You don't have to wear yoga clothes, nor sit crossed legged on a yoga mat surrounded by crystals, candles, incense sticks or diffusing essential oils; and you certainly don't need a statue of Buddha nor practice Buddhism. By keeping it simple you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. Ten minutes day is all it takes I am sure we can all find that in a 24 hour period. Some of us love to create rituals and do all of the above, others simply want to get it done, whichever camp your in, meditation can help us to be less reactive, worry less and be more present in the moment.
The English word “meditation” stems from meditatum, a Latin term meaning “to ponder.” Historians agree that the practice probably began many thousands of years ago, as far back as 5,000 years ago via the discovery of wall art in India depicting traditional meditation poses. Several archaeological findings suggest that hunter-gatherers were practitioners of some forms of meditation, as were early shamans. Their knowledge was passed down orally from one generation to the next, helping to lay the crucial foundations of modern meditation. In approximately 500 BC Buddha was spreading his teachings in Asia, the Western civilisations were introduced to meditation practices much later in 1893 by Indian Hindu Monk Swami Vivekananda visited Chicago in America.
The practice of Zen meditation or Zazen is at the heart of the Zen Buddhism Meditation. Originally called Dhyana in India, Zen meditation is a very simple yet precise method of meditation, where the correct posture is imperative. Seating position is full or half lotus pose, hands are cosmic mundra pose (palms face upwards); eyes are open and directed about a metre in front of you but not focused on anything in particular. With your mouth closed you breathe slowly, calmly and rhythmically through the nose with extra focus on the exhalation. Focusing on breath will help to put you in a deep meditative state, it is natural to have thoughts and images and emotions, not focusing on them letting them pass like clauses and returning concentration to the breath.
A mantra is one of the most common objects used for meditation – and one of the most powerful ones too. Mantra is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots: man (meaning “mind” or “to think”) and trai meaning to “protect”, to “free from”, or “instrument/tool”. Therefore, mantras are tools of the mind, or tools to free the mind. Some mantras have a literal meaning and can be translated, but most of them, according to tradition, derive their value mostly from their sound quality. Some are short, one-syllable mantras; others are long, composed of many words. The mantra, being an instrument of the mind, can help you create profound changes in your body and psyche, and produce altered states of consciousness. Mantra meditation is a method of rotation of consciousness around a sound, amplifying it for maximum effect. The advantage with a mantra, however, is that it easily overrides mental speech, which is the predominant form of conscious thinking for most people.
Sufism is the esoteric path within Islam, where the goal is to purify oneself and achieve mystical union with the Supreme (named Allah in this tradition). The practitioners of Sufism are called Sufis, and they follow a variety of spiritual practices, many of which were influenced by the tradition of Yoga in India. In this post, I’ll explore the several types of Sufi meditation.
The core of all their practices is to remember God, fill the heart with God, and unite oneself with Him. So if you are atheist or agnostic, you probably won’t find these meaningful. The journey of the Sufi is the journey of the lover returning to the arms of the Beloved, a journey of love in which we “die” as egos so we can be one with Him. It’s the way of the heart. All of the practices are aimed at letting go of one’s ego, which is considered the biggest obstacle to realization.
Transcendental Meditation technique is a very simple, natural and effortless way of letting your mind settle down into an extremely calm and wise state of rest. Best effects are produced with regular practice of two times twenty minutes a day. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the great teacher from India who introduced the TM technique to the wider world, said: “Mantra is a specific thought which suits us, a suitable sound for us which we receive from a trained teacher of Transcendental Meditation. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1917-2008), Indian sage. By using this mantra, the practitioner experiences the thought of that sound and starts minimizing that thought to experience the finer states of that thought – until the source of thought is fathomed and the conscious mind reaches the transcendental area of being.”
