Everyone these days has heard of Meditation right. Well if not all, most.
But there is still a lot of people that do not really know what meditation actually is. Sure we have ideas “you close your eyes”, “you sit cross legged” and “You try to stop thinking”, right? Or perhaps these days it’s just put your earphones in and listen to a guided meditation on your phone?
Afterall, there are so many options out there – which is great -, and now so much in the mainstream about the benefits of a meditation practice.
But still dig a little deeper and there are loads of misconceptions and mystery surrounding it.
So in order to help you discover more about this ancient practice I am going to share with you the 3 main forms of meditation.
1: Concentration Meditation
A lot of people have the belief that meditation is hard ie; “ I tried meditation but couldn’t stop thinking”. More likely they have experienced a “concentration” form of meditation. This is where we basically focus all our awareness on our breath, a candle, a statue of a god and so on.
The aim is to hold our attention on this process and continue to come back to the object of our concentration.
Whilst measuring brain waves on people doing this form of meditation it was found that they are actually using similar parts of the brain as to doing “math” formulas, so no wonder it feels a little hard.
The brain is actually working to stay focused, and depending on your goal for meditation, will determine if this is a good practice for you. It definitely is a great practice to develop focus and concentration. Not so much for relaxation and stress release (according to science).
Analogy: The ocean
We have between 60-80,000 thoughts per day and just picture the surface of the ocean as your mind, with the waves the thoughts, ever coming and going, sometimes it’s a raging storm, other days calm, but always some kind of wave motion.
Concentration forms of meditation are almost like trying to stop the waves by focusing on something else. But more often than not the waves will simply find another way around…
2: Contemplative Meditation
This form of meditation, you may have heard being called “mindfulness” meditations. It is a wonderful practice and easy to do.
You basically sit and observe the nature of the reality of our thoughts, feelings and senses without judgement.
Analogy: The ocean
Now let’s go back to the ocean again, this time we are on a boat. Just imagine a windy day, bit of bump but sun is shining.
Here you would be feeling the sun on your skin, smelling the salt in the air, the touch of the wind on your body, the feelings that arise within you as the boat goes up and down and the thoughts the come up and just letting them all come and go without judgement, just gentle observation within the moment.
There are many benefits to mindfulness and it is shown to have a calming effect on our nervous system.
3: Effortless Transcending
Both of the first 2 forms of meditation are using our senses, so we are utilising the surface layer level of reality. The next form of meditation is the form I teach, Vedic Meditation. It is where we dive into the depths of our being, where we can drop into states of rest that science calls: restful alertness and the tradition of within the of this teaching calls it Transcendental Meditation
In Vedic meditation you are given a personalised mantra (selected for you by your teacher). It is important to note that the mantras used are called “Bija Mantras” (seed mantras) and these are just sounds, so they have no meaning or connotations attached to them. They are just nice sounds.
The word mantra is actually derived from two Sanskrit words. Mannas (mind) and Tra (vehicle/ instrument) so it is a vehicle of the mind.
Remarkably the ancient Rishis of India (the sages and seers) understood that it is the nature of the mind that when given a choice will always move towards something of greater charm (ie: you walk into a house and in one room is heavy metal and in another classical, what ever you find more charming you will gravitate towards).
Using this, they introduced the Bija Mantras as the vehicle for meditation and developed the technique to facilitate the experience of “transcending”. So that the mind is naturally charmed with the mantra and follows it into our inner being.
The basic idea is you start to innocently & effortlessly (emphasis on zero effort) think the mantra and it gets fainter and fainter taking you to finer and finer levels of being and deeper into the meditative state.
Now transcendence occurs when during this process you no longer are thinking the mantra and no longer thinking anything, this can take place for seconds, minutes or longer and with this deep deep healing is occurring within our nervous system (which I will cover in another blog).
And there will be times when the mind kicks back in and we just innocently bring it back to the mantra and continue the technique and during the process drop in and out many times.
Analogy: The ocean
Okay back to the ocean. The first to practices were using the surface layer ie, the waves and the senses.
Vedic meditation through the tool of the mantra drops us deep to the bottom of the ocean, where there are total stillness and peace – despite what is going on at the surface layer.
All practices of meditation are great, it all comes down to the right tool for the right job and if you are just starting out try an ap or go to a weekly class, no matter what explore the many options to find the right practice for you, as developing a daily practice of meditation will definitely improve your life in so many ways.
As the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the yogi who brought meditation to the west in the 1950’s) said: “Water the root to enjoy the fruit”
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