Meditation

Even though there are hundreds of books and apps on Meditation, many of them do not go into the breathing method to use when meditating. There are two kinds of breathing.  The first type is chest or tension breathing.  This seems like the “normal” way to breath.   When you inhale your chest expands and on the exhale your chest contracts.  If you pay attention to this, you will see that this breathing does create tension.  The second kind of breathing is abdominal or relaxation breathing.  When you inhale, your belly does the expanding and when you exhale the belly contracts.  Pay attention to this type of breathing, and you will see it is more relaxing.

The best way to experience relaxation breathing is to lay flat on your back on a hard surface, like the floor, and place your hands over your belly button.   Just try to relax a little bit, and then start to breath.  You will see that in this position, it is almost impossible to breath, except to allow your abdomen to expand on the inhale, and then it will naturally contract on the exhale.  You will also find that your breathing is deeper and fuller.  Even though you are laying on a hard surface,  as you continue to breath this way, your body will become more relaxed.  Just continue to take nice deep belly breaths, and you will begin to experience true relaxation of the various parts of your body.  Then start to concentrate on each section of your body. It does not make any difference whether you start at your feet, and work your way up to the top of your head, or the other way around.  I like to start at the feet.  Relax your feet, ankles, calves, knees, and thighs.  Then once you feel like your lower extremities are totally relaxed, then start with your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows and upper arms. Once the upper extremities are totally relaxed, then work on the trunk beginning with the lower back and upper buttocks.  Work your way up the mid back and the upper back and shoulders.  Once that is relaxed, then relax the neck, lower jaw, cheeks, the eyes, forehead, and finally, the top of the head.  Once you have the entire body in a relaxed state, try and maintain that for 5 minutes. This will get  you about half way through a good meditation.    Then it’s time to explore your inner self.

There are many ways of doing this.  You can just try and go inside yourself.   You can create an inner sanctuary or a relaxation  place.  This could be a lake, the ocean, or a mountain and river scene. But think of a place that will enhance  this relaxed state that you are in.  A place where you have felt relaxed in the past.   Getting to your inner self can be quite rewarding but also scary, as you may finds things that you may not like about yourself.  This is a very personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.  It may take many meditations and months to begin to get inside yourself, and see what makes you really tic.  It will still be up to you, to go in a different direction or continue along the same path you have always gone.   There is no right or wrong here, either.  You just become aware of the things that have enabled you to be where you are now, and you then decide if you should change, or continue down the same path.  The biggest thing you become aware of is, you are exactly where you want to be, right now, even though it may not seem like this is what you want.  You are totally in charge of your life, if you really want to be.  Sometimes, and I have experienced this,  you really don’t want to be in charge.  Simply, it is  much easier to look outward and blame, rather than looking inward and accepting responsibility.  Good luck.

Meditation

Now that it has been established how important meditation is in life, how do you get started. Before we get to that, I thought it would be a good idea to get a solid definition of meditation. After looking up the definition of meditation, I am not too sure now, that it was such a good idea. It seems meditation is hard to define. Who would have thunk it? Wikipedia states scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions, and within them. Let’s look at five sources and see what they said. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states it is a discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation. The Medical Dictionary has a definition. A practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Dictionary.com states meditation is continued or extended thought; reflection, contemplation, devout religious contemplation, or spiritual introspection. It comes from the Latin word thinking over. Cambridge English dictionary says it is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as way of becoming calm and relaxed. Finally good old Webster defines meditation as a practice in which an individual trains the mind, or induces a mode of consciousness either to realize some benefit or as an end in itself.

What is my take on all these definitions? It means that you can do pretty much what you want when you meditate. I do not see anything religious in meditation. It should be a personal endeavor and religion should have nothing to with it. If you want to put a more religious aspect to your meditative practice, then that is fine, but don’t feel that it is a necessity. Meditation has been associated with various philosophies and historical individuals. Again, something that is not necessary to incorporate, to meditate. If you want to follow someone’s meditative practices or guidance, that is good, if this is what gets you started or keeps you going in meditation. There should not be any goals in meditation except to relax and look inward. The benefits listed for meditation will just happen and in some respects can be overly optimistic, just to try and get you to meditate. Most of the definitions make meditation feel like a thinking process which in my view it is not. Yes if you are going to look inward and see your true self some thought is going to have to be involved. One of the purposes of meditation is to calm the brain and stop the thinking on the outside world. Now that we have , let’s say a working definition of meditation, how do we get started.

