What is meditation and how can I learn how to practice it? This is the question many are asking the universe, seeking guidance and answers. If you’ve thought about meditation, and think that you would love to learn how to do it, but you are too intimidated by the idea of sitting with yourself for long periods, hopefully we can alleviate your concerns, clear up some of the myths, and provide you with very practical answers to give you the tools you need to start practicing on your own.
Let’s start with five very common myths about meditation:
1. Meditation means sitting in lotus posture, and I’m not flexible so I can’t do it.
While full lotus is a very classic position, it is not necessary to be in lotus. In fact most of the time, even advanced meditators are sitting in a much more comfortable posture, especially if they are sitting for longer periods. Forcing yourself into lotus, if you aren’t naturally able to do it, will only serve to distract you and take away from your meditation sessions. Just remember, the most important thing is sitting up with your back straight to stay alert. Try half-lotus, indian style, or there’s no shame in sitting-up straight in a chair.
2. Meditation is a form of relaxation.
Meditation and relaxation should not be confused. They are two very different things. Relaxation helps to calm your body and allow you to relieve stress. Meditation is about either focusing the mind on the present moment using breath, body sensations or mantras, or some other concentration techniques which involve visualizing geometrical shapes or something devotional. But they all involve developing a laser-sharp mental focus. It may be helpful to do a relaxation session prior to meditation so that you can more easily focus your mind without stress and body tensions. But the two shouldn’t be confused. You should also keep in mind that meditation can have an extremely calming and relaxing affect on the mind, but relaxation techniques themselves are not meditation.
3. Meditation is a quick-fix to all your problems, a panacea.
Meditation can certainly increase your problem solving abilities by helping you clear your mind so that you can see your life problems with objectivity and awareness and get to the root of your issues, but this is not an instant solution. It takes consistent effort and time. This is why meditators sit on a daily basis. They understand that sitting is what gives them these wonderful benefits. So if you’re willing to put the time in, meditation is like your drug-free solution to depression and anxiety, and the benefits will help you for a lifetime. But a quick fix? It is certainly not.
4. Meditation gives you an altered state of mind, or “gets you high”.
Experiencing a trance-induced state of euphoria as if you were high on drugs is not what meditation is about. Meditation is about developing mental clarity and presence, and allowing you to master your mind, and no longer be run by the habitual mental programs that you think define who you are. By meditating, we become aware of our inner nature. While a deep meditation session can give you a high feeling afterwards, and create feelings of joy and euphoria, this should not be the goal of meditating. If it is, you are missing the point entirely.
5. Meditation is a religious activity and I’m not religious, so it’s not for me.
There is little doubt that meditation has been associated with various religions. In fact almost all religions have some sort of meditation practice, whether it involves a deep contemplation of scripture, mantras, devotional visualizations, or any activity involving a deep concentration on different aspects of the religion it is associated with. But meditation by its very nature is completely religion neutral. It is a mental exercise and nothing more. It’s like saying that because the bible is a book, that all books are religious. Obviously we know this isn’t true, books are a means to an end, a way to communicate written information to the reader. Meditation is the same thing, a means by which we can scientifically learn to be master of our own minds if we practice it.
What can you do to start?
Now that we’ve cleared up some common myths (and there are many more), let’s discuss some of the ways you can start including meditation in your life.
The first thing that all meditators have is a strong intention, and a sense of self-discipline. The intention is usually a commitment to begin a regimen of self-improvement and to learning mental mastery. You must sit on a consistent basis to make progress, and if you do, the benefits will be nothing less than profoundly life changing. Think of it this way, you must eat every day to feed and care for your body, so you must meditate every day to care for your mind. So make that agreement with yourself now. You wouldn’t miss a meal would you? If you did, wouldn’t you feel out of balance? Meditation is the same, sitting daily gives you a sense of balance and fulfillment. So decide that you will begin this journey and become the puppet-master of your reality, and stop being the puppet, constantly having all your strings pulled by your own mind and ego.
