Not so long ago, meditation was an unknown concept to the populations in the west. Then people with different backgrounds got into contact with meditation and started practising it, and quickly noticed how beneficial it is.
There are two types of meditation: one which focuses only on accomplishing total relaxation of both body and mind, and the other one being more spiritual, aiming towards finding your higher state of consciousness, and become one with nature and the universe – with everything.
On this page we will concentrate primarily on the first form of meditation, being the one with the aim to reach a state of total relaxation.
People meditate for many different reasons: some do it in order to achieve stillness, others to reach a higher state of consciousness, and another group think of meditations as a method to increase the energy flow and thereby also their energy levels. Among the numerous positive effects of meditation, is the possibility to create a bigger world for yourself, in your own mind, which allows you to dream and visualize, seeing yourself reaching your personal goals. Once you have created a visual image of your goals, it is much easier to achieve them.
The health promoting effect of meditation, concerning both the mental and the physical health, are commonly acknowledged today, and has also been confirmed by scientific research. The philosophers call it “The outer or the absolute activity. When you are in this state of mind there is no confusion, on the contrary everything is very clear.”
The solution to a problem you have pondered upon for a long time, sometimes shows up during a walk in the forest. The ability to see clearly and listen in a complete way, arises first when your mind is still.
If you were to ask a Zen Buddhist what one achieves by meditation, he would probably answer “nothing particular”, and if you were to pressure him into telling you what meditation is, his answer might be that it is to “forget the mind”, “no mind” or even “to just sit”.
One does not meditate in order to become something, but to realise what one already is. It is health promoting to meditate regularly and makes it easier for practitioners to handle the world around them. Prophets and wise men have always said that the path to happiness lies within us, and by meditating we can all experience long lasting satisfaction and inner peace.
According to many masters, it is the restlessness of the mind which is the foundation of all worries and diseases.
Meditation has therefore been used many times when treating different types of symptoms, such as depression, migraine, insomnia, stress and even cancer.
People have different ways of meditating, different techniques, some of them being better than others of course, but they all help developing the ability to concentrate and to control the mind.
Some people say that one must breathe in a special way, place the hands in a special manner, sit verses lying down; eyes closed/eyes open and so on. But the truth is, as long as you sit or lie comfortably and relaxed, meditation will work for you no matter where you place your hands, and no matter if your eyes are closed or not. It’s all about being able to relax and focus on absolutely nothing. If it helps to focus on something, rather than nothing at all, focus on your breathing. Learning how to keep a distance to one’s thoughts, are part of the process.
This is a short meditation used in martial arts before and after a workout. The goal is to empty your head of thoughts and feelings that may interfere.
Relaxation of body and mind is the first step into meditation. The body is relaxed through simple energy exercises, some of which we will show you over the course of this book. Central to relaxation are techniques taken from such disciplines as Yoga, Chi-gong and other more mental disciplines like Hypnotherapy, Science of Mind (positive affirmations, visualisations and praying techniques), but also other psychological tools.
Once body relaxation and an unstrained, gentle focus are obtained, we can then move on to concentration. Concentration is a full focus of the mind upon an inner or outer stimulus. The rise or fall of the breath is often used as a focus; as are body processes or outer events, like, for example, the wind passing through the trees. Emotional feelings like love, devotion or relatedness are also used, as is sound, mantra (a repeated phrase or word used either in the spoken or in the mind). We will work to build your concentration on this course.
This is the action of taking the whole process of deep relaxation and concentration to a deeper, more consistent and less strained level. We may get to this point quickly in our meditation, often, however we do not. We will attempt some deep contemplation after a period of basic training.
Basic principles of meditation
- Choose a place where you will not be bothered.
- Sit or lay down comfortably, without crossing your arms or legs.
- If your attention starts to drift away during meditation, simply control it right back to focusing on your breathing.
- The first observations are usually physical, for example a feeling of deep relaxation, followed by a feeling of having found yourself, a centre point within you.
- Never end the meditation session abruptly or you will lose many of its advantages. Remain in the meditation position for a couple of minutes after having ended the session.
- Notice in your body as well as your mind, the effect meditation has on you. The experience is usually both relaxing and invigorating.
What does science say about meditation and how does meditation affect the brain?
Meditation probably makes you think about putting your mind at ease and giving your brain a vacation for a while, but deep meditation activates and claims quite a large part of your brain functions. The knowledge on how the brain responds to meditation has helped scientists understand the healing process that arise during meditation:
Total concentration on an object produces activity in the frontal lobe, which controls motivation.
Paying attention to spiritual images, such as candle lights, stimulates the lower temple lobe, which handles visual stimulation.
So called chanting, stimulates the crossing where the temple, forehead and top of the head meet, which supports relaxation.
Joy and deep respect influences temple which also controls emotions, which are all activated from there.
If you have lost contact with your surroundings and feel connected as one with the universe, it is the top of the head (which handles sensory input) which has been calmed down.
Some studies concerning meditation show that:
- The heart rate slows down and the blood pressure decreases or stabilises.
- Changes in the brainwaves indicates a relaxed and yet an awake condition.
- A method called electroencephalograph shows that the activity pattern during meditation is different then both the pattern of normal awake condition and from the pattern of sleep.
Three Simple Processes of Meditation