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Meditation

 

Whatever your spiritual beliefs, there is no better way to honor God or yourself than by developing the vast potential of your own mind and soul. This is not a strange and mystic practice, but a simple and innate ability we are born with.
The ultimate aim of this page is to teach you to utilize your mind in a more effective and efficient manner through the use of various meditation techniques. I do not preach the effectiveness of one form of meditation over another. So my techniques are taken from many styles and traditions. As for myself, I have learned my meditation skills through the study of  Tae Kwon Do, and through personal research and study in the area. I cannot claim to have the expertise in this area that, say, a zen master would have. But maybe I can teach you some basic skills and get you moving in the right direction. In the end, you are the only person who can teach you these skills anyway.. Good luck and practice often.
Part 1. - Preparing yourself for meditation..

Part 2. - Basic meditation

Part 3. - Applying your skills

Part 4.- Physical meditation practices, how to find a good teacher..

Part 5. - Things to meditate on.


Part 1.

 

     In order to more easily enter and control a meditative state, it is necesary to first train your mind and senses to prepare them for the experience. Many people are able to easily jump right into basic meditation practices (especially children). But many people have serious problems with concentration and visualization. The following exercises should help to develop these skills. They may seem a far cry from sitting in deep meditation and solving all of our problems, but you do have to start from the beginning and progress from there.

Observation-   Many of us skate through life never really noticing anything we don't have to. The richness of sensory input all around us goes completely unnoticed until it offends or pleases us into noticing. Try walking down the street without the dog or kids or any other distractions. As you walk, notice things around you. Purposefully seek out mundane things to look at. Notice colors, textures, and try to absorb as much detail as you can. Do not limit this exercise to sight alone. Notice the ambient noise around you. Try and distiguish what caused each seperate sound. Do the same with smell, touch, even taste (next time you eat, try to really taste what you're eating, even if it's not a gourmet meal.). Also, focus your attention inward. Notice how things feel such as the sensation of warm and cool in various parts of your body. Spend as much time as possible simply observing the details around you and interpreting them. You'll find that this alone can bring on a sense of calm and appreciation that you've never experienced.

Active Visualization-   If you are an adult, chances are you're not nearly as good at this as you used to be. When we are children, we "pretend" constantly. For this reason kids are inherently skilled at imagining and visualizing. For adults, we've got to start basic. Try sitting comfortably, away from distractions, and closing your eyes. Now visualize a simple two-dimensional shape. Try a square or circle. Try to picture it as vividly as possible in your mind. (if you're having trouble, stare at a picture of one for several minutes first.) Once you can do this consistently and hold the image for as long as you want, try manipulating the shape in your mind's eye. Turn the square into a circle and back. Now turn it around. Change it size, and so on. Now find a small, ordinary object (brush, ball, vase, whatever.). Spend several minutes observing the object. Look at it from various different angles. Note it's color and any patterns on it. Now close your eyes and visualize the object. At first you may get just a glimmer, but practice and keep concentrating. Soon you should be able to see the object in your mind's eye, turn it around, change it's size, etc.

Passive Visualizaion- Now try using your visualization and attention skills to see something in your mind's eye. Try to eliminate any preconceived notions of what you'll visualize. It needn't be anything at all, as long as there's a picture in your head. Approach the experience with a sense of curiosity. It may take some practice. But eventually, you'll be able to allow your subconcious to place an image into your concious mind without any prior idea of what it will be. A similar exercise is to stare at clouds, cracks in a wall, or similarly abstract designs and look for familiar images in them.

Awareness and Control- Lay down in bed or on the floor with no distractions. Close your eyes and notice how you feel. Conciously scan through your body, searching for various sensations. Sense how long your arms and legs are. Notice hot and cold sensations in your body. Also look for areas of muscular tension or relaxation. Now try to control them. Experiment with warming you hands or feet simply by focusing on the effect. Seek out areas of tension and relax the muscles in that area. Imagine your body expanding or shrinking. Focus on the sensations that this causes. It can be highly entertaining, but don't get distracted. (This exercise has a tendency to cause a natural sense of euphoria. Don't be alarmed. It's like drugs, but it's actually very good for you.)

