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.