What is Meditation?
Meditation to deal with stress
Meditation without stress
Meditation for creative expression
Meditation and nature
Meditation and reflection
Meditation and the sacred
The benefits of meditation
1. Meditation to deal with Stress
We sometimes find ourselves in a difficult situation. Stress, anxiety and a lot of self-doubt are common experiences for far too many people. It seems that only two or three alternatives seem possible to work with these problematic mind states. We speak about our issues with a close friend or counsellor. We visit our doctor so that s/he will prescribe medication to calm down our mind and reduce levels of unhappiness. We try to think through our problems but often find ourselves overwhelmed through excessive thinking and sleepless nights.
Meditation offers a genuine alternative to those three common approaches. Meditation certainly can work in conjunction with the skilful application of the approaches but also in an independent way. Simply put, meditation develops the power of observation to help us understand and make any necessary changes. Meditation develops calmness, such as through meditation on the inflow and outflow of the breath, one after the other, for a few a minutes or longer. Meditation also includes the capacity to focus clearly on feelings and thoughts in a clear minded way so that we do not become overwhelmed with them.
Mindfulness and meditation work closely together. Mindfulness refers to the capacity to be steady in the here and now and address past and future concerns. Mindfulness explores what is present in an ethical and considerate way. Meditation refers to the sustaining of such mindfulness from one moment to the next as a consecutive sequence. Meditation means the combination of mindfulness, concentration and clear comprehension. Wandering mind, tiredness, boredom, excessive thinking easily interrupts a meditation on the ongoing breathing process. We need practice and patience to develop meditation – like learning to ride a bicycle or roller skate when we were children.
Many people find it beneficial, and often essential, to learn to meditate with a skilled meditation teacher. Practitioners also benefit from being in the company of others practising meditation. There is a value too, for people to share their meditation experiences, whether difficult or joyful. People also appreciate the opportunity to meditate by themselves, perhaps in a designated spot at home.
Meditation constitutes the development of a skill through the capacity to keep in touch with the direct experience of the breath or body to reduce considerably levels of reactivity to the experience.
2. Meditation without stress
It is important to develop meditation in times of calmness, a relaxed sense of being and feeling centred.
Once again, the meditator mindfully breathes in and breathes out experiencing the relaxed state of body and mind. This allows the opportunity for the sense of calm and inner peace to develop and go deeper into our being. Calmness of being through meditation provides the opportunity for clear reflection on important issues to develop a deeper understanding of circumstances.
The regular experience and contact with inner peace makes the reconnection with inner peace far more accessible in times of stress and agitation. We can practice meditation in four postures and in various locations. For example, we can sit on the train with a straight back and two feet firmly on the floor meditating on the in breath and the out breath. We do not think about the breath but experience breathing in and breathing out. We can walk along the road experiencing each foot as it touches the ground in order to centre ourselves. We can stand tall and still waiting in the queue for the bus mindful of the whole body standing. The more the more moments we are mindful of standing tall and still, the more the meditation develops.
We can lie on our back on the bed experiencing stillness through the full-length of the body on the mattress. We can make a meal a meditation as we experience the various tastes while eating food that nourishes – mindfully and slowly. We can listen to music conscious of the sounds and the spaces between the sounds and be mindful of the experience of our response. Meditation contributes to calmness and insight. We can develop confidence and clarity through meditation and address a wide range of issues that were previously ignored or denied.
3. Meditation for creative expression
At times, a precious and creative idea comes to mind. The wish arises to actualise the idea so that it becomes more than an idea.
For that to happen, meditation offers much support to make things happen. Meditation includes energy, a level of concentration, a genuine interest and a single pointed attention to the creative process. This enables the transition to take place from the idea into an actual act of creativity. Other forms of meditation, such as to reduce stress or to abide in a relaxed state of being, will also support the creative process. It is not unusual to make an initial effort to get the creative endeavour underway. As our meditations develop, we can move swiftly from a creative idea to a wholesome endeavour.
4. Meditation and nature
More and more people take nature for granted. We spend enormous amounts of time indoors, whether at home, shops, schools and work. Is important to recognise the relationship of meditation to nature.
Perhaps, some of the most important experiences of our life occurred out of doors. We sat in the park and enjoyed watching the world pass by and the sense of life all around. We recall we silently observed a beautiful sunset. We looked out over the sea and felt the power of the ocean. We went for a walk in the forest and felt to be in a cathedral of trees. We listened to the dawn chorus of birds at the start of the new day. Meditation includes the pure observation of what is taking place around us and recognising the joyful and loving responses from within.
At times, we yearn to be outdoors in profound moments such as after the birth of a baby in the family, the death of a loved one or a profound event that has opened our heart. These times can bring together the experience on meditating on nature, on life itself, to deepen our understanding of important experiences.
5. Meditation and Reflection
We can meditate after listening to the wisdom of another person. We listen to their words. We sense an insight, a truth in what he or she said. Their words inspire a quiet reflection within us. The reflection provides relevance and application to our daily life. This capacity to listen, reflect and meditate on words of wisdom enables us to implement important changes, as well as sustain our commitment to a caring and responsible way of life. A few words from another have the capacity to touch a deep place within that can make a real difference to our values, our way of being and our potential to live an awakened life. We meditate on our experience through reflection. What did this experience reveal? What led up to it? What are the wholesome and healthy responses? What needs to be developed? What needs to be changed? What are the insights from this experience?
6. Meditation and the Sacred
The sacred can come to us in a variety of ways. Perhaps, we walk into an old Gothic cathedral. We may not hold to any particular religious beliefs but we experience a sense of the sacred in the church. To stay with this experience in the cathedral means to meditate on the sense of the sacred.
We experience a piece of music that touches a deep place within us. There is a sense of listening to sacred music. We read some poems that touch upon a sacred truth. The sense of the sacred reveals something more than the interior of the church, the voice/instruments of the music or the words on paper while recognising that such events reveal something sacred.
Meditation on a sacred aspect of life can spark a sense of wonder, love and awakening to the rich diversity of life. We then reflect upon our experiences of the spiritual in life.
Benefits of Meditation
These important approaches to meditation contribute to a calm abiding, creativity and a skilful approach to numerous situations. Meditation develops our capacity to focus on a chosen object, develop a single pointed concentration and cut down the agitated mind jumping from one thing to another.
Mindfulness of the breath, its inhalation and exhalation, serves as an invaluable support for calmness, concentration and clarity. It takes a quiet determination to remember to make time for meditation every day in different postures and environments. Nobody can meditate every minute of every day. Yet, we can engage in the practice until it becomes a natural process and recollection in daily life.
Through meditation, we stop feeding the harmful habits and re-occurring tendencies that make our life so problematic. We may well need to develop a motivation to make time during the day for meditation.
Of course, many questions arise around meditation such as the appropriate method and the different forms of practice. We work with shallow and deep experiences and variety of impacts that meditation makes on our inner life.
The benefits of meditation include contentment, natural happiness, the development of empathy and a growing capacity for love and compassion.
Meditation is limb in the body of waking up to a realised way of life without the stress. Other limbs include mindfulness, reflection, ethics, spirituality, the sense of the sacred, calmness, creativity, equanimity and wise action.
Our practice contributes to a deep sense of well-being, fresh perspectives on the human experience and the waking up to a different kind of reality.
May all beings develop wholesome mindfulness
May all beings develop meditation
May all beings live with love and wisdom.