Balance- Stand in a natural, comfortable postion (but don't slouch.). Close you eyes and begin to slowly rock back and forth very slightly. Search for your body's center of gravity. Look the point at which your body doesn't naturally fall forward or back. Now repeat this process from side to side. Make your movements more and more subtle until you are perfectly in balance. Now notice exactly how this feels. Note the feeling well and try to acheive it at various points throughout your day (sitting at a desk, walking, waiting in line, etc.).

 


 

Part 2

 

      There are many different types of meditation. I could never possibly begin to explain them all here. However, there are a few types that I have found fairly easy to use and quite useful.

Breathing Meditation- I often use this to calm down and focus on what I'm doing. If you find yourself distracted, on-edge, or just generally uncomfortable, it is often very helpful to spend a few moments refocusing your mind. The rest of you will then follow, quickly. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Just make sure that your breathing is not at all restricted. Close your eyes and breath deeply. Do not force it, but let your body find a natural, complete breathing pattern. Focus on the air coming in and going out. As you inhale, picture and try to feel the air rising up into your head, then going down all the way to the pit of your stomach. As you exhale, simply release the air and let it flow out of you naturally. Keep doing this as you relax your body. Some people find it easier to concentrate if they count breaths. If this helps, do it. Soon you should find yourself totally relaxed and you should be easily focusing on nothing but your own breathing. From this point you can easily focus yourself on your task, relax any anxieties, or simply put yourself to sleep. (I myself am an insomniac. I can use this technnnique to put myself to sleep REALLY fast.)

Mind/Body Meditation 1. - If you suffer from chronic pain, soreness, fatigue, or stress, this can be an incredibly useful technique. Lay comfortably in bed or on the floor. Close your eyes and scan through your body. Notice tension and relax it. Begin to notice and concentrate on your heartbeat. Pay close attention to it and experiment with controlling the speed of your pulse. Now experiment some more with warming your hands, your forehead, then your whole body. Over time you will gain control over many of your body's "automatic" functions. The reaction of pain falls within this category. Once you feel fairly confident with altering you heart-rate, respiration, and warmth of extremities, go on to section three and experiment with controlling pain and soreness. Remember though, that pain is your bodies way of saying "HEY! There's somethin' wrong here!" If you are experiencing an inexplicable or recurring pain or soreness, go see a doctor.

Mind/Body Meditation 2. - This exercise is aimed at martial artists. Relax and find your balance as in part 1. Then open your eyes and begin to very slowly perform one of your forms (kata). Make each movement slow and deliberate, focusing on body positioning. It should feel and look very much like Tai Chi. As you practice, visualize an energy rising through your legs, into your hips and outward into each attack and defense. Feel this energy flowing naturally through you. Do not try to control this energy, as it is only following a natural course. Concentrate instead on developing the sensation of it. (this is a very frustrating part of your practice.)

 


 

Part 3

 

     In this section, I'll be showing some of the ways in which you can put your newly learned skills in meditation to work. I've found that much of the use for meditation is in improving your self-image. Almost all of us put concious and sub-concious limits on our own abilities and skills. When we meditate, we can easily picture ourselves doing things perfectly. In doing this, we reprogram the subconcious mind, allowing us to rapidly improve our performance in almost anything. As I come from a martial arts background, this is what most of my experience is in.

Healing- Remember, no amount of meditation can take the place of a doctor. If you suspect that something is really wrong with your body, don't try to fix it yourself. Go see a doctor.

