by Joseph Patrick Jakubal
The purpose of this article is to present a clear, no-nonsense approach to meditation which does not favor any one particular school or style. It will provide you with the information you need to chose the type that is right for you.
Many people think that you must sit cross-legged and stare at a candle and chant in order to meditate ... but this is just not so!
Some people meditate in their car at lunchtime ... and others from the comfort of their couch. People meditate in a variety of ways and for many reasons.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is not a religion ... although it is reminescent of the Biblical statement, "Be still and know that I am God."
The meditative experience can be thought of as a matter of faith and acceptance rather than an exercise in logic.
If you try to reason while you are meditating then you cannot let go of the outer world in order to concentrate on your inner world ... which is required.
Meditation is a series of steps in which voluntary control over the brain's activity through regular and disciplined practice produces higher and higher levels of awareness.
Another way to view meditation is that it is a "blanking" of the mind so that you can eliminate the flow of ideas that constantly occur.
By interupting the fears and worries that constantly flow through the mind ... you can concentrate.
CAN DRUGS SUBSTITUTE FOR MEDITATION?
Achieving the state of mind expansion takes self-discipline when using the techniques of meditation. Some people would rather take a "short cut" like LSD, magic mushrooms, or mescaline.
Minute quantities of these drugs can result in profound new ideas and inner perspectives - just like meditation - however ...
1) Habitual use can upset the chemistry of the brain and lead to psychosis.
2) The drugs are highly dangerous when taken in overdose and can result in terrifying hallucinations and delusions like being able to fly.
3) Meditation is free while drugs are expensive.
4) Valuable "inner perspectives" gained during a drug induced trip often lose their significance when the person returns to a normal state ... while some progress is made with every period of meditation.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU ARE MEDITATING?
The altered state of awareness that is developed by the practice of meditation is tranquil ... it is losing contact with your body and therefore the physical world.
When you lose contact with your body it feels like "drifting".
HISTORY OF MEDITATION
Meditation has it's roots in Yoga, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The practice began hundreds of years ago as a way to enrich the lives of religious people.
Meditation came to North American consciousness in 1959 by the Maharishi Manesh Yogi. It had a revitaliztion during the 1960's when the Beatles studied it ... and again recently thanks to the endorsement of the famous physician Deepak Chopra the author of best-selling books on the subject of alternative health care
The practice of meditation actually began centuries ago ... it was often used as a means to enrich the life of religious people.
Meditation has been created by many cultures throughout the course of human history ... from 2nd century Japan to India to the deserts of Jordan to the European midieval monastaries ... 19th century Spain and Russia ... to the Himalaya mountains.
Methods and teqniques were often the same with the only differences being the orientation between Eastern and Western philosophies.
In the East they developed a larger number of teqniques which were more elaborate and involoved ... in the West they developed simpler methods and also a orientation to the fact that positive social interaction plays a part in spiritual development. In other words, what you do is just as important as what you think and feel.
The Western Philosophy
The Western philosophy can probably be best illustrated by a parable that was widely used in the midieval monastaries of Europe ... it seems that there was a monk who spent the greater part of his life praying to the Virgin Mary for a vision ... after years of praying in his room the vision finally appeared but at the same time a ringing of the monastary bell could be heard.
When the bell rang it was the duty of this monk to go to the back of the monastary once a day and feed the disadvantaged people of the area who had gathered there for their one meal of the day.
Now if this Monk did not go to feed these people then there was no-one else to do it ... the Monk was filled with conflict because the work of a lifetime was right in front of him but also his duty called.
While rushing around and gathering things he needed ... he appologized that he must leave and asked forgiveness as he hurried out of the room.
Upon returning some time later and feeling dejected because he just blew the efforts of a lifetime he found that the vision was still there ... again he apologized for having to leave and the vision responded that ... it was ok to have left because "if you had stayed then I would have had to flee".
REASONS FOR MEDITATING
As you meditate you gain new insights into your inner self, and the external world.
You will increas mental efficiency.
Controls over body chemistry and suspended animation are well documented for meditators.
Many people still use meditation as a means of spiritual development but many others use it to relax and reduce the effects of stress.
It is often asked, "Why do you meditate?" ... "What do you seek to gain?"
I think that most people who meditate are trying to find a part of themselves that they lost when they were young ... it might be the childlike attitude they had which was pure and uncorrupted. It might be the ability to love, or perhaps the zest for life we once had and which is now eluding us, or the abilty to be creative.
