Let’s cover the basic benefits of meditation, and how we can utilize it in our life.
There is mystery around meditation, which is a funny thought in itself; because the grand objective of meditation is to think of nothing. The human mind is like that though, we complicate everything with rational mind explanation. There is no better example than trying to understand nothingness with a bunch of words and emptiness with a bunch of ideas from the mind.
Language and words are not an accurate way to convey thoughts… but it is what we have. We get hung-up on words and we are slaves to them. We are doing our best to explain invisible complexity… with words! We are multi-sensory Beings, we have more than the rational mind and words to perceive and understand, but we have trouble seeing beyond the mental constructs. Meditation is a practice of tuning into the subtleties of all of our senses, including our inner senses.
The one common idea is that meditation is about thinking of nothing; not having any thoughts. But the rational mind needs a container that has nothing in it, to understand that it is empty. Without the container, we cannot understand emptiness. In this instance, we are not limited by words, but by concepts and images.
We can see a jar is empty. Take away the jar and we can no longer see emptiness… yet it still exists. I might be going too Zen here… but the rational mind is constantly trying to create a container in which to observe things. In this case it is nothingness.
In the first attempts at meditation, it is very difficult to achieve emptiness and nothingness, because in those initial experiences, the well of our subconscious serves up ‘stuff’ that needs to be seen, and most often dealt with. There are thoughts, memories and emotions clamouring to get out.
For some people it might take months to deal with the surfacing thoughts and memories; for others it can take years. Either way meditation is a crucial step in the process of awakening. Most of us feel pretty groggy after waking up. It takes a little time to get the operating system up and firing on all cylinders.
If part of your “awakening” is going to include meditating, then the beginning stages may have a groggy phase. Like when you wake up in the morning, there is a period of time where you might put the peanut butter lid on your coffee cup or put your coffee spoon in the peanut butter jar… it happens! So, sitting in perfect stillness cannot happen upon awakening; in the greater sense of awakening. There is going to be a period of practice necessary, to get the system working.
To add some challenge to learning how to meditate, there is a lot more happening on several levels. As we will see, there is a great quantify of fresh fuel and energy coming into the body system. This is going to have an effect on several parts of you.
Our stories are all unique, and reaching a state of nothingness can be a long ways off when there are memories, traumas and situations constantly knocking on our doors of perception. We have a fundamental need for understanding what is happening and it often starts with understanding what happened. There is a need for a review of the events that happened in our life, before we can move forward.
Everyone seeks freedom from suffering. No one likes to feel any sort of pain. We are mostly caught up in physical pain and suffering, because we feel that kind of pain in a very real way, so it gets immediate attention. If you have a pain in your neck, you can put your finger on it and say, “the pain is right here.”
However even physical suffering starts in the mind. When there is a lot of mental suffering, it manifests in the physical dimension. It all starts in your head! Mental suffering is not as easy to pin-point as physical pain and suffering. There is a process that can take weeks, months or years to work through.
At Elemental Living, one of the objectives is to establish the ability to ‘Just Be’ while still taking part and functioning in the world. It’s not about ‘checking-out’ as some people sometimes comment. Having family and friends, and work and play is what we are here to experience. We need to be able to keep track of our centre, and not get thrown or tripped by superficial and insignificant occurrences and events. When we achieve balance in our daily life, we are more solid on our feet. We cannot be shaken so easily!
Now that we have covered some of the ideas on why we meditate, let’s shed some light on the different types and styles of meditation and the different purposes they can have.
Everyone is different. Some people have a sense of what their mind needs and take to meditation with a few sessions. Others might be dealing with certain conditions, like an ADHD active mind, or recurring memories anchored in PTSD, and yet others live with high anxiety. Everyone has a certain situation and circumstances they are dealing with. There are a variety of techniques to help tame the racing mind.
The most common way of starting out in meditation is to have something that you can focus on and use as a vehicle for getting into a calm mental state. That something can be a sound that is generated by the meditator or a sound that made by person’s voice, an instrument or a device.