This is perhaps the greatest ability of any meditation entusiast. My experience is with healing myself. I can often cure headaches, muscle soreness, pain from minor burns or other trauma, and I've been able to reduce a fever pretty effectively. But many people claim to be able to heal others with the same skills and who am I to disagree? First I'll deal with headache pain as an example. Close your eyes and relax. Using one of the methods from part 2 (or any way you like), place yourself into a meditative state. Focus your attention on the area in your head that hurts. Observe the pain as though you were not attached to it in any way. Is it throbbing? sharp pain? hot? and so on. Now draw you attention away from the pain and focus on the rest of your body. Imagine that you begin to radiate a warm, natural energy. Feel this energy flowing throughout your body. Notice again the area that hurts. Is there too much energy locked up in this area, or is it not getting enough? Is it a different color? You should notice some differences that strike you as being problems. Imagine that you can move and alter this energy with your mind. Use this ability to correct the problems you see. Now picture the energy flowing through your body perfectly, with no blockages or problems. As you bring yourself slowly back out of meditation, affirm that you have done good by telling yourself that your headache is gone a few times. This should correct the problem. This meditation works very well on all kinds of pain. For muscle soreness and trauma, increase the flow of energy to the afflicted area. Also imagine the area getting warmer. (cuts heal really quickly and scar very little when you use this technique on them frequently. For fever, I imagine heat radiating off of my body and out with my breath, cooling my whole body. Then I imagine things like, swimming in cool water, and a light breeze. While I can't usually bring a bad fever all the way down, I can usually bring it down to an acceptable level. Remember though, that a fever is your body's way of dealing with infection. So if it's not dangerous (up in the hundreds), my advice is not to reduce it.  In healing, remember that the most important thing is Positive Imagery. The key is to to "think forward" and believe in what you are doing.

Improving reflex speed- In the martial arts, your ability to quickly process incoming information and translate it into a correct response is vital. The same ability is used in just about every action sport there is. In order to inprove this ability, close your eyes and place yourself into a relaxed, meditative state. Now visualize yourself participating in the sport of your choice. I'll use martial arts as an example. Picture yourself facing off with an opponent. As he attacks you react flawlessly, blocking the strike and immediately countering with one of your own. Picture your opponent moving practically in slow-motion as you quickly attack and defeat him. Imagine the same with multiple attackers, an opponent you are particularly worried about, or a weapon situation.

Building confidence- One method for doing this is identical to the method outlined above. Simply picture yourself doing the selected activity (sports, standing up for yourself, speaking in front of a crowd. etc.) perfectly, over and over. Another is a little weird but kind of fun. It's called fantastic imagery (sounds fantastic! huh?). I'll go through a few examples here, but making up your own is really best. Say you're having trouble relaxing at the end of the day. Try sitting down comfortably and closing your eyes. Use the breathing method to place yourself into a light meditative state. Now imagine you are walking slowly down a flight of stairs. With each step down, you become more relaxed and at ease. As you near the bottom, the light dims slowly until you it is barely bright enough to see by. As you reach the bottom, you walk into a light fog. The mist around you is a cool blue. It swirls around you and into your skin, relaxing all your muscles. As you breath it in, it swirls up into the top of your head, then down through your body. When you exhale, it comes out red, carrying with it all your anxieties and tension. This red fog immediately disappears, allowing you to inhale more of the relaxing blue mist. Once you are completely relaxed, take a deep breath, and open your eyes slowly as you exhale. Imagine that you have not left the place in your mind. You should feel oodles better. (I've had people tell me that this whole thing sounds like a drug reference. I don't care.) The next one is for a martial artsist who is having doubts as to his ability to really defend himself (or herself). Imagine you are standing outside an ancient Shaolin temple. You are dressed in the orange robes of a warrior-priest. As you enter, through the huge temple doors, you see a large, ornate table. The table has all sorts of bottles and jars on it, as well as a large goblet (a cup, silly!). You approach this table and read the labels on the bottles. There are bottles that say courage, strength, speed, discipline, stamina, etc. (Whoo! don't drink the etc., it's nasty! just kidding) You select bottles for the attributes you desire and pour them into the goblet. They are a strange, shimmering liquid of various colors. Once you've got the drink you want, you pick up the goblet and drink it. As the liquid enters your body, it courses through you, filling you with vigor and strength. You feel yourself becoming stronger, faster, etc. As you open the doors to leave the temple, open your eyes (in reality). How do you feel? Like I said it is best to construct these fantasy scenarios for yourself, they'll work better. Don't feel silly, just make up a short situation in which you become improved in some way.