No matter what it is that we are searching for ... it is usually a part of ourselves that we feel we have lost ... and inosence and purity that was corrupted by the misunderstandings of society.
Many people meditate for spiritual reasons and many have taken up the practice as a means to lower their blood pressure ... and still others use it as a way to reduce stress.
For myself ... meditation provides me with a means for self-immprovement ... a sense that I am making positive improvements in myself. It is a duty that I feel that I have to make my life count for something. It is a method of improving mankind by improving myself. It is quite evident that I am a piece of mankind and that if I improve myself then I am improving mankind ... and the world he creates for himself.
I meditate more for the results, than the experience itself ... though I must admit that the experience is very pleasurable.
There is no known ending to this process ... no final destination. It is a lifelong commitment to self development based on a common sense approach to life. It is a plan to improve life by looking to the "long run" as opposed the "short run" which our modern societies promote. In other words you find that when you get "there" there is no "there" there.
I find that when I am engaging in a meditation program, my life and attitudes are much more positive and coherent. My life takes on meaning and purpose. My belief and faith in the process of life is strengthened.
It alows me to see the "bigger picture" and therefore to minimize the little problems that can seem so large. People can get so involved in their immeditate worlds that they are no longer able to see the forest for the trees. Meditation gives me a sense that I am one with the universe and that the universe is inherently good and abundant ... not negative and lacking.
I meditate because of the fundamental truth that a person is the sum total of all of the thoughts of their lifetime ... and that by chosing my thoughts on a regular basis , that I can contribute strategic thoughts that will benefit me over the long run.
Meditators Have A Health Advantage
I meditate because it calms me and counteracts the effects of stressful anxiety. Our modern lifestyle results in physical and psychological abberations.
In one study hospital admissions over a five year period were drastically reduced for meditators in all caregories except childbirth ... the following categories were included: Intestinal, nose, throat, lung, heart, genital, urinary, injuries, tumors, bones, muscles, mental disorders, nervous system, metabolism, infectious diseases, skin, congenital, and blood.
Meditators appear able to improve physical, and mental health and also to strengthen their immunity systems.
I meditate because I seek to control my immediate world and make it better for myself ... and others. Psychologists have long understood that people create "self fulfilling prophecies" that they accomplish them over long periods of time on subconscious levels. Meditation allows you to set up self-fulfilling prophecies that are automatic.
I meditate because of the health benefits that accompany it. A vast body of evidence now exists that meditators are healthier and live longer.
I meditate to isolate myself from the emotions that accompany problems.
I meditate to have a neutral, calm attitude that I can chose to return to at any time to gain a level-headed viewpoint. I seek to make this my "normal" mental attitude.
I meditate to put myself in a state of mind that is highly suggestible, so that I can implant strategic thoughts into my personality. When you are in a state of meditation, you "let your guard down" you do not look at new thoughts and ideas ctitically. They are able to enter into your personality without "filtering" by the conscious mind.
I meditate for energy when I am fatigued ... after meditation I feel as though I have just waken up from a deep sleep ... think of how alert you are in the first few hours of the day after waking up, think of how much better you are able to read and comprehend ... well this is the same "frame of mind that you get after you meditate.
I meditate to counteract the effects of emotions.because it is often hard to see things clearly when we are angry, sad, or jeolouse. Problem solving abilities are highly diminished when we are in such an emotional state.
Meditation For Relaxation
Meditation, yoga, hypnosis, Zen - all of them includes the inducing of a process called the relaxation response ... which is a state of body first described by Herbert Benson, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School's Mind/Body Clinic.
Anything you can to do unwind will help you to alleviate any number of unwanted symptoms from back pain to chronic nasal disease to irritable bowel syndrome ... just being tense can tighten the muscles in your neck and give you neck By learning meditation you can alleviate a number of painful synptoms.
OTHER RESULTS OF MEDITATION
A recognized result of meditational yoga training is the development of paranormal mental abilities like ...
1) The experience of moving outside of the body in time and space.
2) The ability to move objects by thought.
Certain people seem to have these powers automatically ... while others are able to experience them early in their meditation program ... and still others require long training.
THE RELAXATION RESPONSE
Remember that when you relax the body, you relax the mind ... and when you relax the mind you relax the body.
