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MEDITATION

Meditation has been a part of most cultures and religions, both eastern and western, throughout the ages. Only recently, however, has it been realised by medical men and women that it can be used without any religious connotation in the promotion of health. As a result, several hundred and books have appeared in medical literature, describing the physiological and psychological papers effects of mediation, as well as well as the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of its practitioners. First, meditation practice involves taking a comfortable position: either sitting, lying down or standing, although sitting is the most usual posture. It then involves being in a quiet environment, regulating the breath, adopting a physically relaxed and mentally passive attitude and dwelling single-mindedly upon an object. The object of meditation does not have to be physical - it can be an idea, image or happening, it can be mental repetition of a word or phrase (as in mantra meditation), it can be observing one's own thought, perception or reaction, or it can be concentrating on some bodily generated rhythms like breathing. In religious practice, needless to say, the object of concentration is God. The reason that there are so many objects upon which one can meditate is to allow or individual variations: people differ in their intellectual and emotional make-up, and it is important that each person feels comfortable with the chosen object. The ultimate idea is to learn the discipline of concentrating on one thing and only one thing at a time, to the exclusion of everything else. The mind has the tendency to wander, but as soon as the person realises this he or she must bring the mind back to the object of the meditation, which not only enables the person to think about that subject with greater clarity, but also enables the person to bring into consciousness all the ideas and memories associated with the subject, which is helpful in seeking a solution to a problem. As a deeper state of concentration is developed, the process becomes more intimate and compelling, and this power of the subconscious can be used to build character. It is known that if a person constantly tells him or herself that he or she is a failure, or inferior to others, then eventually he or she comes to believe it. In the same, way, if he or she perceives him or herself to be in possession of a desire trait over and over again, the new image can become a fixed part of his or her character. As well as this, meditation is said to lead to a more intense plane of consciousness, to a state where the mind experiences intense joy, happiness, peace or serenity. There are further practical advantages with meditation. It is said to enable us to function more efficiently, to feel more complete in ourselves and to enable us to realise more of our human potential, and help us to relate to both ourselves and others. It is also said to enable us to think and express our thoughts with more clarity, and to help us to be more effective in our work and clearer in our goals. Simple meditation on breathing One simple exercise for bringing awareness to a single subject is concentration on breathing. After you have regulated your breathing and relaxed the body as described, either in a sitting or reclining position with the eyes closed, you should fix your full attention on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils, noting full passage of each inhalation and exhalation from the beginning to the end. You should feel the sensation of the air going in and out. If you have difficulty in keeping your focus fixed, you might try counting 1 on inhalation, and 2 on exhalation. If the mind still wanders off, you should just bring it back without feeling agitated. Mantra meditation A word (or short phrase) is known as a mantra when it is repeated over and over again; it is an effective way of concentrating the mind. The idea is to set up one thought, one wave, that repeats over and over again. All the person should be consciously thinking of is the mantra. In this way, he or she becomes intimate with the sound of the mantra and beings to surrender to, or merge into it. The mind will wander off and distracting thoughts will come, but one should not get frustrated or get disturbed by doubts, discomforts, boredom or apparent failures. The mantra is often practiced while fingering something such as beads because it helps to keep the attention fixed. As soon as the mind wanders off, the activity of the hand reminds the person of the mantra. The rhythm becomes more compelling as the body works in harmony with the mind. With practice, you may notice that the quality of the mantra changes. When the mind is calm, the mantra will feel subtle and delicate. When the mind is agitated, the mantra will feel strong and course. Whatever happens, you should just keep repeating the mantra until the mind becomes more still. The power of the sound waves will be apparent when we consider how modern technology has been able to harness high frequency sound waves in diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasonic machines, based on the principle that each cell or tissue in the body has its own vibrating frequency, which may be modified by sound waves. Of course, sound waves can have both good and bad effects. They may make you feel calm or they may even make you feel wound up and agitated. Hence, care is required in choosing a mantra. Meditation on nature Nature is the easiest object of contemplation. Both therapists and patients can devise meditations in which the patients draw their surroundings into their being through their senses, until they are led into a quiet and peaceful state. For example, savour the smell of freshly cut grass or hold a piece of fruit, like an apple, in your hand and feel its shape and texture, examine its colour and smell it. Then close your eyes and capture all that you have seen and felt. Even a mundane event, like washing the dishes, can be used. Look at the many colours in the suds, feel them caressing your fingers.

