Meditation: It’s all About Training the Mind to be Quiet and Pay Attention

Meditation practice can make you see things as they are, and have long lasting effects


 

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editation is no longer something strange or esoteric, lots of people practice and it’s health benefits are well accepted by most doctors and researchers. These health benefits have a wide spectrum and many are very happy with the positive results they find. From lowering stress to regulating hormonal functioning everyone have their own experience to share. I will not list all the benefits here because they are too many and manifest themselves in different ways, depending on each individual experience. For practical purposes let’s say meditation is one of the best ways to access our mental stability and health. Our physical health is so dependent on our mental health we need to know how to deal with our emotions. Meditation allows you to do just that.

We all know how strong and powerful our minds can be over our bodies. Your nervousness and agitations will spike your heart rate and raise blood pressure in seconds, fear can paralyze you and make your muscles freeze. Long term mental instability can even create diseases on a healthy individual. Stress can increase your cortisol level and lower your immune system making you susceptible to virus and bacteria invasion. All of these brought to you by: your mind.

Unfortunately health care mostly focuses on the brain but hardly any attention is paid to the state of the mind. Some scientists will not even knowledge the mind at all. I remember in nursing school when going through my psyche rotation; looking through the text for some chapter addressing the mind. To my surprise I could not even find a single instance where the word “mind” could be found. It seems like the only way we have to access to our mind is actually using – our mind. Meditation offers us this tool. Meditation and your health can take many forms and here is a little about the potentials of each of these most practiced forms of meditation.

Mindfulness or Vipassana

Sometimes called Buddhist meditation. This is my favorite meditation and is the one I practice (almost) everyday. I like mindfulness meditation because it connect me with the very present. It is practiced seating on a cushion or chair; the important is to have an erect back and a dignifying pose, it is not necessary to have a perfect yoga pose but just to sit straight. It is done with open eyes and not focusing on any particular point but just a relaxed gaze three feet in front of your body. The attention is centered on the breath. Keep an relaxed but constant attention to every aspect of your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs; at the same time become aware of the moment you are experiencing, the room, the sounds, the now; as some people say have a “panoramic view” of everything. In your mind or on all other perception levels. Soon you’ll notice that your mind begins to wonder. Thoughts will begin to flood your mind because that’s what our minds do, we think. The idea is not to focus in any thought but just note that there is thinking, acknowledge the thinking and go back to the breath. By doing this repeatedly we begin to train our minds to become more aware of all mental processes and also begin to distinguish between the emotions and the thought process. Over time the effects of this type of meditation are profound. Please watch videos below for more detail. Another important aspect of mindfulness meditation is the cultivation of the concept of basic sanity.

Zazen

Is related in many ways to mindfulness meditation and is a Japanese traditional Buddhist meditation. Zazen is often referred as “just sitting” and is a minimalist kind of meditation. It is very simple but a very disciplined practice involving the Zen philosophy and practice; everyone can practice and you don’t have to be part of a religious group. Zazen sees body, breath and mind as one single aspect of reality. A lot of emphasis is placed in the posture and the idea that the body has a way of communicating outwardly to the world, and inwardly to oneself. One fundamental concept is that whatever happens to the position of your body has a lot to do with your mind and breath. Sitting on the floor is recommended because it is grounded, natural and stable. Breathing is also a strong part of Zazen meditation. The eyes are also kept open and gaze right in front. In Zazen mind and breath are considered one. You also focus on your hara which is the place within your body located two inches below the navel which is the physical and spiritual center of the body. Hara is the center of your attentiveness and you keep your attention in the hara and the breath. Stability is involved in counting the breath until 10 then starting over. They also practice acknowledging  the thought process and then came to back to the breath. While Vipassana is more lose, Zazen has a more complex structure and technique intensive. Zazen can be difficult to practice and requires special training and guidance. Zazen is a very powerful meditation.

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Is a form of simplified Vedanta meditation. It was first introduced in India by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi by mid 1950. It was then introduced to the world in 1960-1970, many celebrities became TM mediators most notable, The Beatles. You sit in a lotus posture with your back straight (it can also be a half lotus). The repetition of a sacred mantra given by the teacher in a special ceremony is the center piece of this TM. The focus of TM is rise above all that is impermanent. The focus on the breath here is to change one’s state of being. TM have the objective of leaving the body and this is where TM completely depart from Vipassana or Zazen. I don’t favor this type of meditation because it is somewhat thinking based. Even though the fundamentals of TM might have all the good intentions nothing is safe when matters are left to an idea in the mind and ego. TM might relax us and there is nothing wrong with that but I just don’t think it goes far enough to address our ego trips and materialist desires which can spoil our meditation. Just a personal point of view.