The term “dzogchen” means “great completeness,” referring to the fact that all the qualities of Buddhahood are complete on the level of rigpa (pure awareness), the deepest foundational level of them all. Dzogchen is a very advanced system of meditation on the deepest, subtlest, foundational levels of mind. “Mind” refers to the unbroken mental activity of cognitively engaging with objects, described from another point of view as the mental activity of giving rise to appearances (mental holograms)
Kabbalah meditations were devised by the Jewish mystics over 2,000 years ago to enhance the awareness and access higher planes of consciousness. The aim of Kabbalah meditation is to make the practitioners the true carriers of the light of God. The objective of Kabbalah meditation transcends the need for relaxation and quieting the mind. Kabbalah meditation enables the seekers to directly interact with the higher worlds and bring about positive changes in life. It wipes off the negative influences both from your body and mind and establishes the power of mind over the matter. The essence of Kabbalah meditation is to bring new resources of joy, love and understanding to everything you do.
Benefits of Meditation
LONGER LIFE //
Telomeres are located at the ends of your chromosomes. Longer telomeres are correlated with a longer life span, and shorter telomeres are associated with a shorter life span. Studies have demonstrated meditation can preserve telomere length and reduce cellular stress.
REDUCED INFLAMMATION //
A randomised controlled trial showed that (NFk-B) inflammation can be lowered with meditation. NFk-B is a protein complex that plays a major role in the body's inflammatory response.
LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE //
A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Hypertensionfound that a type of meditation, known as Transcendental meditation (TM), can lower blood pressure.
REDUCED PAIN //
A study in the Journal of Neuroscience explored the different pathways that meditation improved when it came to lowering pain.
SLOWS COGNITIVE DECLINE //
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to regenerate itself by making new neural connections. This slowly decreases over time, but meditation can increase the thickness of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which helps slow down cognitive decline and preserve neuroplasticity.
IMMUNITY BOOST //
Does it seem like you are always fighting off a cold? Well, a study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry showed that meditation improves genetic pathways that control our immune system.
LESS ANXIETY //
There have been many studies showing that meditation helps to reduce anxiety. But how exactly does it work? Well, the part of our brain activated with feelings of anxiousness is known as the posterior cingulate cortex. When anxiety is calmed, the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. MRIs show us that meditation actually activates and strengthens this part of the brain.
FEELING MORE CONNECTED //
Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates meditation's ability to increase our sense of connection to others, even when practiced alone. Group meditation can help increase your social connection and heighten your emotional intelligence.
BETTER MOOD //
Research has shown that in many cases meditation is just as effective—if not more effective—than mood-altering medications for improving depression and anxiety. Meditation can increase brain gray matter volume in parts of our brain that control our mood.
INCREASED FOCUS //
Do you have trouble paying attention or have ADD-like symptoms? Good news, regular meditation is associated with more activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the angular cingulate cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for memory and focus.
MORE COMPASSION //
The world needs more compassion today than ever before. A randomized controlled trial, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, saw that over nine weeks, meditation decreased the fear of showing compassion and increased self-compassion.
BETTER SELF REGULATION //
Literature out of the scientific journal Emotion shows that meditation is effective at improving self-control, mindfulness and introspection—and decreasing participants' impulsivity.
REDUCED STRESS //
Scientific studies have shown that meditation can positively regulate the area of the brain that controls stress, known as the subiculum area of the hippocampus.
20 MINUTES DAILY //
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Associate (JAMA) found that an average of 2.5 hours of meditation per week can be enough to reap consistent health benefits.
The question to ask yourself is can you find 20 minutes a day? I have by incorporating a 10 minute morning meditation and a 10 minute evening sleep meditation. It is beyond easy to meditate when listening to a guided meditation. To find out how to meditate and to get started I recommend the APP Insight Timer, try the 7 day beginners course, a guided meditation with each session taking only 10 minutes, learn mindfulness meditation and meditation for anxiety, and that's just for starters!
Until next time..
Be human, be kind, be you
Reasons to start meditating
Journal of the American Medical Associate
Research Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Cellular Stress Study
Study Lowering Pain
Blood Pressure Reduction