Now, let’s talk about what you’ll need to help you start. There are a few wonderful tools you can use to help you once you’ve made this agreement with yourself to sit every day, the two most common tools for learning meditation are brainwave therapy and any form of guided meditation.
Brainwave therapy is fairly new technology that uses sound frequencies to “entrain” your mind into a meditation state. The most common form is Binaural Audio, or Binaural Beats. Binaural audio works by sending two different audible tones to each ear via stereo headphones. The listener actually perceives a third sound, created when the two hemispheres of the brain communicate and combine the tones together into one perception.
This interaction creates a focused mental state known as whole-brain synchronization. Whole-brain synchronization results in a higher-performing mind and more efficient brain mechanics. So binaural audio is specifically programmed to maximize mental concentration, increase relaxation and meditative states, and to release endorphins in the brain conducive to euphoric states of consciousness.
Click here to read more about binaural audio technology.
Guided Meditation is just how it reads, a voice-guided instruction that guides you through a meditation session and teaches you a technique of mental discipline. It’s as simple as listening and learning. Unfortunately however, many guided instruction methods are less practical for actually teaching you how to meditate. Instead, these programs offer guided self-affirmations or visualizations, and while this can certainly be helpful, it falls short of actually teaching real concrete meditation skills. Another way to think about it, is that they are creating a need for these recordings by having the recordings themselves be the meditations. So be very wary of New Age marketplace fluff that doesn’t empower you to learn meditation for yourself. There are many great programs out there, so arm yourself with this discerning knowledge, that if it doesn’t empower you, it is often creating a dependency on something external, namely the very recording itself.
A third option, and the most effective of all, is to combine these two together. Binaural brainwave therapy creates a meditative and receptive mind-state, and this receptive mind can be easily guided with instructions given. This is the best of both worlds. The SoundMind Meditation Project (SMMP) offers a fully downloadable audio course that uses binaural brainwave therapy to bring your mind into a deeply meditative state at the touch of a button. Then, through a series of simple, easy to follow lessons, you will learn two special meditation techniques, mindfulness and insight. And once you become expert at practicing, you will take off the “training wheels” and sit in meditation without needing to use any guidance at all, meditating on your own with an effective life-changing skill. Once you finish the SMMP course you will be a skilled insight meditator. Insight meditation, also known as Vipassana in the original Pali, the language spoken in the Buddha’s day, allows you to see yourself in a very special way, with objectivity and awareness. You will learn the meaning, through your own direct experience, of equanimity. Equanimity is a state of mind that is at peace, neither craving something nor loathing something else, or feeling hatred towards an experience that it doesn’t want. This is a truly liberated mind, at peace with itself and the world.
You can visit the website at http://SoundMindMeditation.com/ for more information on this fully downloadable program. It will give you all the tools you need to learn this life-changing skill.
Many people, most in fact, believe karma is some sort of overseer, or keeper of the law of “an eye for an eye”, or some kind of cosmic justice system -the “Karma Police” if you will. While it may seem so, there is a much larger picture of what’s going on. The much talked-about “law of attraction” is what many people are confusing with Karma. The Law of Attraction is not karma, rather our karma is the cause and the law of attraction gives us the effect, desired or not. So if Karma is not the Law of Attraction, then what is it?
The word Karma literally means “action”. And that is exactly what Karma is, it is our conditioned behaviors, or accumulated sum total of our actions. Our conditioned behavior patterns which follow us from life to life, ARE our Karma. Think of karma like this: Imagine that your behavior patterns, or habits, are like the grooves in a record. They play the same tune as long as we keep playing the same record. We keep digging deeper grooves in our own broken records by making the same mistakes, reacting in the same ways, and performing the same karma. Karma is the groove in the record that we keep replaying on our metaphorical record players of life. So in sum, Karma is our conditioned behaviors that define our relationship to the universe. So to change our Karma, just put a different record on the stereo. Change your ACTIONS!
