Meditation Techniques(How to do Meditation?)
An instrument of thought.
What is Meditation
How to do Meditation
The basic instructions for most meditation techniques are the same Choose one thing to focus on and explore it
If the mind wanders, bring it back
Let all else go
The basic difference between all meditation techniques is the object we choose to focus on. In following articles, we will meditate on the breath, the body (in two different ways), music, affirmations, mantra, a visualization, and a visual object. In addition, there are two meditations, “clearing” and “naming”, which seem to bend the guidelines above.
The Basic Meditation Technique – Focusing
Focusing occurs naturally when something interests us or catches our attention. We are focused when we are thinking of nothing else. You are focusing when you: enjoy the texture and color of a silk scarf, are engrossed in a good book, savor the first mouthful of a good soup, carefully apply eye make-up, or clean the car window at the petrol station.
When one of these activities is in the foreground of our mind, other thoughts slip into the background. But as soon as our attention disengages from the scarf or the soup, the other thoughts surface again instantly. This is how focusing performs that minor miracle: stopping thoughts (or should we say, gently nudging them aside).
The key to good focusing is to be interested in the object or activity. Of course, the breath may not be as interesting as the first taste of a fine soup. But if we can approach it with the same gentle curiosity, it becomes so.
So we try to become interested in the shifting moment-to-moment detail of the breath. It is a succession of muscular sensations, ripples and flows, that come and go within us. We may feel it most clearly in the belly or the chest or the nostrils. We notice when it stops and starts, or how smooth or jerky it feels. We don’t try to change it. We don’t “think about” it. We just feel it as it is happening.
As we focus the mind slows down. We become attentive and relaxed, and other thoughts slip away. Of course it is not that easy. After focusing on our breathing for a few seconds, we find some thought of burning importance calls us away (“Shall I iron that shirt now or tomorrow? I wonder what’s on TV tonight?”). The breath seems boring in comparison.
This, therefore, is the spadework in all meditation techniques: drop the thought and return to the object of focus. Meditation works on the deferred pleasure principle. If we can drop the cheap satisfaction of thoughts and fantasy, the rewards are so much greater. Each time we drop a thought, we enjoy a moment of liberation. Gradually the mind becomes bright and clear, and capable of insight.
To meditate we choose an object – the breathing, a flower, a mantra or an image – and put a “fence” around it. Buddhist texts call the meditation object the “workplace”. Our work within all meditation techniques is to stay within the fence and explore.
Like any workman, we are aware of things beyond the fence, but we don’t have to down tools and pursue them. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But before we know it, some seductive thought strolls by and we’re halfway down the road after it.
” The simple sound “om”, or “aum”, is known as the first mantra, which is literally an instrument of thought.”
Good concentration is very gentle, almost effortless. The essence of focus is actually to let go. The mind will naturally focus if we can quickly disengage from other thoughts.
But this is the ideal. The reality is very different. Our thoughts are like mobs of schoolchildren clamoring for a teacher’s attention. By focusing on something, you can say to them: “I’m busy now, come back later”. And just like children, some thoughts are most reluctant to go, some go and come back later, while some never come back at all.
Focusing doesn’t mean blocking out every other thought This is an impossibility anyway Instead it is more like operating a camera lens: when we focus on a nearby flower with our camera, it comes into sharp focus. The background is still there, but a little fuzzy. Similarly, when we are centered on the breath, other thoughts and sensations still arise, but on the periphery.
Some people assume that to be aware of anything, you must automatically be “thinking about it”. But are you “thinking about” your cat as you stroke its back and tweak its ears? Focusing is non-verbal, sensuous and immediate it involves sensing not thinking.
Transcendental Meditation Techniques
Many religious groups, as well as adherents of Transcendental Meditation techniques, talk of using a sound, or “mantra” to help with learning how to meditate, and indeed this can be helpful. The repetition of a phrase, focus your mind upon the sound. The Hare Krishna movement is well-known for its repetitive chant that is repeated over and over again, and can lead to its members seeming to become “high” – showing the effects of endorphin release as one of the benefits of meditation.
With these guided meditation techniques, an effortless sound, repeated with the natural rhythm of breathing, can have the same soothing, mentally liberating effect as the constant natural sound of running water, rustling leaves or a beating heart. The single sound, or mantra as it is known, is used to blot out the “chatter” of intrusive thoughts, allowing the mind to find repose.
Speaking or chanting a mantra as a stream of endless sound is a very ancient method of heightening a person’s awareness by concentrating the senses. The simple sound “om”, or “aum”, is known as the first mantra, which is literally an instrument of thought.
The curving Sanskrit (the ancient language of Hindus in India) symbol for this primordial word represents the various states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, deep dreamless sleep and the transcendental state.
However, when using these guided meditation techniques, or if you are just learning how to meditate, the sound need not be a special word, or incantation; something simple and meaningful will be as, if not more, effective. The sound of the word “calm” spoken or thought with each breath comes out can be very effective, especially while imagining tension leaves your body and a calmness developing.
The word “relax” when used with meditation techniques seems to match other people’s needs in a same way. This clears the mind, make the breathing slow and finds relaxation, both mental and physical, to develop – the true benefits of meditation.
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