Meditation is the withdrawing of our awareness from the everyday world so that breathing becomes deeper and the mind and emotions are stilled.  It brings an experience of peace and tranquility.

Some find meditation to be a good method of relaxation and others consider it to be at the core of their spiritual practice.  Whatever your viewpoint meditation brings many benefits, especially if practiced on a regular basis.  It provides a time of quietness, an oasis in our hectic lives.

The mind is most often in a restless state with fragments of thoughts blowing in and out like dried leaves on a windswept day. Most of us do not allow ourselves time to sit quietly and reflect,so there is no space to digest our experiences.When life is stressful it is particularly important to make a little time for ourselves.

Take a little time out with headphones:
Deep by Christian Bodhi

Concentration and meditation are intended to bring a sense of stillness and reflection, leading to a feeling of clarity and peace.  This is achieved when the focus of the mind is in a state of perfect balance.  These skills do not come overnight, but are acquired gradually over a long period of time, meditation takes regular practice and dedication.

In every part of the world there are many traditions which recommend meditation.  Mystics and philosophers through the ages have described it as a means of awakening a deeper part of our consciousness.  The ultimate goal is transcendence, an experience of unconditional love and compassion, peace and enlightenment.

Some people with no spiritual intentions spontaneously experience this state of bliss, they are the fortunate few and this often changes their lives completely.  More usually it is a feeling of peace and tranquillity which encourages people to continue with their practice of meditation.

This experience varies from individual to individual and is often difficult describe, but many people find it changes their energies, so that they have a greater sense of awareness and are better able to deal with their daily lives.

Whatever stage we have reached, most people feel refreshed and have a greater sense of peace and stillness. Some have a profound awakening described as Universal Consciousness:

“When the sage of silence, the Muni, closes the doors of his soul and, resting his inner gaze between the eyebrows, keeps peaceful and even the ebbing and flowing of breath; and with life and mind and reason in harmony, and with desire and fear and anger gone, keeps silent his soul before final freedom, he in truth has attained final freedom.”

Bhagavad Gita 

Learning to Meditate

There are many approaches to meditation, some recommend gentle music, some read spiritual verses before closing their eyes to reflect on their meaning, others use visualisation or try to concentrate their minds by looking at a candle flame or flower.  You must decide for yourself what method suits you best.

It will take several days, a few weeks or months for the mind and emotions to settle into a routine.  At first the energy of our mind rushes here and there with all sorts of thoughts intruding.  So there can be a feeling of frustration or even failure, but this is just the normal action of the mind in its everyday ebb and flow.

It is natural to feel we should be able to control our thoughts and tell our mind to be quiet, and when we find we can’t we might have a strong reaction.  This is to be expected, but this phase will pass with practice and patience.  Through gentle training it is possible to bring the mind into a condition of peace.

There is a very old saying:  stop thinking about the monkey.  What happens?  The mind can’t stop thinking about the monkey!  This intended to demonstratethis common experience.  The more we are able to let go of our thoughts the more theycease to be at the centre of ourmind

If the stream of thoughts can be accepted they begin to fade and can be gradually replaced by a focus of attention.  This focus may be on something particular or on the experience of stillness and awareness.  In this condition the noise of the everyday world will also fade and this makes the process of meditation easier.

Download (PDF): The Placid Lake of the Mind

How to Begin

Books about meditation, instructions and hints are of no use unless accompanied by regular practice.

The following suggestions have been handed down through the ages and are intended to help anyone who has not previously practised meditation.

1.   Decide clearly whether or not you wish to learn to meditate and why.

2.   Decide for how long you will keep up a period of practice: one week, two weeks, one month?

3.  Keep the period of the experiment short.  At the end you can always renew your intention.

4.  Regular practice is important.  Decide on a time and place when you expect to have at least five minutes undisturbed peace and quiet every day.

5.   This may be at home, at work, in a park or elsewhere.

6.   Sit comfortably and if necessary support your back so that your spine is in an upright position.

7.   Take a few slow deep breaths so that you feel more relaxed.

8.   Now close your eyes and slowly and gently breathe in and out.

9.  If you first breathe out from deep into your lower chest this makes more room for new air to go in.

10.  Shortness of breath can be caused by shallow breathing in the upper part of the chest.

11.  Watch your thoughts and feelings gently and calmly and without strain.

12.   If your attention wanders gently bring it back to the feeling of quietness.

13.   Maintain easy regular breathing and become aware of the stillness which surrounds you.

14.   Let peace flow outwards from within you – to your home, your office and your neighbourhood.

15.   After the allotted period of time gently open your eyes and take three or more slow deep breaths.

16.  When you are ready, get up and return to your daily activities feeling peaceful and refreshed.

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