Essentials of meditation exercise

  1. Meditate where the distraction of noise, movement, light and activity of other people are within tolerance level. You may wish to take the telephone off the hook. Some people are more tolerant than others.
  2. Ensure physical and mental comfort. Make sure that the room is warm. Wear loose clothes. Empty your bladder and bowel. Do not practice for at least two hours after a meal. It is most beneficial if you practice twice a day, six hours apart, e.g. in the morning before breakfast and again preferably before supper, about 15-20 minutes each time.
  3. Adopt a poised posture, perhaps simply sitting in an upright chair. It is essential to have a straight back without rigidity, a comfortable body and stillness. Ears should be in line with shoulders and tip of the nose in line with the navel. Eyes are kept closed. The body should be relaxed, as described under deep muscle relaxation.
  4. Breathe through the nostrils and down into the abdomen. Make sure that your breathing is regular, slow and rhythmical.
  5. Dwell single-mindedly on an object of meditation. The meditation object can be physical like a fruit of flower vase, or can be a word or phrase repeated mentally, or aloud, or can be a body rhythm, like breathing. Count your breath on exhalation from one to ten and start again. Try several methods until you find one which is right for you.
  6. Passive awareness is very important. You must develop a passive and relaxed attitude towards distraction. You will find that thoughts and images will flit in and out of your mind but you should just bring it back easily and effortlessly to the object of your meditation. Do this as many times as is necessary. As you become more experienced, distracting thoughts and images lessen. Accept that they are inevitable and maintain an attitude of indifference to them. Meditation is ruined if you keep thinking about meditation - what is to be done next? What is the experience like? How am I doing?
  7. Regular practice will make it easier to still the mind, but you cannot force results. Meditation is nearly always refreshing, relaxing and peaceful and, for some meditators, can even be blissful and joyous, or even ecstatic. Meditation in action Finally, there is the approach which is called active meditation or meditation in action. This involves learning to concentrate on an everyday task as if that was the most important thing in the world at that moment, rather than wasting time with wishful thinking and daydreaming. When a person is completely engrossed in whatever he or she is doing, to the exclusion of everything else in the external world, whether it is a painter who is painting, a jogger jogging, or someone who is simply washing up, he or she is meditating in action.


Transcendental meditation "! is another form of meditation which has been extensively researched. The research has shown reduction in stress indications, such as slowing of the breathing and pulse rate, and brain waves assume the pattern of deep relaxation. Reduction of stress, through meditation, is said to lead to a calmer approach to life. There is an initial introductory presentation of TM which leads to four sessions of instruction for those interested in pursuing it further. The technique itself is very simple to learn and practice.

For further information about TM centres throughout Britain, write to

Transcendental Meditation,
Freepost,
LONDON, SW10 4YY or telephone freephone 0800 269303.

Commitment

We should not be fooled into believing that the benefits of meditation can be accomplished by just sitting and repeating some word now and again when we have the time. It requires a life-long commitment. If we just sit and use the simplest form of meditation, like counting our breath for 10-15 minutes, we will find out soon enough how hard it is to keep the mind concentrated on it totally and exclusively. The first shock and surprise comes when we realise how undisciplined the mind really is. It constantly refuses to abide by our will and the more we try to bring ourselves to the task, the more we find ourselves doing all sorts of things: solving old problems, planning tomorrow's work, feeling all kinds of sensations and perceptions. Occasionally, we get bored or even sleepy. It is important to realise that serious medication requires perseverance, that it may at times be frustrating, but it is worth all the effort.

The Change Curve

The change or bereavement curve represents the process that we go through when we lose something or someone of value to us. The process is not “step by step” in that, at any time, our thoughts or sights, sounds smells, tastes or touches may remind of us our loss and trigger the old feelings again. In this normal process in time we learn to live with our loss. However , we may find it helpful to use Self Help Resources or seek support from our doctor, friends or our own Contact page.

The Change Curve


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