You are a creature of habit and one of your many habits is the relaxation that you undergo every day as you fall asleep ... in fact this is one of your strongest habits ... because you've done it every day of your life.
Whether you realize it or not, you have perfected this habit through repitition and you are very good at it.
To invoke this habit all you have to do is to trick your body into believing that it is preparing for sleep.
To trick the mind all you have to do is to recreate the conditions that you go through every night ... as an example consider the famous experiments of the Russian scientist Pavlov ... by ringing a bell every time a dog was fed the experimenter could instill a deep rooted "thinking habit into the animal's mind ... after awhile the food could be removed but the dog would salivate anyway whenever it heard the bell ring.
In the same way you can remove the process of sleep but still cause your body to loosen it's muscles and relax.
Virtually all forms of mind expansion use the relaxation response as a basis.
A person experiencing the relaxation response turns off all the hormones and behaviors that are making him/her nervous. Basically any kind of meditation will cause it.
MENTAL ATTITUDE REQUIRED FOR MEDITATION
Your thoughts concerning meditation should be positive and enthusiastic.
You must first want it to work for you ... and then make it work for you.
You never get more out of meditation than what you put into it.
THE BASIC IDEA OF MEDITATION
The basic idea of meditation is to take the busy mind from the surface level which is busy and hectic to the deeper and quiet realms,of the inner self.
A meditation program is designed to do three things ...
1) To tune and train the person's character like an olympic athlete tunes and trains his/her body
2) To develop methods for healing the contradictions in a person's character to stimulate further development.
3) To recognize and develop the dualistic nature of mankind ... which can be expressed as physical and spritual ... or male and female ... or reason and intuition ... or right brain and left brain.
THE GOAL OF MEDITATION
Meditation is long and steady work ... there is no quick and easy road.
Remember that no one can meditate well ... it is not the destination but rather the work that is good for you.
The goal of meditation is to become more alert and more aware ... your mind is constantly drifting off onto different ideas and your task is to catch yourself and bring yourself back to the instructions quicker and quicker.
Realize that no-one can meditate perfectly ... all you can do is to work in that direction.
With practice you will find moments when you are not aware of yourself or that you are meditating.
So how should you handle the distractions that come along as you meditate? Well, one way is to block them out ... in other words 'not to think about them'. This method has been used often but it is not the best way ... the following story illustrates this:
A long time ago there was a king who began a campaign of persecution towards magicians ... it seems that the king beelieved that magicians were a plight on the society because they took advantage of citizens through deceit and trickery.
One magician was brought before the king and was asked if there was anything he would like to say before he was beheaded ... and the magician wisely said, 'but king, what if I told you that I have created a great treasure with my magical powers and that it is buried nearby ... if I tell you it's location will you believe that I am a real magician and spare my life?
And the King ... always looking for new sources of revenue agreed that he would spare the magicians life for the treasure.
The magician said however that there were three rules that must be abided by or the treasure would disappear and be lost forever, 1) that the treasure must be dug-up during daylight ... and the king looked out of his window and saw that there was plenty of day left and said OK. 2) The digging must be supervised by the King of that part of the world ... and the King said he agreed and 3) that the King must not think of a "white bear" as the treasure is being dug up.
The message of this story is obvious ... the harder you try not to think about something the more likely it is that it will pop into your mind. It's like trying to "will" yourself to fall asleep ... the harder you try the more it eludes you.
So we do not suggest that you block out the ideas that float into your mind as you are meditating but rather to slowly develop an attitude towards yourself that it is natural to have these thoughts but now it is time to bring yourself back to the work at hand. Lovingly and gently easing yourself back to a neutral state of mind.
HOW LONG SHOULD I MEDITATE FOR?
A typical meditation session takes from 15- to 45 minutes as you focus on calming and becoming aware of your body.
HOW MANY TIMES A DAY SHOULD I MEDITATE?
As a general rule ... once or twice a day. Practitioners of bhakti yoga meditate for several hours every day.
Do not meditate within two hours of eating a meal because the process of digestion interferes with meditation.
In Mantra meditation people simply repeat a word or a phrase over and over. The repitition is hypnotic and puts people into a deep state of relaxation ... many people claim that it brings them closer to the divine.
Mantras developed in India hundreds of years ago in the yoga tradition.
A mantra can be any word at all but for added benefits it should have significance for you ... something firmly rooted in your belief system.
Mantras can be spoken out-loud or silently to yourself.