 


 

Part 4

 

Here I will attempt to scratch the surface of some of the many "physical" or movement meditations. These exercises are an extremely healthful practice if used correctly and are of value to people of all ages and conditions. I am purposefully leaving out most martial arts as each of them qualifies and a definitive list would be impossible.
Tai Chi- This is almost definitely the most well known movement meditation practice. The practitioner of Tai Chi practices a preset pattern of movements (kata) intended to gently strengthen the body and focus the mind. This style is technically a form of gungfu (kung fu) but, unlike many "hard" styles, Tai Chi does not focus on quick, hard movements or strength. Instead, the Tai Chi stylist strives to perfect the form and beauty of each movement through total mental focus while building and focusing the internal energy (chi). When learning Tai Chi, a good instructor is vital. I would suggest shopping around and finding a teacher who; practices Tai Chi daily, is knowledgeable in the healing arts (some acupuncturists are Tai Chi teachers), and can demonstrate the ability to "root" themselves. Rooting is a skill which utilizes the chi developed in Tai Chi. The instructor should be able to remain stationary while several large people try to push him back. This skill is among the most basic energy uses and any good instructor should be able to use it easily. Yoga- Yoga is actually divided into a number of different types of indian meditative, exercise, and breathing disciplines. Yoga is concerned, much like Tai Chi, with the health and balance of the internal energy. According to yoga, there are a number of energy centers or "chakras" which focus and produce the various types of internal energy. The good yoga instructor will have an intimate knowledge of the workings of the body on both the physical and energy levels. There are any number of people with no knowledge in these areas who claim to teach yoga. Usually they are teaching yogic stretching and and strength exercises. While these exercises can be very beneficial, I would look for a teacher with a deeper understanding.


 

Part 5

 

Meditation can be used in many ways. One of the most common and fulfilling is to seek the answers to life's great questions. Who am I? Where? do I come from? Where am I going? These are questions which have plagued mankind for centuries. Little do most of us know, that the answer to all questions lies within the mind and spirit of every being. The process is simple. Empty and calm the mind, then simply remain in this state and look for the answers in your own heart. Often, it can be very rewarding simply to sit back and meditate on the very nature of the world and life. The following are some of the ideas and thoughts I have spent a great deal of time meditating on. I hope that you find them useful.

 

  • Empty your mind and think of nothing. Not the concept of nothing. Try not to be aware of even the blackness on the insides of your eyelids. This is the taoist practice of "emptying the mind's cup." When your mind has been cleared of all other thought and awareness, you may awaken as a whole new person, ready to learn.
  • Every instant that you exsist, you become a totally new, different individual. You are in a time and state you've never experienced before. You breath new air, have new thoughts, and experience life in a totally new way every moment. When you see things this way, it is easy to forget old hurts, change for the better, and begin down a new path toward enlightenment.
  • Nature holds the potential to teach us life's most important lessons. Find a spot where you can observe nature unnoticed in some way (such as the ocean, out in a field, etc). Sit and meditate while observing things around you. Notice the connections and cycles which take place in the wild.
  • This above all: To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.." -William Shakespeare (Hamlet 1:3) Follow your own path. Never lie to yourself and you will never find reason to lie to another.