The Mantra is one of the solutions for helping us reach this state of thoughtlessness. A mantra is a word, or a set of syllables or set of words that help the meditator eliminate the distracting thoughts that are occupying the mind. We can call this mental noise, and useless revolving thoughts.
Mantras are a sound that we generate in our mind or with our vocal cords. When we make the sound out loud, we generate vibration in our throat. This serves as a point of focus as well as a deep massage. The vibration serves as a way for the body to release energy. Literally shaking it out of you. What we release is stored energy, which is most often stored negative emotions and stored stress.
Most mantras come from an Eastern tradition, and can be in Sanskrit or some ancient language. This can throw some people off, but it is important to know that there is no culture or tradition that owns mantras. The central mantra is the sound of ‘OM’.
‘Om’ is seen as a nominal frequency that synthesizes the overall frequency of the universe; the central sound of space; the sound of silence. It is a sound, not a word. “In the beginning there was the WORD”… and that word is vibration, it is sound. It can be a hum. You can hum your way to bliss. The vibration of the humming sound is both a point of focus and it is soothing.
Humming is a mantra and focusing on breath is a mantra.
So what is the difference between a Prayer and a Mantra? There are prayers that can be used in a mantric way. There are two fundamental differences. The prayer, especially if it is a long one, can require too much concentration on words and meaning. If the mind is occupied with remembering the words and perhaps even caught up with the meaning of the words and rational thinking, it becomes more difficult to reach the state of mind that we are seeking through meditation.
The second difference is that, like the universal sound of OM, the pronunciation of the word or words is important. The vibrational quality of the sounds coming through our vocal cords is important. The frequency needs to be soothing. The sound vibration is permitting the movement and escape of trapped energy. It is a subtle massage and a path of release for stored stress energy.
Let's connect breath to meditation. Using our breath as the mantra simplifies the process by removing any intellectual and rational mind thinking from a mantra. Following the life force breath in and out gives us the opportunity to escape thoughts. We can take a break from definitions and meaning, and ‘just Be.’
Following a pattern of breathing requires some focus, but very little and just enough to not be taken over by worries, useless recurring thoughts, and ideas that do not serve you in a restful state. Most of those thoughts don't serve you generally.
Changing the depth, rate and rhythm of the breath is simple, and frees the mind from complex thought. You don’t question the pattern of the breathing technique, you chose one you like and the just do it. The gift in surrendering to the mantra or the breath, is a space that is free of mental noise, a form of peace. We affect our state of mind, we change the way we feel and we refresh our outlook on everything.
Focusing and Controlling our breath is one of the best mantras available. Follow the breath in and follow it out. White light in, black smoke out.
We come across many beautiful ideas, like, “Inhale the future and exhale the past”… there is a danger of slipping into images, expectations, memories, concepts and ideas that occupy the mind. The future and the past are a great source of anxiety, which takes away from the thoughtless objective of the meditation in the first place.
The reason we fall back on Yoga and ancient the teachings of the Vedas … is because they survived the test of time. Some are very detailed, which can be very useful for some people! It is amazing how much scientific knowledge is contained in the Yogic tradition. It is often referred to as The Science of Yoga… there is a reason for that. Yogic texts have conclusions that we are just now discovering with our present-day science.
I have used many mantras, and used a couple of Tibetan mantras that were really easy to say or chant, and they helped me reach pleasant states of mind. They are comforting sounds. We use sound to comfort each other all the time. Just like a lullaby can help put a baby asleep, mantras are used to calm our own mind. The mantra can also be internal. No external sound, just the sound of the syllables repeating in your head… instead of thoughts and worries.
The most popularized meditation system is probably Transcendental Meditation. This meditation came from India with a man called Maharishi Mahesh and his efforts have initiated millions of people since its arrival in the early 60’s. TM is a system where you get your special and unique mantra, which you can’t share with anyone!
It was popularized through endorsement by celebrities and people who have achieved great success in their businesses and in their lives. TM also received attention by the scientific community, which validated relaxation through instruments that measured the effects on brain wave activity. Throughout the years Transcendental Meditation has remained unchanged and has been validated and confirmed by many successful people.
