Reaching Nirvana: Tips + steps to develop a solid meditation practice

By on April 15, 2013

yoga

By: Dana McGlynn

In essence, meditation is the practice of creating stillness in the mind which helps to centre the mind and the individual.  To quote Eric Schiffman “stillness in the mind is like a spinning top that is spinning so fast it appears motionless”. He goes on to say that normally our minds work like a spinning top that is moving around erratically in many different directions, spinning out of control.   It is rare for us to focus our minds and our hearts on one thought for any great length of time.

Meditative states can be achieved when our thoughts and our minds  become focused and engulfed in a piece of music or a math equation, but again in these situations the focus is external, as opposed to a more thoughtful contemplation of  listening to what is happening within us.  The purpose of meditation is to let go of the many images, thoughts and sounds that crowd our minds during our daily lives and to just relax, let go, and lose control, discovering the quiet truths within us.

Health benefits of meditation

A regular meditation practice helps to reduce stress in the mind and the body.  It creates an oasis of calm within us, and gets us in touch with our true authentic selves.  It has been proven to improve one’s concentration, poise and equanimity as well as reducing high blood pressure.  It has also shown to improve mental health and emotional tranquillity  Regular meditation can even help one lose weight by reducing stress hormones and releasing toxins.

dana

The connection between yoga and meditation

Meditation is often associated with the practice of Yoga.  Still, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years before yoga was even thought of.  It is believed that through deep meditation many of the postures or asanas of Yoga were developed and invented.    Doing a regular yoga or asana practice is said to help one physically unwind and prepare for meditation.   Still, one does not need to be physically fit or active in any way to enjoy the positive effects of meditation.   Like yoga, meditation can pretty much be practiced anywhere, but it does help to have a quiet relaxed space.  Some of the sitting postures recommended for meditation come from yoga, but simply sitting upright in a straight, hard chair is fine too for a meditation practice.  Although practicing yoga can help enhance a meditation practice, the two are not meant to be practiced at the same time.  Also, just because one is good at the asana and the pranayama of a yoga practice, does not guarantee that one will find the practice of meditation easier.

Basic steps for meditation

To begin your meditation practice find a quiet place where you will be warm, comfortable and undisturbed.  It can be anywhere including a corner of a room or an outdoor space.  It is believed that choosing the same regular space is helpful, although not entirely necessary. Your  clothing should be loose and comfortable.  Traditionally one should sit on the floor unless you have injuries or physical disabilities that prevent this.  Sitting in the yoga lotus position on the floor is ideally recommended, but if you do not feel flexible enough to feel comfortable while sitting in this position you can always try another yoga pose such as bound angle pose, half lotus, hero pose or easy pose.  You can use the aid of a yoga block or a small pillow to add some comfort while sitting on the floor, as long as your back and spine stay straight and your gluts and sits bones are still resting on the floor.  The same is true if you need to sit in a chair for your meditation.  Ensure that the chair is straight and hard and that your spine remains straight in the chair as opposed to leaning back into a curved chair or sinking into a chair full of cushions.  If sitting in a chair,  simply place your hands on your knees and relax.  If sitting on the floor you can place your hands on your lap if you are in hero pose, or you can choose a hand mudra if you are sitting in lotus, half lotus or bound angle pose. A hand mudra is when your fingers touch each other, creating an electric current or a continual circuit within the body. By doing so, this reconnects the energy of the body back into itself. The classic mudra is chin mudra, which is when the thumb touches back to the first finger and the other fingers stretch out away from the hand.  Once you are in a comfortable position simply relax, breath and try to clear your mind of all external images and activity.  Focus on the pattern and rhythm of your breath.

The most important thing to remember when you are beginning a meditation practice is to be patient with yourself and non judgemental of your progress. Aim for a 10 to 15 minute practice several times a week when you are first starting out.  Gradually you can build this to a twenty or thirty minute practice once or twice daily.  Quality is more important than quantity with a meditation practice.  If you spend twenty minutes in practice each day, but are constantly worrying about the time and trying to figure out how to build up to thirty minutes, your practice will not be as helpful as if you were doing ten solid minutes of relaxed undisturbed breathing.

candles and incenseAdding sound or a mantra to your meditation

A mantra is a thought expressed as a sound.  You can add this to your meditation practice to keep you relaxed and focused without letting your mind wonder.  The sound of “OM” is the most universally recognized sound used.   Mantras or words can be repeatedly whispered, spoken or chanted.  As you speak the word, your mind stays grounded and you experience the physical vibrations of the word.  You can choose any word as a mantra, but need to keep in mind the vibration or sound of the word, the spiritual meaning associated with the word and the idea it embodies.  Good words to use might be: truth, peace and love.

Visual guides and meditation

The flame of a candle is often used as a point of focus during meditation.   For this meditation, place the candle at eye level or slightly lower.  Sitting in your meditation posture, focus your eyes on the flickering flame of the candle.  The flame will calmly focus your mind.  If your eyes get tired, close them briefly but still visualize the flame of the candle.  Candles are good to use as they represent enlightenment, purity and guidance.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Bill

    May 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the issues.

    It was definitely informative. Your website is useful.
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. numinvest.pl

    August 9, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Eating a wholesome, balanced weight loss plan will assist:
    aim to cut down on meals which might be excessive in fat and sugar,
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