How to Meditate

Meditation A how to Guide

Meditation is a specific technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal awake state. In meditation, your mind is fully awake and alert with an inward focus that is clear and relaxed. You pay attention to the dimensions of self, the breath, body and mind. As time progresses, the positive effects of meditation will include a more relaxed body, a creative and focused mind, improvements in health and relationships.

A diagram showing the different areas of the brain involved in mindful meditation, illustrating a side view cross-section and regular side-view. Figure adapted from Tang, Y., Hölzel, B. & Posner, M. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nat Rev Neurosci 16, 213–225 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3916 .

 

Long-term practitioners (LTM) of meditation have been seen to have greater non-rapid-eye movement power of gamma waves in the parietal-occipital region at the back of the brain than those who did not practice meditation (see the pink area). This not only presents evidence that meditation can rewire your brain, but that it works on the part of the brain involved with a) understanding the space around, b) interpreting touch and pain, c) regulating our senses, c) and processing of information. This figure is adapted from Ferrarelli F, Smith R, Dentico D, Riedner BA, Zennig C, et al. (2013) Experienced Mindfulness Meditators Exhibit Higher Parietal-Occipital EEG Gamma Activity during NREM Sleep. PLOS ONE 8(8): e73417. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0073417 .

The different types of brain waves that exist in humans are presented above. Out of these, theta waves in the range of 4 to 7 Hz predominate during meditation, as indicated within the purple outline.

 

Meditation is therapeutic, it helps to relax muscular tension, the autonomic nervous system, and mental stress. A tranquil mind helps the immune system limit its reaction to stress and energizes your mind and body. Meditation also has an important influence on your health, since most diseases can be classified as having their origin in or being influenced by your mind and emotional reactions. In the practice of meditation, you learn to understand your mind and emotions and become self-reliant to attain the strength to deal more effectively with life's problems.

The process of meditation is quiet and effortless, with a focused attention and awareness. It turns off the mind's tendencies to think, analyze, dream, fantasize, wander, ponder and solve problems.

There are a number of ways to achieve the quietness of the mind, all are valid techniques and one is no better than another as long as inner stillness and focus is attained. This is attained, by allowing the mind to focus on one subtle element or object which draws the attention inward. An internal sound or visual image can be used to concentrate the mind. A mantra is a sound, syllable, word or phrase that becomes the focal point of the mind to go inward.

What you will need to learn to meditate:

· How to relax the body

· How to sit in a comfortable and steady position

·How to make the breathing process serene

·How to calmly witness your thoughts

·How to evaluate your thoughts and learn to promote positive ones to help with your personal growth

·How to remain centered and undisturbed in any situation

Guideline to Start a Meditation Practice

Find a place to meditate that is relatively quiet, peaceful, uncluttered and with good air circulation. Select a special place and reserve it for meditation. Traditionally meditation is done first thing in the morning or at the end of the day when you are not likely to be interrupted. However, meditation can be performed anywhere and at any time and will most likely depend on your schedule and personal responsibilities.

Meditation progresses quickly with consistent daily practice. When first starting out, start with 1-2 brief periods of 5 to 15 minutes.

 

Meditation Postures

Must allow the head, neck and trunk of the body to be correctly aligned so you can breathe freely and diaphragmatically. The body should be still, steady, relaxed and comfortable. The facial muscles should be relaxed, eyes and mouth are gently closed, and hands should be in the “Finger Lock” or jnana mudra. All breathing is done through the nostrils.

Meditation can be performed in many postures. It is important that the spine be correctly aligned, since this allows subtle energy to move upward through the body.

Comfort tips:

Use a folded blanket to sit on to provide padding and put a pillow under your buttocks and hip to lift them 3-4 inches off the floor.

 

 

The Science of Breath

Breath awareness is an essential part of meditation practice. Our breath reflects the state of our mind at all times. Different emotions cause the breath to change. We may hold our breath if shocked or surprised or have a rapid and shallow breath if anxious and stressed. Chronic stress leads to a more rapid shallow breath pattern that disturbs the body and aggravates the mind, making it more difficult to think clearly and quiet the mind.

When observing the breath in meditation you may notice one of four irregularities that need to be eliminated to allow for a deeper mediation practice.

1.     Shallowness in the breath

2.     Jerkiness in the breath

3.     Noisy breath

4.     Extended pauses between inhalation and exhalation

We cannot develop a deeper state of consciousness without working systematically with the breath. The first step in this process is to develop breath awareness. The body's natural respiratory pattern is an even diaphragmatic breathing. In this pattern, all inhalations and exhalations are deep, equal and occur through the nostrils, the entire process is silent. When you establish diaphragmatic breathing, you allow the lungs to fully expand with the inhalation and to be emptied more completely on the exhalation.

The head, neck and trunk of the body must be aligned properly to breathe evenly and diaphragmatically. Efficient breathing allows the lungs to expand fully with inhalation and to be emptied more completely on exhalation. Plan to spend 4 weeks consciously attending to the breath, before turning your attention to other aspects of meditation.

Reference: Meditation and its Practice by Swami Rami

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