By now most of you have heard or read about the benefits of meditation. Over the last few decades the medical and scientific communities have studied the practice and have obtained quantified analysis and results that prove there are several benefits to a regular meditation practice.
Meditation, it’s known benefits:
- Calms & Relaxes the Mind & Nervous System
- Reduces Fears, Anxiety & Depression
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- Improves Sleep, Mood & Emotions
- Regulates Heart Rate
- Relieves Muscle Tension
- Diminishes Intensity of Headaches/Migraines
- Balances Hormones
- Improves Cognitive Function
- Improves Immune System
- Generates optimism, self-esteem, confidence and motivation
- Enhances our sixth sense & connection to expanded awareness or consciousness.
- Produces deep states of relaxation… and the list goes on…
Meditation is a practice where an individual calms the mind and body to a still, or quiet point. This will help the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content. Our minds are scattered, jumping from one thing to the next. Buddhists called this the “monkey mind”.
Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions and beliefs.
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that include techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force, and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness. Meditation is often used to clear the mind, as well as focus the mind. Probably the most famous, or at least “trending”, meditation practice right now is Mindfulness or Mindful Meditation.
Mindfulness was brought into the mainstream by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat was Professor at MIT who was a student of Buddhist teachings and integrated them with medical science. This integration led to him developing the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program which is currently taught and offered by medical centers, hospitals, and other health organizations.
Mindfulness, in a nut shell, is being aware of the the present moment you are in. You focus your thoughts on your immediate environment rather than on other more random thoughts. I practice mindful meditations when I walk in the woods with my dogs. I leave behind my to-do list and focus on the breeze in the air, how it feels on my face, the sounds of the birds, the smells of the forrest, etc. That is a mindful meditation. Being mindful while performing a task is another form of this, such as knitting or painting. Focusing your attention on the task at hand in that given moment brings you into a mindful state.
So if you are already doing this, congratulations! You have taken the first step in an easy meditation practice. However, I have found both personally and with my clients and students, that learning to actually quiet the mind and get as close to “NO” thought as you can, is truly the most therapeutic. I always tell my clients, “praying is talking to God, meditation is listening”.
In order to listen you have to quiet the mind of all thought.
I know this sounds difficult and almost scary…but believe me, like anything, with practice you can get there. I was a type “A” over-achiever, always on the go personality, most of my life. During the 90’s I lived in and around New York City, working as a Model, Commercial Spokesperson and eventually TV Host and Producer. I traveled the country and the world. I stayed up late and got up early, Sleep and rest eluded me. My mind always going with what I had to do next.
As we turned the new millennium, just a few days in to 2000, my father suddenly died. I was only in my early 30’s. Originally thinking I had many more years to come with him after I made my mark so to speak, this event rocked my world and brought me to me knees. I pulled my syndicated TV show from the air and moved into my vacation house on Lake Wallenpapuck to be closer to my mother to help her through the transition period.
After a year of getting her settled, I started getting restless. I went back to NYC for less than a year when 9/11 hit. At this point I made the decision to move back to my house on Lake Wallenpaupack permanently to settle down into a new life.
Besides enjoying the outer peace and quiet of nature and the wildlife, I also found the American headquarters for the Himalayan Institute about 45 minutes from the lake. There, I found my inner peace and quiet. It didn’t happen over night, but after years of studying on and off, in between working and traveling every other week down to my home town to take care of mom, I finally found it…my own meditation practice that worked for me. And you can to.
To start, let’s first discuss posture. Forget the image of a guru or rishi sitting in the cross legged Lotus position. That is just not practical or comfortable when you are starting out. Medical studies have proven that the best and easiest way to meditate is to sit in a supportive comfortable chair, feet uncrossed and flat on floor and arms comfortably at your side with you hands on your lap.
To me, the idea here is to keep yourself open to allow energy to flow through you and into you. Sitting in cross legged position, Lotus, is about circling and keeping energy within you. As an intuitive, I can tell you thatwhen you keep the energy free and flowing into you, you keep yourself open to receive information from the universe. To help this, keep your palms facing up and open to receive.
Now just breathe. Take two or three intentionally slow, deep breaths, and close your eyes.
The breath is very important in meditation. The ‘in’ breath and the ‘out’ breath helps relax the body, mind and soul, bringing with it, stillness to help lead you into transcendental states of consciousness. When you focus your attention on the in-breath and out-breath, you will find it easier to train the mind to forget the ‘to-do-lists’ of life as well as any emotional issues of the past or projected future. The in-breath assists in bringing in information from the universe as the out breath releases all that no longer serves us.
The most simple and basic breathing technique to begin with a simple ‘Bellow’ breathing or belly breathing. Much like that of a puppy or baby, you need to take a deep inhale expanding your belly, your abdominal region. Bringing the air deep down into your belly first, expanding the diaphragm, releases the Vegas nerve sending a calming sensation to your whole body. Then exhaling deeply, pushing that air up from your belly through your lungs and back out.
A good way to ensure you are doing this correctly, or to practice this, is by laying down. First, put your hands on your belly and practice inhaling deeply into your belly, feeling it push your hands up so that you know you're expanding your belly up and out, and making it wide to the sides as well. Then contract the abdominal muscles to really exhale all of that old air back out.
If you are finding this hard to do, then try to just focus on the inside of your nostrils at the tip of your nose. As you take in a deep breath just feel the sensation of the air coming in your nose and then going out. Choose whichever of these two basic breathing techniques is easiest for you to do. Pick one focus, either the rising and falling of the muscle in your abdomen or the air going by the tip of your nose, and stay with it for as long as you can.
As long as you are focusing on your breath you really shouldn’t be able to think about anything else. This is meditation. However, if some of those thoughts, to-do-lists etc, should start popping up, don’t get upset, don’t judge them or yourself. Simply release them and return to focusing on you breath. Believe me even after years of meditating every day, this still happens to me. See the thought like a balloon you are holding and just let it go. let it fly up and away and return to your breath. You could also slide it to the left to delete it, see it as a passing cloud, or have a bird fly by and take it. What ever works. Just remember that as soon as you catch your attention wandering of, forgive it, let it go and return to focusing on your breath.
This simple practice of posture and breath is the quickest,easiest way to start a meditation practice. And remember it is exactly that, “a Practice”. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing something “right”. There is no right or wrong here. Just relax, breath and begin. Start with just a few breaths each day before you start your day, or anytime during the day you feel you need a break. You can do this at your desk at work, at the dinner table before or after you eat….or anytime.
As you start to do a few deep, focused cleansing breaths everyday you will soon start to
feel the natural relaxing benefits. Before you know it your practice time will slowly start to grow.
Congratulations! You took the first step…now keep it going.
Please join me and a like minded-community every Monday evening at 7:00pm on my FaceBook Fan page for FREE meditations. We will add a new breathing technique and guidance each week. These are short 10-15 practices that end with some beautiful sounds of my sing bowls to lull you further into your meditation.
If you live in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania then you are also welcome to join us for a live, vibrational sound, deeply relaxing guided and silent group meditation every first Tuesday of the month at 7pm. See my calendar of events on my webpage at www.LisaAlexander.com
Please help spread and share the word so everyone can learn and relax.
Certified Meditation Trainer
Certified Master Vibrational Sound & Energy Therapist