For thousands of years, meditation has been known to be a method to reduce stress, increase mental clarity and find spiritual peace. Many myths surround the subject of meditation, however. The practice is not simply a way to “zone out” nor is it a quick path to cosmic enlightenment. It is a proven method of quieting both the body and the mind so that both can work more effectively. Meditation can help to relieve pain, lower blood pressure, aid healing and allow more effective work habits. Learning to meditate is not difficult, but it does require some physical preparation of the meditation environment as well as mental preparation to release everyday concerns to achieve a state of greater peace.
You don’t need a separate meditation room to meditate effectively. Some people do their meditating in a corner of the garden or at a neighborhood park. A corner of the bedroom or den, away from the family activities and noise is the simplest type of environment. The area should have a door that can be closed to allow privacy and quiet. It should also have an even temperature so that you are not distracted by physical discomfort. Though the traditional posture for meditation is on a cushion on the floor with knees bent and legs crossed, this position can be uncomfortable for many people with leg or back problems. Sitting in a comfortable chair is just as good, if the chair supports the back and allows you to place your feet on the floor without effort. The lighting in the room should be dimmed or allow closing of the curtains.
Wear comfortable clothing for meditation. A loose shirt and stretchy exercise pants are ideal. Whatever you wear should not constrict you in any way. It should allow easy breathing and no distraction from a tight fit. Meditation also requires a small amount of time separated from your everyday life and family members. This separation requires that you inform others in the household that you need a bit of undisturbed time. Even your pets may wonder about this new activity and may try to join you. Be firm in your demands, however, and keep the door closed. Allow this time in your schedule for yourself alone.
Settle yourself in position to begin the meditation practice. Ensure that you are physically comfortable and without distractions. Just sit for a moment with your eyes closed, feeling your weight on the chair or floor and being aware of the objects around you. As your mind quiets, begin to focus on your breathing, how your chests moves as the air moves in and out of your body. Notice how the air feels at the tip of your nose as it enters your body and how it exits. Follow the air as it moves down your throat and into your lungs. Feel your lungs expand and contract. If your mind begins to wander to other matters, gently bring it back to your breath. Keep the focus on your breathing for longer and longer periods.
Now, you can begin to use meditation to relax your entire body. Start at the tips of your toes and relax each toe one by one. Notice any points of pain or discomfort and allow the muscles to relax. Move your attention to your ankles, your calves and your knees. Focus on letting go of tension in the muscles in each area. Move upward to the thighs and hips, releasing tension and imagining greater blood flow. Focus on the torso, the chest and back. Allow the feeling of relaxation to spread across these areas, allowing the feeling to move down into your shoulders, down your arms and into your hands. Relax the neck and face, the ears, the scalp. Now rest in this feeling of total relaxation. Stay focused on it. If tension returns to parts of the body, go back and remove it. Then, rest again in the full body relaxation state.
When it’s time to release your relaxation, allow it to happen slowly and naturally. Let normal feeling return to your body, part by part. Let your mind come back to the moment. Take a full cleansing breath and return to your everyday activities in a calmer state of mind.
As you practice meditation, you will find yourself able to hold the feeling of relaxation and peace for longer and longer periods of time. Distractions may occur, but you will be able to easily release them and focus on your meditative state. As you become more proficient, you will be able to reach for and return to this meditative state even in the midst of your chaotic day. It will help you to work more efficiently with a greater clarity of thinking.
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