teaching yourself how to relax in this manner.
The key is to stay focused on meditating and to focus on your breathing techniques. The thoughts of frustration are ones that can take over and ruin relaxation methods for you. One great practice in meditation for beginners learning how to relax is to concentrate on the parts of the body. Start with your toes and focus on them as you feel them relax. Then move upward concentrating for a few minutes on each body part and how it relaxes. As you get to your head, your body will be completely relaxed and then you can concentrate on what ever is most important for you in this moment.
An Invitation to Awakening The Spirit Within: Level #1.
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