Meditation in Motion is good. Remember that taking a walk can be very beneficial! Rock balancing, painting, playing music, stretching, doing yoga (asanas), fishing (a great western meditation)... anything that requires focus and concentration, which eliminates the mind space for revolving thoughts and worries.
I use rock balancing as a great meditation. This is a great pastime which can be done on the shores of rivers, lakes and oceans. A good hobby is a great form of meditation. Many people inherently understand this. They do it because it feels good.
Guided Meditation! These days, a very popular form of meditation is what we call ‘Guided Meditation’. There is a plethora of organizations offering guided meditation. Some have music and sounds with various frequencies, including binaural beats. Others have someone’s voice guiding you along. Some come from a great tradition, some come from the inventive mind of artist and musicians.
Any meditation that helps you get away from the mental noise that rattles around in your head all day long or prevents you from sleeping at night, is good. We are always working our way to being able to meditate in silence, but there are several worthy ways of getting there. The most important thing is doing it!
Another meditation aid are bells. There are all kinds of bells that can be used as a ‘starter’ for meditation. Tibetan bells are famous for this in the world, along with the Japanese bells and singing bowls. These bells have an impressive ring that reverberates for a very long time after the strike. The idea with this tool for meditation is to start off listening to the sound of the bell and to follow it as it fades away into silence. The sound of the bell carries your attention for the first minute and eventually disappears. At that point you are on your own!
If you are able to maintain thoughtlessness, then you are evolving as a meditator. With some of the bigger quality bells, you can have someone gently ring it every few minutes. This gives you the opportunity to get back on the sound train and ride it into infinity again and again.
With any external sound used to help in meditation, they will help in occupying your mind space. You will be able to attain a certain level of peace; a certain level of relaxation; a certain reprieve. However, using sounds in meditation can be seen as training wheels on a bicycle. There comes a time when you want to ride freely and without aid. Meditating in silence is the end goal.
Deep, silent meditation is the only way that the clues from the well of your subconscious can come up. In the initial stages of meditation there will be a lot of noise. A lot of thoughts, memories and distractions will come up, both internally and externally. When a person is in the first stages of awakening and becoming aware of the greater scenario that surrounds us, there are many issues that need to be dealt with. Stuff comes up.
Once events form the past have been identified, brought out into the open, re- examined, re-defined, understood, resolved and semi-forgotten... then progress can continue. My program, The Eight Phases of Big Life Change, is the process of going through all of that. Introducing a meditation schedule is a big part of the program, because it is good to have a way of dealing with the initial thoughts, memories and concern that surface in the initial meditations
Eventually the meditations become more relevant to the present scenario as the old memories and Seed Events get dealt with. The thoughts surfacing in the meditations start to become more current and more connected to your present experience.
Now the meditations start to help your state of mind, clarity of thought, and make you more present. You become more aware and connected to what is happening here and now in your life. That gets noticed by everyone around you. The after-effects of meditation will become more and more obvious as you go along.
Getting started in meditation! Many people have trouble getting through the first stages of meditation because there are so many issues to deal with and to resolve. Some never get past the initial turbulence.Being accompanied is the way to deal with this challenge. Guidance can be needed to put things into perspective and move through some of the noise that occupies the mind in a moment of silence.
This is different from ‘Guided Meditation’. Guided meditation is like having the training wheels on and it helps a person get used to the exercise of meditating. A guide that helps you understand what is surfacing in your mind during meditation is different. A guide in helping you understand what is going on in your meditations is different from guided meditation.
Of the many recent meditations to have entered the market, it is important to talk to someone using a proven method. Once you have a better sense of how it works, what meditation does, and what to look for, then choosing something that resonates with you becomes possible.
The one system you can count on for getting started is breath.
Follow your breath.
There are breathing exercises towards the end of this book. They have full descriptions and you can use them any time, anywhere!
The most common types of meditation…. Get the PDF … Join The Elemental Living Group.
Breathe Deep My Friend