“The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.” – Confucius
Meditation is difficult to define, but is generally referred to as a means of quieting the mind. Deepak Chopra has a different take however. He says, “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” Both definitions allude to a practice that allows the stresses of the day to slip away leaving a peaceful calm in which the body, mind and spirit are united.
The biggest obstacle in meditation is striving too hard for an all-encompassing feeling of nirvana. The reality of most new meditation practices is that they result in incremental pieces of bliss which are fleeting, but powerful nonetheless. From a biological perspective the act of concentrating on the breath and focusing one’s attention via meditation has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system. It is almost like hitting a reset button to put the body into a peaceful state. Countless research studies have demonstrated that mediation offers positive health benefits for the meditator, and even the community in general.
There are a variety of tools for achieving a meditative state including following guided meditations (via CD or instructor), using visualizations, reciting mantras, listening to music, and/or simply observing the breath and focusing on breathing deeply and slowly. Likewise, there are many different styles of meditation including Transcendental Meditation(TM), Vipassana (Mindfulness) Meditation, Siddha Yoga Meditation, Sahaja Meditation, and more.
- Before beginning a meditation ask yourself, “what do I need to know?” to access your internal guide.
- Listening to uplifting music is an easy way to calm the mind. My favorite is Heart’s version of Love Reign O’er Me (originally from The Who).
- Using headphones to listen to a guided meditation allows you to filter out any background noise and distractions.
- Do not put pressure on yourself to achieve calm or a blank state of mind, simply surrender to the process and accept your abilities where they are.
- Remember meditation is a practice like anything else, it takes time to settle into a rhythm. Start out slowly with 5 minute sessions increasing daily or weekly as you feel ready.
- Make meditation a daily ritual when you have the time and the quiet (generally before beginning or ending your day).
Stages of Meditation
Dr. Elliott Dacher, author of Aware Awake Alive, stresses that a meditation practice is about freedom and growth. He explains that there are three stages to a meditation practice including:
- The 1st stage is to quiet the mind – achieving a state of being and not doing. This generally takes six months or more to attain.
- The 2nd stage is to still the mind. Here is where you give up mindfulness. He sees mindfulness meditation as a tool that must be dropped once you achieve quiet so that you can move on to stillness. The mind is awake at this stage, but is not dull or agitated.
- In the 3rd stage you are in non-meditation. You are resting in the natural state of the mind. You experience a sense of oneness and expansiveness. This is generally experienced as a gap where you lose yourself.
The two obstacles to the final state of meditation are an overly dull mind or a preoccupied mind. You have to let go of all the colors and blissful feelings and find what is beyond. It is generally only experienced in glimpses, but those breaks can extend into daily life.
There are many free meditation information and tools available on the Internet and on YouTube. The following are just a sampling from reliable sources:
Free Meditations & Meditation Guides
[***HHH Top Recommendation ] Insight Timer App – insighttimer.com – a comprehensive meditation app offering free and paid services. An excellent tool for exploring a wide range of meditations
Dharma Seed – www.dharmaseed.org – provides free meditation podcasts. The site is devoted to Theravada Buddhism and is run by nonprofit group hoping to spread its wisdom.
Fragrant Heart – Free Guided Meditations – www.fragrantheart.com/cms/free-audio-meditations – a wide variety of audio meditations varying in length from 1 minute to 30 minutes from Elisabeth Blaikie.
Free Meditations.com – www.freemeditations.com – this site offers information on a wide variety of meditation styles interspersed with minimal advertising.
Inner Smile Meditation – taoism.about.com/od/meditation/ht/inner_smile.htm – an easy, uplifting, Taoist meditation practice.
Meditation Oasis – www.meditationoasis.com/podcast over 45 free meditation podcasts in a variety of styles.
Sahaja Meditation Course – www.onlinemeditation.org/ – free classes on Sahaja meditation.
Meditation Articles/ Research
Meditation – National Center for Complementary and Integtrative Health – www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth – an overview of government-sponsored research on meditation.
What kind of meditation is right for you? –http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/attending-the-undervalued-self/201208/meditation-part-i – an overview of the different types of meditation and the brain wave patterns and responses they evoke by Dr. Elaine Aron.
Mindfulness Meditation – www.umassmed.edu/cfm/– Visit the Center for Mindfulness at UMASS Medical School for more information on MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) and MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy).
Transcendental Meditation – www.tm.org
Vipassana Meditation – www.dhamma.org
Vipassanna Research Institute – www.vridhamma.org/Home.aspx
Copper Beech Institute – Located right in my home state of Connecticut, Copper Beech offers affordable retreat weekends where participants can learn about meditation and more. They also offer free meditation groups on Wednesday evenings.
Riley, D. Ehling, D. & Sancier, K. (2004). Chapter 11: Movement and Body-Centered Therapies in Integrative Medicine. McGraw Hill Companies.
Elliott Dacher, MD, Lecture for The Graduate Institute, 12/2 – 12/3/11. Aware Awake Alive – a path for Human Flourishing.
[Last Updated: 9/24/20]