That being said, there are ancillary consequences that play out in a “law of attraction” kind of scenario. In other words, we keep sending out bad actions, reactions and behaviors into the cosmic energy field, and BAM we attract those energies right back to us. The world is a mirror, and we we reap what we sow. So remember, karma is NOT the law of attraction, it is our own behavior that is our Karma. It is our actions which define us within the world that we interact with in real time. The Law of Attraction merely plays along and cooperates with us.
And so goes the saying “we must BE the change we wish to see in the world.” Changing our behavior, our action, our Karma, changes the world, and our relationship TO IT.
2012 is getting closer day by day and things definitely do seem to be speeding up. This year represents very different things to many people. Let’s explore some of the theories, the science, the fear and the optimism that surrounds this date. Many of you saw the movie 2012, or have heard about the mayan calendar predictions of the coming of the sixth sun, or have heard the biblical prophesies in the book of revelations, or have seen the increase of UFO phenomenon in the news. I am sure that, like me, most of you have concluded that there is no doubt about it, things are changing and getting weirder by the day. And unless you are a hard and true dogmatic materialist, that is, someone who only goes by what they can see, hear, feel, touch, smell or taste and nothing beyond it, then you are seeing the manifestations of this transitional time period happen before your very eyes. The materialist who thinks of spirituality and all this “woo woo” 2012 stuff as being total inane garbage is likely to keep their head buried in the sand until the very last minute as their carefully constructed scientifically verifiable double-blind provable, repeatable and peer-reviewed paradigm begins to fall apart around them. Hopefully these people will wake up and smell the mayan coffee steeping in the new cosmic kitchen that is being built as we speak while they continue to sleep.
As for the rest of us, those with an open mind and open eyes, we are becoming increasingly awake and aware in these transitional times. Let’s go a little deeper into the realities of what is actually happening and explore the possibilities of what is to come in our immediate future. Hopefully we can clarify the mystery a little and give you some real grounding about what you can do to prepare yourself…
The Mayan Calendar
The mayan calendar is the most accurate calendar ever created in the last 6000 years, or at least the most accurate one we presently have access to. The mayans have broken up time into a fractal structure devised of time cycles that increase an order of magnitude with each level of the structure. So, the topmost layer represented the 260-day tzolkin of thirteen uinals. The next level down would be a 260-uinal cycle of thirteen tuns. The next level down would be a 260-tun cycle of thirteen katuns (this is a cycle normally known as the Short Count). Under this would be a 260-katun cycle of thirteen baktuns (this is the familiar 13-baktun cycle). Below this would be a 260-baktun cycle of thirteen pictuns, and so on. In this way, we would have a nine-level pyramid, where each layer is structured like the tzolkin, but twenty times larger than the layer above. So this calendar describes the entire history of the universe (16.4 billion years old according to the mayans vs. 15 billion according to scientific theory, pretty darn close). Within each level of the pyramidal time hierarchy are the 13 cycles, and each cycle has a day/night period which defines it. Without going into too much more detail, as the explanation of the mayan calendar could be the subject of a much larger discussion, the seven day/night periods within each cycle have been very closely correlated with major historical events and shifts in consciousness.
For example the 6th day/night of every cycle is considered the renaissance of that cycle (day) followed by a reactionary dark period (night). The Last 6th “Day” 1952 – 1972, we had the Beatniks and then Flower Children, The Beatles, orbital satellites and global communication systems, and then the night brought us the vietnam war, a war that ended the acceptability of war, if not the practice of war, through and by a consciousness shift. Although our government still engages in this nefarious activity to stage it’s power and domination over the rest of the planet, the majority of planetary consciousness has, for the most part, rejected war as being necessary and righteous. The current cycle is called Galactic Consciousness by the mayan calendar, and the current cycle’s 6th day was November 2008 – November 2009, which was the period immediately following the election of Barack Obama, a time when “change” was the buzz-word of the day and we saw the reversal of many of the policies of the Bush administration. Now we are in the midst of the 6th night, where the Obama administration is getting a lot of resistance from it’s political opposition (conservatives who resist any changes whatsoever), and the economy is in a state of tenuousness and many are bracing themselves for another “market correction” at best, or a complete death of the dollar at worst. A reality check has set-in causing a rapid sobriety from the drunken ideology of the changelings. This isn’t to say that change will not happen, but it takes a lot of work to change a system of entrenchment and corruption, so it will take some time and persistence of will.
