“Inner stillness is the key to outer strength.”
– Jared Brock
Meditation is now wildly accepted in the western world and we acknowledge its benefits in helping to reduce stress, tensions, anxiety, sleep issues, ... What’s more, it’s no longer only accessible to the initiated yogis or Buddhist monks seeking enlightenment. Anyone can meditate and it can profoundly change your life in countless ways.
In reality, meditation is a down to earth tool that is much simpler than most people think. All it really requires is consistency and perseverance, with no particular expectation of the outcome.
For those who seek proof of the benefits of meditation, as if over 5000 years of practice from the Indians and Chinese isn’t enough, there are many studies available on the Internet. For example, on innerpeacefellowship.org’s website, it refers to a Harvard study -
“Harvard University did a study on Transcendental Meditation®. They found that during meditation the body has what they call the relaxation response, which gives the body deep rest that is deeper than sleep. They also found that through regular meditation that deep rest builds up in the body over time, and it is that deepening reservoir of rest that reduces stress.”
From my own experience, not only does meditation help us find a relaxed state and inner peace, but also it highly contributes to helping those around us. How so? Because the more relaxed and present we are and accepting of what is, the more this state influences others. With time we consistently emanate peacefulness.
Obviously, we are emotional beings so it’s sometimes challenging to maintain inner stillness. However, through regular meditation, we stay less in our frustration, anger, annoyance, worry, agitation, confusion or anxiety than we did before. Also as our awareness of our negative thoughts and feelings strengthens, we are able to regain our natural state of inner peace more quickly. We still feel these emotions, but we don’t wallow in them as we did before, we move through them. Within this state, we don’t take things so personally and we see things from a large perspective.
So how do we do meditation? Well, there are many ways. Some use mantras or various breathing techniques or candle gazing or following one's thoughts or relaxing each part of the body or listening to a meditation app or connecting with nature. Some people sit on a chair and others prefer being crossed-legged on the ground. Some have their eyes closed and others half-open with their gaze directed downward. Others prefer their eyes open with an expansive outward gaze or fixing a particular object. I don’t think the technique really matters. The thing is to find what that works for you. It will often evolve as you set forth down the path of meditation.
How to approach meditation
· Keep the practice simple because if the meditation is too complicated you will probably give up on it.
I find closing my eyes and using deep breaths while centring my intention on my heart area works well for me. And when I catch my mind wandering I bring my attention back to the breath and the heart area.
· Be consistent in your daily practice.
10 mins each morning, before you do anything else, is a sufficient amount of time. You can build on the length of time as your practice strengthens. 10 mins aren’t much to ask out of 16/17-hour day. We easily spend that amount of time or more on social media. And it can take less time than doing exercises or yoga poses and the benefits are just as rewarding.
· Do it even when you don’t feel like it or when you are tired or when you are experiencing challenges because this is when you need it the most.
· There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. What counts are it’s “your practice” and that you are dedicated to nurturing your well-being.
· Don’t expect instant results. The benefits of meditation can be subtle and incremental, but like anything worthwhile, it can take time.
· To incorporate your meditation practice into your daily life.
When you start to apply conscious breath and awareness of your thoughts then you’ll see improvement in your daily life. You will feel more joy and lightness. You will notice more spaciousness in your thoughts. And stillness will permeate into your everyday gestures. In other words, meditation is not just something you do in the morning and then the rest of the day you live unconsciously. Every act in the day can be meditative, in one form or another.
“Don’t worry about whether you are making progress or not. Just keep your attention on the Self twenty-four hours a day. Meditation is not something that should be done in a particular position at a particular time. It is an awareness and an attitude that must persist through the day.”
– Annamalai Swami
I want to touch upon conscious breath because I think it is one of the fundamental components in a fulfilling meditation practice. Firstly, the breath contributes to calming the nervous system, balancing the cardiorespiratory system, eliminating toxins, oxygenating the body, relaxing the body and clarifying the mind. It acts as a catalyst between the body and the mind. Secondly, it’s wonderfully easy to do and the benefits are immeasurable on every level of our existence.
There’s an ancient yogic breathing technique that achieves all of the benefits of the breath in just a few minutes, called Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai). For those who practice yoga, it is probably a breathing technique you are familiar with. I call it the Darth Vader breathing technique, due to its sound. It’s a deep inhalation and exhalation through the nose, mouth closed, with a slight constriction of the throat muscles that produce this soothing breath sound - it sounds a bit like we are breathing through an oxygen mask.
“One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.”
– Eckhart Tolle
There are two other tools I have used in meditation that have considerably helped me maintain clarity and focus during the day. One is to ground my energy and the second is to veil my body.
Most of us reside in our heads and are disconnected to our bodies and to nature, which makes us ungrounded and scattered. I start my meditation using the cord. I visualise a cord of white light (or any other colour) going from the centre of my Hara, which is about halfway between the belly button and pubic bone. The cord goes down into the ground penetrating all the layers of the earth to its core. I then draw up earth's divine energy through the cord into my body, filling myself with all its energy. Alternatively doing this with my bare feet on the earth is extremely powerful and energising.
Veiling is quite different from the bubble of light of protection that certain spiritual books refer to. The veil feels like subtle energy. It resembles a fine curtain veil made of silk. I imagine a fine porous membrane that serves as an energy filter. I often see it as white or gold and it can have several layers to it. I visualise this veil around my body or around myself as a young child. I hold the image of the veil surrounding myself as a child for a few minutes or for as long as I want. The objective is not to block out the world by condemning it as something that is bad, which comes from a fear-based intention. Instead, the veil acts as a permeable energetic filter. This technique has profoundly changed my life and I also use it on my children and it works wonders.
‘Through meditation, the Higher Self is experienced.’
– Bhagavad Gita