Although fear is the biggest reason people do not meditate, the other big excuses are time and I just can’t sit still for 20 minutes and think of nothing. Most likely these people are right. But I bet they can not run a marathon, do 100 push ups, or play golf in the 70’s if they have never golfed. Meditation is like any endeavor, you must start small and work your way up to big. When I started to meditate, I began meditating for one minute. That was it. I could do that, and I could do it every day. You can start even shorter than that if you want. Thirty seconds, 5 seconds even, it does not matter. What matters is you do it, and then slowly but surely increase the time every 4 to 7 days. How fast you go, is up to you. When I started, I increased my time by one minute every 5 days, and then when I got out to 8 minutes, I increase by increments to 2 minutes, until I reached 20 minutes. This took about 10 weeks to do. Even though there are many how to books and apps on meditation, I am going to give a few basics to get started. First, getting into that comfortable position. Your meditation position can be anything you want. You do not have to get into to that semi-lotus cross legged position to meditate. You can sit in a chair, or couch, and even lying down is a perfectly good position to meditate. The only danger in lying down to meditate is falling asleep. If you are starting from scratch, and follow the above advice of only meditating for one minute, that is highly unlikely. The best way to start is to count your breaths and I believe in always counting the full cycle breath. One count for every inhale and exhale. Next up we will discuss breathing in a relaxed way, and getting to know your inner self, get started please.

Meditation

Meditation, a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  I have been meditating for 26 years.  I can say that it changed my life.  I believe that it is something that every one should do, and is essential to living the best life that you can.  I did not say that it would solve all your problems, and let you live a perfect life. I think that most of the benefits you read about are overly optimistic.  Meditation, according to many sources is booming right now, with almost double the amount of people meditating, compared to 2012. There are meditation apps and thousands of books on the subject.   The estimate is about 14% of the people in the U. S. meditate.   What if I told you that 14% of the population drinks enough water to survive.  That 86% of the population dies of thirst.  Water is essential to life.  Your first thought would be what is wrong with those people.  Everyone knows that you have to take fluid in to survive.   In my view meditation is the same.  Obviously if you don’t meditate, you are not going to physically die, but your life will not be as full, and your soul will whither away.  I know that may sound strong but it is what I believe. So, why don’t more people meditate? The most common reasons you read about are not enough time, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, it’s an eastern thing, and I just can’t do it.   I believe that there are only two real benefits to meditating and one of those is the reason that people do not meditate.

The first benefit of meditating is, it allows your body to totally relax for the 20 minutes that you are doing it.  I feel 20 minutes is the minimal time that you should meditate.  There are a lot of apps and articles now about how 10 minutes a day may benefit or have the same benefits, but I am not in agreement.  It is just an excuse to try to get people to meditate who say they don’t have the time.  What is amazing, is that just allowing the muscles of the body to relax for 20 minutes is all the time the body needs. It will help you have more energy and you will feel more refreshed if you meditate daily for 20 minutes.  People seem to confuse relaxation with sleeping.  They think that when I sleep my body is completely relaxed.  When you sleep you toss and turn and dream.  Your mind is still active and this can keep the muscles stiff and tense.  Dreaming can cause more issues than real life. Besides relaxing the physical body, meditating can relax the mind.  The mind can relax doing meditation, but it also can serve another purpose during meditation, which becomes the second benefit of meditating.

The second benefit, is that it makes you look at your inner self.   It makes you look inward to what makes you tic, and why you are where you are, in whatever stage of life you are in. The vast majority look at the outer world to evaluate their lives.  We have bad relationships, our job is no good,  the economy is bad,  our luck is bad, and just about anything else that someone is doing or not doing that we perceive is keeping us from reaching are goals and having a full life. This give us comfort, and blocks us from taking responsibility for where we are at the present moment.  Meditating can make you look at your inner self and it can be very scary.  It takes real guts to take a good look at how you function and why you are in the circumstances that you are in.  That is the number one reason why people do not meditate.  When you look inside and see the person you are, it can be quite disconcerting.   All those perceived benefits from meditating,  relieving stress, helping manage anxiety, helping with depression, increasing your immunity, better sleep, relieving IBS symptoms ( I had to throw that one in there), and improving your over well being, is still not enough to over come the fear of finding out your true self.  There is one site that lists 76 benefits of meditation.  Wow!   It’s always tough finding out things that you may not like about yourself, although that is the only way you are going to improve your life.

Even though I have been meditating for 26 years, I have had my ups and downs with meditating. I started in 1993 and was consistent for about 18 years. Then around 2011 I began to feel that I did not need meditation as much anymore, and began to skip days. I felt this way because so much good was going on in my life, that meditation was not as important. I was wrong. Over any life you make a lot of mistakes and do things you wish you had not done and maybe if I would have been more diligent meditating I would have made some better decisions over the last 6 years. Over the last 6 months I have gotten back on track and do feel much better. Meditation is something that is essential to living and every person that is breathing should do. On the next meditation blog, I will give some tips on how to get started. This is not really a how to blog. There is tons of apps and books on the subject, but I will go through what I think is good and what is just salesmanship on the creator . In future blogs I will discuss situations not really related directly to meditating but come about because we live in a non meditating world.