In this fast paced world, many are seeking ways to get away from it all, take a vacation, and relax. But who has the time and money these days? The art of meditation, essentially a method to achieve a level of deep contemplation and relaxation, is one way to achieve an “inner vacation, a sense of deep peace and tranquility.
Most people think of blissful monks or yogis sitting crossed legged, when they think of mediation, but there are many other methods of meditation; there is no right or wrong way to mediate, you only need to practice, and find a way that feels right for you.
Meditation is associated with religion, but you do not need to be religious to meditate. One common meditation is mantra meditation, which involves repeating a sound or word. Other types of meditation involve visualizing and focusing on an image, such as a flower or a symbol. Other meditation techniques use breath, which is called Pranayama, and yoga excercises.
The goal of mediation is to help you clear your “monkey mind” of the constant chatter that normally runs through the minds of most people. In reducing or eliminating these random thoughts, you can reach a state of deep meditation; and oddly, the state of not thinking is more profound than any of the thoughts most people commonly have.
There are two basic approaches to meditation; concentrative meditation, and mindfulness meditation. During concentrative meditation, the meditator focuses on the breath, or an object, or a sound, such as a mantra, or sensing the energy flow within the body. During mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits quietly, and passively observes everything, including sights, sounds, smells, and even thoughts. In this type of meditation, the meditator practices not reacting to events, both internal and external, which leads to a greater ability to act calmly in daily life. Both forms of meditation are good, and it is a good idea to try practicing both.
There are physical and mental benefits from practicing meditation, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and a more youthful outlook and feeling. Mental benefits include decreased anxiety and depression, and more emotional stability. Meditation should not be used as a cure for physical or mental illness, however, but it can be a powerful tool. Those with physical or mental illness should consult with a health care professional before beginning a mediative practice.
In addition to the different types of meditation, there are different stages of meditation as well. In the early stages of meditation, the meditator is more aware of the practice, they may have difficulty focusing on the breath, or not reacting to thought. But with practice, this moves into the stage where the practioner is much less aware of the effort. This is followed by a stage of bliss, followed by deep sense of Self, followed by an ability to reach a stage of deeper stillness.