If you choose to say it out-loud, then it is important "how" the word is said. All physical things have a "resonant frequency" ... a natural frequency which tends to sustain and reinforce itself. As an example think of a tuning fork ... the reason the sound continues for a long period is that it is vibrating at it's resonant frequency.
If the resonant frequency of the tuning fork is the same as a nearby glass then the glass will tend to vibrate and possible shatter.
The natural resonant frequency of your voice should be used when chanting your mantra ... to find your resonant frequency try this exercise ... lower your voice each time you chant, "ma, may, mee, my, mo, ma, moo" ... like this ....................keep practicing, some people catch the resonance right away ... if you don't get it right away you will ... remember that relaxation is the key. You be able to hear and feel the resonance ... it is similar to a cat purring.
The idea is to lose yourself as you "tune in" to nature and become one with it.
A mantra should be repeated over and over as you meditate and in time with your breathing.
California School of Meditation
According to a teacher at the California School Of Meditation a mantra is a word or phrase that means God.
Dr. Herbert Benson
Dr. Benson ... the founder of the relaxation respose suggests the word 'one' (or any other word that has personal significance) ... and alternative could be 'peace'.
Siddha Yoga Foundation
Siddha Yoga Foundation recommends using the words "ham" and "so" as a universal mantra. When you inhale say, "ham", and as you exhale say, "so".
CONCENTRATION MEDITATION EXERCISE
This method will allow you to concentrate on one thought or mental picture to the exclusion of all others.
Now imagine a white motion picture screen stretching across your mind ... imagine yourself as being in a theater - sitting comfortably in a seat and looking at a blank screen.
PREPARING FOR MEDITATION
Start With A Proper State Of Mind
Do not worry whether you are successful in achieving deep levels of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and allow the relaxation to occur at it's own pace.
Expect distracting thoughts and ideas ... when they occur, do not dwell on them ... ignore them and return your attention to your breathing.
Find a quiet time and place which is free from distractions.
Sit down in a straight back chair with your head in line with your hips, ears in line with shoulders, and nose in line with navel. Search for the right position which will allow energy to flow up and down your spine.
Place your hands in your lap, touching but not clasped. The palms should face upward and the fingers should be slightly bent.
Take four slow deep breaths ... close your eyes and clear your mind.
MEDITATION AND BREATHING EXERCISES
Shallow breathing in normal every day life can cause anxiety and decrease your energy level --- however when you are meditating your energy requirements decrease phenomenaly ... and with practice you may find yourself hardly breathing at all. Yogi's have demonstrated this by slowing their breathing and heart rates to virtually imperceptible levels.
Breath through your nose. Become aware of your breathing.
This is an exercise that you should now try which was developed in the East and will give you a basis ... start by making yourself comfortable.
Count your exhalations up to the number "4" and then start over again ... the goal is to be as highly awake and aware as possible. Completely aware but doing just one thing at a time.
You will start out by beathing out and saying either out loud or to yourself, "1" and "2" and "3" and "4" and "1" and "2" and "3" and "4" ... do this at approximately one second intervals because your mind is accustomed to being alert and active at one second intervals and slowing down the pace can make you drowsy and put you in a state of sleep ... you can put a ticking clock near you to keep a correct pace.
OK are you ready? Then lets begin, "1" and "2" and "3" and "4" and "1" and "2" and "3" and "4" ... now turn this tape off and continue the exercise for about five minutes or until you feel the time is right ... when you are ready come back to this program.
Now you understand how the human mind is like and unbroken horse ... it will go in any direction except for the one you want it to ... so this is the first objective of meditation, "to train the mind to do what you want it to".
Did you see how your mind tended to wander all over the place?
The Greek philosopher, Plato illustrated it with the comparison that the mind is like a ship on the sea where a mutiny has taken place and where the captain and navigator have been placed in leg-irons and locked away in the bowels of the ship.
Meanwhile, up on deck chaos is the order of the day as one person would steer for awhile and then become bored and another would take over ... with no purpose or direction the ship drifts where ever the tides of chance takes it.
According to Plato the task of an adult is to quell the mutiny of the mind by giving it directions and goals to work toward ... to bring the captain and the navigator back on deck so we can gain cpntrol and get all of our resources working together in a specific direction.
This is an old and useful method of easing the body and mind ... put the small finger of your right hand on your stomach ... let your thumb extend up to your chest ... feel your stomach expand as you inhale, and collapse as you exhale.