Qigong

Qigong meditation focus on re-directing the Qi/Chi energy throughout the body. Emptying and calming the mind is central to Qigong meditation. This does not mean however you should block out any thoughts that emerge when you are meditating. Often thoughts and feelings which have been suppressed for many years may emerge during meditation sessions. The objective of Qigong meditation is to circulate energy through the organs and energy centers of the body in a oval pattern called the ‘microcosmic orbit’. Attention is focused on the breath and the circulation of energy (called ‘qi’ or ‘chi’). Attention is also focused on three parts of the body: 1) a point about two inches below the naval 2) the center of the chest 3) the center of the forehead. Qi gong uses the breath to direct energy, and circulate energy in the body and spirit, but it is not heart-based. There is little sense of how the heart changes and develops, and no connection between the circulation of energy and emotional states, and no core set of teachings on how to work with emotion.

Guided visualization

Is a very popular form of meditation which involves imagining a certain ideal environment.Usually the objective is to achieve relaxation by imagining you are at the beach or any place that brings you peace. This meditation is usually guided by an instructor but it can be also done alone or with a audio recording. There is at times a temporary focus on the breath but generally only to bring breathing to a slow and gentle rhythm. This form of meditation tend to be very passive. It can take many forms and it depends very much on the quality of intention and direction we use or a instructor uses. I think there is some merit in achieving relaxation in this way and might very well help people specially in a moments of need; it can work as a mental calming practice. There is always a benefit to your health when there is calmness but I don’t think this kind of meditation can bring solid results on the long run. Effects may be temporary and only when meditating. In my opinion this type of meditation doesn’t go deep enough ta achieve profound changes in the mind and body but it could be a good starting point

Kundalini

Is a more esoteric type of meditation. It is an ancient Tantric spiritual practice that comes from the Vedanta tradition. kundalini is the name given to the rising stream of energy that exist in every living being. The aim of Kundalini meditation is to become aware of that rising stream, and to ride the stream to infinity. Kundalini meditation allows each individual to experience their own direct connection to the divine. You practice Kundalini meditation by concentrating on the flowing breath through each energy center or chakras of the body and always moving upward towards the center of energy above the top of the head. The essence of this practice is about finding that sacred space within. The awakening and experience that occurs in that sacred space reveals our total unity with Divinity. Like TM, Kundalini philosophy tend to be a more individualistic in its practice. Kundalini can also have unpleasant side-effects, which happen often enough to have been given a name: Kundalini syndrome.

These are the most useful types of meditations which are easily accessible. The health benefits of meditation are both in your mind and body. It creates a space where the mind can be observed and its a state different then ordinary sleep or just being awake. Meditation can create a better comprehension of our minds when no other method can because the mind is left alone and quiet and is able to work without any interference from our ego base thinking which is notorious for making mistakes. Scientists had their “eureka” moments while idle thinking, there is a known connection between our relaxed and unoccupied minds to brilliant moments of inspiration. A healthy mind creates a healthy body.


Videos

Mindfulness practice. How to meditate. The bonus 21-minute guided meditation by Sakyong Mipham with detailed instruction on how to practice meditation.


 Neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s amazing brain scans show meditation can actually change the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathetic, compassionate, and resilient under stress.


Bodhin weaves metaphor and allegory together to explain the importance of meditation. He will deliver several tangible benefits of meditation that would go unrealized without personal experience.


Instruction on posture and technique for Zen meditation practice (zazen). The first video in Zenwest Buddhist Society’s Orientation to Zen Buddhist Practice Online Course. For details http://www.zenwest.ca/online-zen/84-o…


References

Image credit: flickr.com

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Meet the Author

Marcos Taquechel

Marcos works as an RN in sub acute care and with the elderly. He believes you can heal yourself. By providing good useful information, others can use and transform their life. He keep searching for natural healing that produce results. Please leave a comment. Thank you

2 comments… add one
  • Douglas Jan 28, 2017, 2:06 pm

    Great article, I am an entrepreneur, and I accompany other entrepreneurs, and they always talk about the importance of meditation, and your article has clarified everything, thank you very much…

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