Meditation: Soul Food
Known to few as Siddhartha Gotama, Buddha began to experiment with meditation to achieve an inner calm and to master his own power of concentration to achieve self-realization. Once achieve, he had reached perfect Karma.
Buddha taught his new method to those who were inspired by him, and they soon went to other lands to teach others. With each teaching, new interpretations became popular. In China and Japan, for example, they too reinvented this practice and is quite well-known today. Moreover, as its popularity soon reached the west, we have added our own unique techniques which have become widely utilized.
In addition, yoga has also taken on a new life of its own as well. With Qi Gong becoming the newest form yoga, all have come to the forefront to achieve ultimate calm and tranquility.
Patanjali was a Yogi of legend who first offered the ten preliminary disciplines of Yoga, wherein he established a standard of good and evil. He determined that whatever actions and thoughts help to establish the calmness of the mind are to be considered a good thing, whereas those things that distract from the mind are considered bad.
While there is no definitive history of meditation, it is clear that Buddha and his teachings were the first established form to exist. A Yogi summed its truest meaning in this way: “Truth is always simple. It is only falsehood that is intricate and complicated. Spirituality is simplicity.”
Benefits of Meditation
The art of achieving an inner balance has a multitude of benefits. It de-stresses, brings about an inner calm, energizes, and dissipates all of the thoughts of the day that have stressed you to begin with.
Here are some additional benefits:
It improves your memory. Thinking about all the tasks needed to be done and having the ability to clear your mind of all outside influences is a positive component in meditative thought. Once you have mastered it, you can increase your memory skills twofold.
Reduces stress. There is no doubt that deep breathing relieves stress. This allows you to concentrate on one thing only, thus the rest of the problems drift away.
Calm. When you are calm, you are also patient. Think about the days when you are irritable and stressed. How do you respond to other people? Are you curt in your responses? When you meditate, you to calm down, and the effect leaves you feeling more relaxed and able to deal with anyone.
Breathing. The deep breathing that is associated with this practice increases your lung capacity. When you are stressed there is a tendency to breathe heavier. But when you are in a calm state, you breathe slowly and allow your lungs to take in more air.
Pain. Undoubtedly, you may have seen Yogis lie down on a bed of nails. They are in a deep state of transcendental meditation. They feel no pain. During this time, whether your pain is internal or external, it will dissipate the longer you remain in the zone. The mind is focusing on an object or an image, and as your body relaxes, the pain you may have felt slowly disappears.
To attain perfect harmony, both physically and mentally, achieving inner balance is the key.
Music and meditation go hand in hand. Whenever you listen to your favorite tune or a glorious symphony, music has a way of calming you down and lifting you up. There was a woman who worked in the main office of a public school. Needless to say, the stress was evident every day, especially for the teachers.
One day she decided to buy an inexpensive CD player and began bringing in CDs in all genres. From 7am until she left, music played all day. After a while, teachers began coming down to the main office just to listen. Some would even forego lunch to spend time hearing their favorite melodies or singers.
Their demeanor and body language instantly changed. They became relaxed, calm, and even began to sing along to the music. For teachers, this form of entertainment was enough to give them the strength to go back to their loud classrooms and noisy hallways and finish out the day.
If you’ve had a tough day at work and have a long drive home, inevitably you have your radio locked on to a specific station, whether it’s rock, opera, or pop. Once the music begins playing, you begin to feel calm and start singing along as well, right? Or perhaps you just drive and listen and forget about the traffic jam or the accident that has you sitting in your car for an hour.
When meditating with music, specifically instrumental or sounds of the ocean, it enhances the experience a hundred-fold. The irritability and stress dissipates when listening to music. Whether you are a music aficionado or not, music does what it is meant to do – soothe.
“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
Establish a Routine
It is said in Hindu culture, particular among the Yogis, that meditation is most effective when it is practiced the same time every day. It is also said by Yogis that there are four different times during the day when you and nature are in sync and therefore, the quality of this form of inner peace can last for approximately 45 minutes.
The times of day are: sunrise, mid-day, sunset, and midnight. When you think about it, these periods of the day are totally in sync with nature. When the sun rises, you wake up to nature in all its glory; mid-day is a time when you are at your peak performance; sunset is a time when you are most mellow, and midnight is a time when all is calm around you.
The Yogis also believe that these four periods during the day are most favorable since they are the times when nature seems to be in the same state as well. They also believe Yogis who meditate during these periods send out vibrations to others who are in the meditative state and thus, it is a perfect time to become harmonious and in unison with each other.
While Yogis also understand the culture of the west is not conducive to a specified routine, they stress the importance of meditating at exactly the same time every day. They use the analogy of having dinner at a certain time, because that is usually the time when you become most hungry.
There is routine in most everything we do, and achieving a balance within is no exception. It’s similar to setting the clock for work. After a while, you find you automatically rise at the precise moment the clock will ring. So too, your inner clock tells you it’s time to find that quiet place and begin.
If you expect to achieve any results from this practice, it will take more than one sit-down session. An analogy can be made to describe just how difficult meditating in a quiet room can be.
Imagine that you are standing on a street corner in a large city and have been told to ignore everything around you. You are also asked to focus on one image in your mind and not let outside influences break that focus. Impossible, right?
Now you are asked to sit in a quiet room, without any distractions, and focus on one image in your mind and not allow anything to break that focus. The results are the same. Why? Our minds are filled with a myriad of thoughts, which distract us from being able to focus on one specific thing.
Here’s another example: Suppose you were asked to close your eyes and imagine a red lotus blossom with all of its petals. Then you are asked to envision these petals falling off the lotus one by one. While you may see the first few petals fall, suddenly other thoughts creep up into your mind and you’ve lose the focus.
The benefits of achieving a meditative state are many. It can improve your immune system, increase your lung capacity, energize your nervous system, improve memory, reduce stress, instill a sense of calm and patience, allows your mind to become more open to new things, and can help in relieving pain, both internal and external.
It will take time, strength, and the will to achieve the kind of inner balance that will bring you to a relaxed, calm, and de-stressed state. You can do it, so don’t give up. Those who have achieved a full state of calm have said it is unlike anything they have ever experienced.
Find Time to Meditate
Are you having trouble finding time to meditate? One wouldn’t doubt it. With all that you have to do during the course of the day, it’s amazing you have time to sit down for a minute. But, there is an answer. You can meditate on a daily basis and it doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process. Here are some tips to help you find the time.
Choose a time each day when you can set aside anywhere from 10-20 minutes - either when the children are taking their naps, or they are at school.
Once you have chosen the perfect time (if there is such a thing), and the children are at home – perhaps you can ask a friend or relative to come over to watch the kids for a few hours. This will give you ample opportunity to go to your local park and meditate there.
Meditate after the children are put to bed. In this way you can sit quietly for 45 minutes, which is deemed the appropriate amount of time to achieve inner peace.
Before your family wakes up in the morning is also an excellent time to meditate. This again is considered the period of time when meditating is in direct alignment with nature.
There are just a few tips which you can utilize to help you find time for yourself and the practice of meditation. While Yogis will recommend that sunrise, mid-day, sunset, and mid-night are preferable, choosing one of these periods is all that is required as long as you meditate the same time every day. Also, keep in mind that daily meditation is recommended to achieve inner peace and self-realization.
Consider it a gift you give to yourself every day.