“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
We live in a world where time is a precious commodity, and every second, minute, and hour is of value. There are moments when it seems as though time works against us, because of stress, emotions, work, etc. We’ve all at one point or another thought, “there’s just not enough time in the day.”
But, what if we can make time work for us, in a way we least expect? Meditation is a practice that allows us to do just that.
In just 15-20 minutes a day, meditation allows you to induce a mode of consciousness where relaxation, life-force energy, invigoration, and revitalization come to the forefront. By taking time to journey inward in order to clear the mind, the mind can then use time to create a more productive reality.
Some of the key benefits of meditation include:
- Pain relief
- Reduction of depression, anxiety, anger and confusion
- Increases blood flow, and slows down the heart rate
- Provides a sense of calm, peace and balance
- Helps reverse heart disease
- Helps control thoughts
- Increases energy
- Reduces stress
There are various ways one can meditate, and each has its own value, but the examples below, described by world-reknowned meditation teacher, Benjamin W. Decker, are some of the more popular methods.
How to Practice the Three Main Types of Meditation by Benjamin W. Decker
The word “mantra” has a number of English translations – namely “mind vehicle,” or “Mind instrument.” The use of a mantra in a closed-eye meditation is traditionally the most basic meditation practice. Typically, a sacred word would be assigned by your initiator or guru, and this word would be infused with supernatural significance and the initiate would be forbidden from ever repeating the mantra aloud or to another person. Religious organizations today that use this meditation technique include Transcendental Meditation, The Chopra Center (Primordial Sound Meditation), The Veda Center and many others. Mantra-based meditation is also often referred to as Vedic Meditation. In the Vedic tradition, “mantra” meditation is considered to be the “house-holder’s meditation.” Because of the simplicity of its technique, it comes easily to the practitioner with a busy schedule.The mantra’s meaning is said to be so personal (each organization has their own proprietary way of determining the mantra for the initiate), and so sacred, that the meaning of the mantra would never be discussed directly, and one would be discouraged from contemplating on its meaning – unlike the similar “affirmation meditation,” which has come to somewhat inaccurately become synonymous with “mantra.” An affirmation is an idea repeated with the specific purpose of invoking a particular quality from within oneself for healing or positive change.
How to do it:
Sit quietly. Relax and still the body. Silently repeat the mantra in the mind. As the mind wanders, witness the thoughts images, and sensations experienced, and return your awareness to the experience of “hearing” the mantra within the silence of the mind. When the mind wanders, always come back to the mantra. A popular universal mantra is “So Hum,” which refers to the sound of the inflow and outflow of the breath – sometimes translated (albeit inexactly) to mean “I am.” Set a timer. I recommend 10-40 minutes twice a day.
Mindfulness Meditation refers to the meditation technique that does not use an “object” or mantra. In a sense, the present moment becomes the mantra. In the Eastern Traditions there are six primary natural senses. This includes the five conventional senses of Western thought, with the addition of “thought” as the sixth sense. In a mindfulness practice, we bring our awareness into the fullness of what we are experiencing, allowing our “mind” to saturate the six senses, seeing the imaginary boundaries between them blur. This opens us up to a truer, more complete understanding of the present moment and the information our natural faculties can provide for us therein.
How to do it:
Sit quietly. Allow your eyes to rest closed and experience the breath. Don’t control or manipulate the breath in any way, but allow your body to decompress from any tension on every exhale. Allow your awareness to open up to all of the many subtle sensations throughout the body, and notice the sounds, smells, and other sensations you can experience in all directions around you – as far as your awareness can sense. Notice the different thoughts occurring in your mind. Notice the kinds of thoughts that come up (not just the content of the thoughts), along with any emotions that may come with them. This technique can sometimes take a few tries to drop into, so I recommend at least 20 minutes on this technique. This is my personal favorite practice and I believe it is worth all the effort it may require.
All of the ancient traditions from all over the world have some form of visualization meditation. In some traditions visualization-like techniques were not taught until a deep understanding of karma (cause and effect) and dharma (true intention) was taught. It is considered very dangerous (and even evil) to practice visualization for selfish or materialistic purposes. This technique is used when a problem needs solving or a goal needs direction. In your minds eye, you begin to see the solution to your problem – seeing and feeling the experience from within long after the problem has been solved or the goal has been achieved.
The esoteric key with this technique is the moral inventory of personal intention, the deep commitment to genuine harmlessness, and the non-attachment to materialistic details/outcomes.
How to do it:
Sit quietly. Rest your eyes. Allow yourself to let go of any resentment or bad feelings. Find your deep sense of presence and clarity through Mindfulness. Call to mind the fullness of the experience of the problem solved or the goal achieved. Notice the thoughts that come to mind, the ideas and insight. Don’t get distracted by the bright ideas that come up, allow them to settle, as you practice embodying the experience of the aspired state. Emphasis should be placed on the feelings of health, acceptance, success, confidence and peace – and not on the appearance of the final goals. Take your time with this one.