    Ball of Light Meditation *

  • Begin with a motivation. Take as your goal the happiness of yourself and all other living beings. After all, everyone wants to be happy, and if you can bring happiness into the lives of others, your own life will be more meaningful. To succeed it will require you to develop your inner qualities and eliminate your faults. This is the reason for doing this meditation.
    In the space in front of you, about five feet, and at the height of your eye brows, imagine a ball of light, approximately one cubit in diameter. It can be any color, but let's begin with white. It is weightless, translucent, and pleasant to feel. Think of it as the embodiment of all virtue. By viewing it all virtue is acquired; whatever virtue you have increases, and whatever you don't have begins to grow within you. The more you concentrate on the ball of light the quicker the virtue will develop.
    Initially, all negativity is washed away. Think white light and cleansing water come from the ball of light. All the stupid and hurtful things you might have done are the first to be washed away from your conscience. Next, all the bad thoughts and habits that cause such behavior are remedied. Finally, even the seed-like potential of these is dispelled forever. Think you are completely pure.
    Without negativity there is no obstacle to develop virtue. Golden light comes to you from the ball of light. All good qualities such as wisdom, compassion, friendliness, generosity, patience, courage and more, grow limitlessly. Think about the qualities you admire the most, qualities that really help to promote world peace and happiness. Think about the qualities of great men and women who made the world a better place to live. Think that these qualities are nourished within you while you focus your attention on the ball of light.
    The ball of light, embodying all such qualities, moves towards you. When it comes to the top of your head it grows smaller while its intensity increases. When it is the size of a pea it descends through the crown of your head to the place of deepest, heart felt emotion in the center of your chest. There it merges with your mind infusing you with the spirit of all virtue. Open fully to this experience, the unification with all virtue. Let go of ordinary thinking and just experience yourself as the totality of virtue.
    Imagine countless rays of light shine from your heart in all directions. At the end of each ray is a ball of light embodying all virtue. These balls of light go to every living being. All beings and their environs are purified of all faults, and their qualities perfected. The balls of light then dissolve into each being causing them to become embodiments of all virtue, experiencing everlasting happiness.
    Conclude the meditation with a dedication. The meditation has employed imagination, but you have the ability to really help others by developing virtue in yourself and them. Determine to become an actual embodiment of all virtue.
    * This meditation was composed by Ven. Thubten Pende on Feb.18, 1996, under the redwoods in Soquel, California, after repeated requests to compose a meditation for young people.

    "The Ancient Oak Meditation"

    Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Breath from deep down within your belly. Focus fully on this breathing. Relax and let go all your thoughts and worries. In your mind's eyes, you are transported to a beautiful grove of very ancient and weathered oak trees. The trees are arranged in a circle and you are sitting right in the position of the one missing tree. Sit here for a moment. Listen to the gentle wind, feel it brush your face. Relax in this environment.
    As you relax, feel your energy sink down into the ground in long trails, like roots. They reach deep into the ground beneth you, connecting you to the sacred Mother's energy. Allow all your negative energy to flow out effortlessly through these roots into the Earth, where it is transformed into positive, balanced energy. All of the tension flows out and becomes tranquility within the healing power of the Earth. All of the anger flows out and becomes compassion. Pain flows away. Fear flows away. Imbalance flows away.
    Sit like this for a moment, drained of all negativity. You are now the potential.. the seed of perfection. You are sitting with your roots extended deep into the Earth. The Earth is pulsing and alive with vital energy. It begins to slowly fill you with this natural, pure, and balanced energy. You begin to grow in strength and wisdom. This power continues to flow from the bounty of the Earth as you grow into a mighty, wise, and centered oak tree. You feel the oak's balance flowing through you. You feel the ageless power and beauty of the oak. You feel yourself filled with an effortless stability.
    Now relax and stand among the circle of trees. Relax in this stable, centered position. Listen to the gentle wind. Feel it brush across your branches as you sway gently with it, yeilding yet firm. There is no longer any distinction between the Earth and your being. You are one and the same. Feel the energy flowing in great, gentle circles from the Earth, through your body, and then flowing back out without effort. This is your natural state.
    Now, thank the Mother Earth for her bounty and her healing power. Feel a warmth in your heart as a large ball of energy begins to grow within you. This ball is of pure, bright, healing light. You too are powerful. You too have the strength to heal all suffering. This ball of energy grows in strength. There is no effort. The energy grows simply out of your compassion and love for life. Allow this ball of energy to flow gently down through your roots and into the Earth. Your energy spreads out into the Earth, helping her to heal any damage.

    (( This meditation I use for myself on days when my depressions bring back the imbalance and regaining the faith upon my abilities that I have. -H. HARDCASTLE, LIGHTWORKER )) Home