Meditation is not concemtration in the normal sense of the word. It is heightening one's awareness of his surroundings.
The following exercise should be practiced for approx. 10 minutes.
Find a comfortable place where you can relax and will not be disturbed ... listen for sounds but do not name them.
After the session write down the sounds you heard for the first time ... write down any other observations you may have.
Normally when we analyze an object we conduct private verbal conversations with ourselves, silently inside of our minds, conversations like ... "this object feels hard and is blue in color".
The idea of contemplation meditation is to take an object ... and to analyze it without thinking of it in terms of language.
Contemplation meditation should be performed by merely touching and looking at the object ... not staring at it but rather shifting your eyes back and forth to see different aspects of it, you want to bind your mind to the object - not your retina ... touch it and feel it's texture ... learn as much as you can about it without verbalizing ... and if you do find yourself verbalizing then kindly and gently stop. Try to be like a contented cat looking, looking, looking.
Now find an object that is close to you, it can be a pencil or a piece of cloth or anything else you desire. Close your eyes and feel it ... rub your hand over the object ... learn the object with your fingers slowly, sensing it as much as possible dothis for about 5 minutes.
After a couple of minutes open your eyes and look at the object ... explore and carress it with your eyes for a another 5 minutes or so.
Analysis Of The Experience
Notice how much easier it was not to verbalize your thoughts as you were touching it ... but when you looked at it with your eyes you immediately wanted to put the experience in terms of language.
Many types of resistance are associated with this type of meditation ... you may have become sleepy, or your mind may have wandered for long periods before you noticed it, or you may have noticed that an aura surrounded the object.
An ancient manuscript called the Hindu Suman Gama Sutra describes 50 of these resistances and calls them Makyo ... the document deals with the most common Makyo but goes on to state that there are many more.
Some of the typical Makyo's are ...
Changes in color, changes in size, feelings of heaviness, tingling in various parts of the body, itches, etc.
The idea is to keep working at the meditation and learn not to be distracted especially by auras that sometimes appear around the object ... if you want to analyze the aura then do so from memory after your meditation has ended.
The principle of this type of meditation is called "working and allowing" ... in other words we keep working and working to learn discipline so the mind work as we instruct it to ... but at the same time we cannot force it to happen --- we must relax ever deeper and deeper and allow it to happen.
This is a meditation that will show you the way your mind works ... it demonstrates how your thoughts are a rapidly changing flow of thoughts and ideas that rise into your consciousness.
The objective is to slow down the process and to break it up into parts so it can be analyzed.
Imagine that you are comfortable and relaxed ... sitting at the bottom of a pond ... it is a warm summer day and you have no trouble breathing.
As you are looking forward you can see in your peripheral vision a large air bubble rising from the ground and floating up in front of your face and then continuing up to the surface.
As the bubble comes out of the ground take whatever thought you currently have in your mind and place it inside of the bubble and look at it as it rises through your field of vision. Don't analyze it, don't think about it, just look at it (3 or 5 seconds) until it is out of sight.
For example, right now I am thinking that I can't seem to think of anything ... ok, place that thought in a bubble and see it rise up to the surface.
Now I still can't think of anything ... place it into a bubble and see it rise.
And now I feel an itch and I'd like to scratch it... place it in a bubble.
Suddenly a whole host of ideas come so take them one at a time and let the others stand in line and wait.
If you are listening to this program on tape then turn off the tape and try this meditation for about 15 minutes.
Mystics are often thought to be people who are scatter brained with both feet planted on a cloud ... not in touch with reality ane generally not able to function well in society.
Actually nothing could be further from the truth because mystics are people who have taught themselves to do one thing at a time and by doing one thing at a time you can do it much more effectively.
This is especially true when you often jump from one project to another ... when you must blank your mind from the influences of the previous project and totally concentrate on the new one.
Mystics traditionally do a lot of meditating and are very successful in the arts, sciences, and professions.
In our modern western societies mystics will commonly gravitate toward the business world.
Intuition and gut feelings are the order of the day in the fast paced world of business ... most decisions must be made immediately and without the aid of gathering and analyzing facts ... and to be effective at hearing the weak voices of your intuitions you must be able to quiet your mind.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MEDITATING
As you inhale repeat to yourself "ham" and as you exhale say, "so". Think about your mantra only ... if other ideas come to mind just repeat your mantra ... letting the images come and go.a