This dark period will eventually pass and lead us into the 7th day, which will begin to usher in the consciousness of the next cycle to follow the current one, that of Universal Consciousness which begins in November 2010, ending on October 28th 2011. At this point the calendar simply stops. This date, October 28, 2011, the end of the Mayan Calendar, is based on a more recent understanding of the actual beginning of the Mayan “long count” calendar according to Carl Johanns Calleman. The original calculated date marking the beginning of the calendar defined the end of the “long count” as December 21, 2012, the date we hear most about. Disregarding the discrepancies in interpretation of the mayan calendar and cosmological perspective, one can clearly see, if we study their calendar closely, that they were on to something significant.
The general rule with this calendar is that each level of conciousness evolution must have the same relative amount of change as the previous cycle. So the final cycle in and around 2012 (only 260 days) will see as much evolution as the current cycle we are in now, which is only about a decade. And if you think about it, haven’t we seen an incredible degree of change since Y2K? Indeed it has been a whirlwind of change. We will only see things accelerate as we approach the final cycle.
(please check back later as this is a work in progress… more to come in this blog…)
A healthy mind is integrally related to a healthy body. Another aspiration of ours is to help people get established in an optimal diet that is most supportive to a daily meditation practice.
Eating Plant-based Foods
Eating low on the food chain is helpful to any meditation practice. The only way to do this is to eat plant-based foods. While it’s not totally necessary to become a full-fledged vegetarian or vegan, reducing your consumption of meat and other animal products can have a subtle affect on your mind as well as your body. For example, here is something to consider: Just think how sensitive and loving your pet dog or cat is with you, and realize that the emotional complexity of a factory-farmed animal, is no different from your pet. Fear, trauma and anxiety are a constant for most of these animals who live in the most horrid conditions and are treated with cruelty and lack of humanity. The constant presence of those traumatic emotions in these animals creates a specific hormonal response which can be detected in their meat. These cortical hormones enter our bodies and effect our minds when we consume this meat. You are eating the hormones that accompany fear, trauma and anxiety. It is as if you are taking hormone pills, the wrong hormones, all of which have very subtle effects on our conciousness, and make us more aggressive, stressed and fearful as a society. For example for the majority of a factory-farmed animal’s life, its adrenal gland is releasing a constant stream of adrenaline and cortisol, the two stress hormones. Cortisol increases blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses. Prolonged exposure to this hormone does much harm to the body, and living in a constant state of stress will produce a constant stream of it in the blood stream. These negative and fearful mental states have also been proven to increase disease in the body in many other ways besides these endocrine (hormonal) imbalances.
Just one look at a factory farm with a hidden camera will confirm that these places are very freightening. The reality is, that the meat and animal products which come from these places are, chemically and energetically speaking, full of dis-ease. The term “you are what you eat” comes to mind… The links between the consumption of animal foods and common western diseases such as heart disease and cancer has been clearly established in many repeatable studies in respectable medical journals. Read “The China Study” for the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological study on the vegetarian diet ever done. The science clearly shows that vegetarians and vegans live longer happier, mentally clean and clear lives. The intent of this blog, is not to promote a political agenda. Rather, we are illuminating one of the truths in our society, and recommending a diet that will profoundly and positively shift your mental state in combination with a daily mindfulness practice such as the method taught at SoundMind Meditation. Even just reducing your meat consumption will have a profound effect.