Meditation is not a religion. Nor is it a tradition involving levitation while sitting cross-legged on the floor pretending to be an all-knowing master of the universe. Meditation is total awareness. From cooking a meal with precision and grace to remaining present and calm while you work through a misunderstanding with your lover, meditation can be practiced anytime, anywhere. Also described as the process of abandoning all preconceived notions, assumptions and judgments, meditation allows a person to see the moment for what it is with understanding and compassion. A simple procedure in theory, but it’s not easy.
Although awareness can be practiced from in any given situation, there are several styles of disciplined meditation to help alter levels of consciousness. When you meditate, your mind is relaxed, clear and free of any expectations for specific outcomes. In this meditative state, you discover who you are and remove the insignificant details hindering your growth. Meditation, sometimes disguised as boredom, slows your breath, heart rate and pace, providing space for self-exploration while restoring your natural energy. Tuning into your natural rhythm instills a peaceful attitude with the way things are so you no longer hurry or worry but instead, trust that everything is happening for a reason. The mind stops scheming and lets go of outside influence, getting quiet enough to hear the yearnings of your heart and soul.
A healthy relationship with yourself is imperative for living a balanced life and maintaining healthy relationships with others. When you spend time in solitude and turn your focus inwardly on a regular basis, you gain insight into your being and develop an understanding for the choices you make. You acknowledge behavioral patterns and toxic habits, and begin to notice your attachment (the root of all suffering) to exterior concepts and the power they have over you. This recognition strengthens you to slowly detach yourself from people, beliefs and ideas so you can become liberated to blossom into your full potential.
People who live in a constant state of awareness rarely do more than one thing at a time and they take their sweet time doing it. This may be looked upon as lazy or unproductive in our stressed out, over stimulated society, but it is one of the smartest things you can do to become a healthier, happier, more mindful individual. When you eat, savor each bite. When you drive, enjoy the journey without reaching for your phone or thinking about your destination. When you are listening to someone speak, really hear the message instead of planning your response or judging their story. When you speak, practice truthfulness and kindness simultaneously. A relaxed, minimalistic approach to life will not necessarily change what is happening around you but it will shift your relationship with stress. Meditation teaches you how to observe your external world without becoming attached to it so you are much less reactive to the situations and behavior of others.
Stress, caused from habitual, obsessive thought, is the number one cause of illness and disease because our bodies are a reflection of our mind. When we are mentally unstable and constantly overwhelmed, sickness shows up in our bodies. The symptoms usually start as something seemingly minor such as acne, headaches, high blood pressure or digestive issues, and become a much larger issue in the form of chronic illness and disease if we do not take the necessary actions to restore our health. Meditation helps heal the mind from neurosis by stabilizing our mental state and giving us tools to work with our thoughts and emotions so they do not control us and escalate our suffering.
Benefits of Meditation
Lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety.
When we are in a state of consciousness, we do not react to our outer world. Making a big deal out of something, or nothing, (also known as stress) is no longer our first reaction to undesirable situations when you are living with awareness. The challenges we face are seen as opportunities for self-development. We make mindful choices that increase health and generate peace in our lives, lowering anxiety, and in turn, our blood pressure.
Minimizes our fears.
Many of our fears are irrational. As real as they may seem to you, they are still unreasonable. A false, or illusory, fear usually stems from a place within that holds onto painful memories and projects itself onto an object or idea that has never directly affected their lives. A consistent meditation practice helps us heal the wounded, broken parts of ourselves, so we become whole and courageous enough to face our fears and see them as they are.
Slows the aging process.
We’ve all heard that stress causes gray hair and wrinkles, and there is good reason behind this claim. When we are stressed, the body releases chemicals including adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. These chemicals result in a number of health-diminishing ailments such as inflammation, digestive disorders, a weakened immune system and damaged nervous system, which eventually take its toll on the system. Meditation helps to relieve stress and calm our nerves, and in conclusion, slow the aging process.
Meditation slowly peels away layers of dysfunction and removes the shielding we’ve built around our hearts as protection. When we finally discover our true self buried underneath the armor, we are free to come out and play. Our senses heighten, creative energy awakens and we take every opportunity we get to fully express ourselves.
Basic Seated Meditation
Sitting still and relaxing is a very simple, underrated activity, or inactivity. Doing nothing is incredibly healing for our minds, bodies and souls and has not been given the credit it deserves. There are many styles of meditation techniques available for practice. Basic seated meditation can be practiced at home and is accessible to everyone. It only requires a few minutes of your time and the willingness to be still. This technique is most effective when done consistently. Begin by practicing for five minutes each day and slowly work your way up to longer periods of time.
Sit in a cross-legged seated position on the floor with a pillow or blanket underneath your buttocks. You want your hips to be raised higher than your feet, especially if you are a beginner, to minimize the initial discomfort of this position. The muscles in the body have become tight and inflexible over time as a result of an inflexible mind and accumulated stress in our lives, so practicing correct posture may feel foreign and uncomfortable when first learning how to sit properly. Close your eyes and relax the muscles in your face and neck. Straighten your spine so the shoulders are directly above your hips and plant your sitbones firmly toward the earth. Do not slouch or lean over to one side. You want your back body (spine) strong and long and your front body (heart) open and soft. If this position feels extremely awkward, place additional pillows underneath your buttocks while keeping your feet on the floor, increasing the distance between your sitbones and the floor. Remember, the purpose of this technique is not to become comfortable, but instead learn how to stay with any thoughts or feelings that arise during stillness, including bodily sensations and emotional content.
Become mindful of your breathing. On the inhalation, let the breath fill you up completely. Be patient, allowing the oxygen to slowly enter your body and nourish your cells. Breathe into your belly, back and side ribs. Breathing only into the chest will create anxiety rather than relaxation. Notice the expansion of the stomach and lungs as you inhale. Observe your breath without trying to control it. This is a great exercise for learning how to receive with an open heart and relaxed, open mind. On the exhalation, pay attention to how the breath leaves your body, slowly letting go of every last ounce of oxygen you received from the inhalation. Stay with your breath. Thoughts will arise and you will be tempted to entertain them or chase them as you have programmed yourself to do throughout the years. Do not cling to them, control them or push them away. Simply observe the thought and then let it go. When you find yourself mentally straying, gently bring yourself back to the breath, enjoying and savoring each one.