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What is Meditation?

Stated most simply, Meditation is the practice of deep concentration of the mind. Meditation has been around for thousands of years. Evidence of the practice can be found throughout history in many different religions and many different places in the world. [More about History] Although Eastern religions embraced ritual meditation long ago, meditation itself does not have to be a religious or spiritual activity. In the past three decades, the practice has gained new popularity in the West for its physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. [More about Benefits] In our stressful, fast-paced society, an increasing number of people have found a need to adopt meditation into their lives. Contemplating an intricate idea, listening to music or taking a walk in the park can all be considered as meditation in a broad sense. But in yoga and Buddhism, meditation generally refers to more formal practices of focusing the mind and observing ourselves in the moment. (Reder) Meditation is a way to bring the bustling mind to stillness and tranquility, eliminating conscious thought and offering the meditator a unique concentration and one-pointedness of mind. An internal balance, mental collectedness and acute awareness of the present moment are all said to be present during meditation. While there are countless forms of meditative techniques, the two main categories that comprise these forms are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. [More about Techniques] Meditation is a simple technique, accessible to all people of the world. There are many types to choose from, so that any one person can find the form that suits him. If this site leaves some of your questions unanswered, please check its resources page for links to sites that can guide you further.[More about Resources] If you would like to contact me with questions or comments, please refer to the contact page. Feedback is always appreciated.

The Four Basic Elements of Meditation

The four basic elements involved in most meditative techniques are a quiet place to meditate, a comfortable or poised posture, an object to focus on and a passive attitude (1stholistic.com). A Quiet Place Its important for you to find a place that will let you be completely relaxed. Try to eliminate as many noises and distractions as possible. Remember to turn off your cell phone - this is your own personal time out for the day from all the stresses in your life. There are many different places where you can practice meditation - your backyard, the beach and a meditation center are just a few. However, a comfortable spot in your bedroom is just as good. Proper Posture Maintaining a proper posture is a main component of meditation. Without one, your body might become tense and unable to relax, and you may also experience back pain. Although meditation is possible in any position, sitting is the most common and the easiest. The key is to keep your spine straight and feel steady and comfortable. If thats the case, you may think, then why not just lie down? Sitting straight is better than lying down because reclining can easily lead to sleep during meditation. However, if you often suffer from back pain, lying on you back with your spine straight will be the better option for you. There are several classic seated poses, including the lotus posture, the half lotus posture, Burmese posture and Egyptian posture, but sitting Indian-style works fine. Please visit the sites on the resources page to learn more about these positions. [Resources]

Beginners often are most comfortable sitting in a chair, which is fine. If you choose to meditate sitting Indian-style on the floor, a small pillow to sit on might make you more relaxed. Take your hands and place them in your lap, on your thighs or place them together as shown in the picture. To do this, face your palms up, and place the middle joint of your right middle finger over the middle joint of your left middle finger. Then bring your thumbs together so they are almost touching, with barely the width of a piece of paper between them. An Object of Focus For Concentrative meditation, the meditator must choose a single thing to focus upon. The gentle inhale and exhale of breathing or a repeated mantra are the most common, but sounds, colors, uplifting thoughts or a religious figure can also be used. "Mantras are words of power, used as objects of meditation. Mantra is from the sanskrit root "man" - to think, and "tra" - to liberate; thus, to liberate from thought." (meditationcenter.com) If you choose to use a mantra, its best to use a word with positive and relaxing connotations, like harmony or peace. A Passive Attitude This is the most important element for successful meditation. A passive attitude is one in which nothing has any consequence. External distractions and internal thoughts are recognized but looked at informally and indifferently. Let them come and go, of no more consequence than small clouds passing across an expanse of sky. (lstholistic.com) When you do find your attention wandering, simply bring it back to your focus object. Remember to stay relaxed. Its okay to become momentarily distracted every so often. The more often you meditate, the easier it will be to let go of your thoughts. Now you understand the basic elements of most meditation.

A Simple Tutorial
The following guidelines will help guide you forward in your meditative journey.

Sit in your quiet place in the position thats most comfortable for you and close your eyes. Roll your shoulders back and down and gently lift the chest. Keep your neck long and the chin tilted slightly downward. (Carrico)

Relax your muscles sequentially from head to feet. Starting with your forehead, become aware of tension as you breathe in. Let go of any obvious tension as you breathe out. (1stholistic.com) Do this as you concentrate on each part of your body. Even if breathing is not your object of meditation, you should take slow, natural breaths. If you choose to use a mantra, you may repeat it quietly or silently as you exhale. You should plan on meditating for a specific amount of time. Ten to 20 minutes is ideal if youre just beginning. More experienced meditators may choose to meditate longer. Using an alarm is not recommended. It is better to open one eye and check the time when you feel you are close to finishing. After you finish: Sit quietly for a minute or so, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes open. Do not stand for one to two minutes. (lstholistic.com) Home | History | Benef

Meditation Techniques
There are a wide variety of meditation techniques available, some for specific purposes and others just variations with the same ultimate purpose. However, two main categories comprise all forms. These are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. Concentrative Meditation Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image or a sound, in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field (1stholistic.com) Sitting and silently focusing on dynamics of breathing is concentrative meditation in its most basic form. Breathing is a natural and readily available object of meditation. When a person is anxious or alarmed, his breathing becomes shallow, rigid and uneven. But when the mind is tranquil and balanced in concentration, breathing becomes slow, deep and even. Absorbing yourself in the repetition of your breathing will allow you to reach a point of simultaneous stillness and awareness. Mindulness Meditation Mindfulness meditations purpose is to increase awareness of the inundation of sensations and feelings around oneself, but at a distance. In mindfulness meditation, you experience every aspect of your environment without consciously thinking about it. The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories worries or images. (1stholistic.com) Through this practice, meditators are said to gain an intense calmness and clarity. Home | History | Benefits | Techniques |

Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is a practice that gives balance physically, emotionally and mentally. Today, people are using meditation to treat anxiety, stress, and depression. The deep rest meditation gives a person dissolves stress and enables him or her to makes better choices through clear thinking. Those who meditate report higher levels of self-esteem. The practice has also been used to help people quit smoking, conquer drug and alcohol addictions, reduce blood pressure and reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Meditation aids in lowering heart rate and blood pressure by slowing down breathing, which reduces the amount of oxygen needed. Along with the mind, muscles gently relax. Some experts have compared it to a reset button for your body. (Meditation as Medication) However, meditation shouldnt be used as a replacement to traditional Western medicine, but as a supplement to treatments your doctor has recommended for you. Through experiments and tests using practiced meditators, Herbert Benson, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School, discovered that meditation counteracts the effects of the sympathetic nervous system the one that gives humans the desire to fight or flee in any conflict situation. While primitive people needed this response in hunting situations, today it is the reason for many of our everyday stresses. During meditation, blood flow is directed to the parasympathetic nervous system instead. This is the part of the brain that triggers relaxation, a slower pulse and energy conservation the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system.

Many studies are still being conducted about the effects of meditation. As more scientific knowledge is gathered, meditation will become a more accurately and frequently prescribed treatment. Psychological Benefits

reduced stress and anxiety increased creativity and intelligence reduced depression increased learning ability, moral reasoning and memory reduced irritability and moodiness feelings of vitality and rejuvenation increased emotional control increased self-esteem increased alertness improved relationships improved concentration

Physiological Benefits

may help lower blood pressure prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases boosted immune system lowered cholesterol levels improved airflow, especially in those with asthma younger biological age

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