The Art Of Meditation
Meditation an art? Well, in a sense yes, meditation is an art. Just as with sketching, painting or drawing, meditation requires a certain amount of creative skill. We know meditation to be a practice or technique which those just starting out normally need the support of focusing on things such as a candle, their breath, a flower or a sound when they are unable to hold their concentration. It is when we take meditation to the next level we begin to embrace the creative element and artist essence of meditation.
Scientific studies have shown prayer or meditation supports a healthy lifestyle and it is considered the one of best ways to reduce stress. Those practicing meditation on a regular basis know firsthand how meditation supports our ability to ease our mind’s activities resulting in a more peaceful, calm and focused perspective. Basically the human mind is the key to removing stress. With the help of meditation we feel calmer, relaxed, gain clarity, improved mental focus and an increase in a sense of peace. As we meditate the number of random thoughts occurring diminishes, as does our attachment to those thoughts and our identification with them. This is because we are usually not aware of all the mental activity we are engaged in. As with any creative process we engage ourselves in, the ability to allow ourselves to just be is when our inner artist flourishes. Our ability to create from nothing is a skill that we are all born with but only a few enable themselves to embrace.
Meditating frequently allows us to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves through the observation of what occurs in our minds. We gain valuable insights into who we really are.
The following are six practical meditation techniques to support and boost our self esteem and self awareness. They will also give you a glimpse into underlying essence of the art of meditation.
Meditation with an empty mind.
This is the challenging technique as it only works with a clear and settled mind. It takes approximately three to five minutes to turn our minds off from our ‘normal’ thoughts or thinking activity. You will need to be comfortable - Lie down on a bed or sit in a chair and begin to empty your mind from all the distractions. Allow you mind to be free from all worries; disengage from actively thinking of tasks, jobs, individuals etc.; when you become aware thoughts are sneaking back in, or you get distracted, bring your attention back to emptying your mind.
As you practice this meditation technique the time your mind is "empty" will increase.
Meditation on your identity.
This meditation technique is deceptively simple but amazingly powerful, don't underestimate it. Start by relaxing and asking this question: "who am I?" Focus your attention entirely on this question and your mind's attempts to answer it. Be aware your mind's initial responses will probably be to describe the labels used about you (e.g. your name or what you do). Don't analyze the answers from your mind just ask the question again and again to elicit all the labels and information your mind has about you without being able to say who you are. Keep repeating the question, with full attention, until your mind begins to realize that it cannot give you a true answer.
This is a profound experience of transcending the ordinary mind which is one of the aims of most meditation techniques. Remember to persevere - your ordinary mind may feel threatened by this question and, being clever, will try anything to convince you that this is a waste of time and of no value. Be patient, take your time and ask again, "who am I?"
Meditation with Self Awareness.
For continued growth in the area of awareness of self it is important to be experiencing self - that is, again, every so often taking the time to look at yourself and what it is you are doing. Examining what you are experiencing, especially if your mind is telling you what you are doing is unpleasant. If you just accept, without question, your mind's description you may feel fear, discomfort, stress or other negative emotions. But if, by focusing your awareness you learn to resist (what your mind has told you is unpleasant) and you immerse yourself with full attention in what you are doing (i.e. you fully experience it), you may well find all the negative, energy sapping effects disappear (because the "fear" engendered by your mind was a label for the experience rather than the experience itself). Meditate with your self awareness and become free of the self sabotage your ordinary mind can cause.
Meditation with your ears.
In this meditation, there are two variations:
External Sounds: Sit with a straight back, close your eyes and focus on a sound that pleases you like a waterfall, a birds chirping, a baby’s laugh or your favorite musical instrument. Keep on focusing on the sound with your closed eyes. If your mind distracts your concentration, rebuke it by saying you are busy and don’t want to be disturbed. Spend at least five minutes with the sound.
Internal Sounds: that is, for three minutes, pay exclusive attention to the sound within your own ears. This sound is quite similar to the sound of waves breaking on the shore. This requires an almost complete withdrawal from the external environment and is one meditation technique that is quite challenging to achieve and normally attempted by the more advanced.
Meditation with your eyes.
This meditation technique is one that I have used numerous times and actually one which is part of the Wii Fit program. To begin light a candle and place it safely about 4 feet away from where you are sitting (preferably in the lotus position). Fix your gaze on the flame, blinking as you need to, observing the flame with your full attention, looking at its movements, colors and size. If you become distracted or your mind wanders from full concentration on the flame, simply return it to the task. After two minutes (e.g. a count of 120), close your eyes and place your palms gently over your eyelids. Retain the image of the flame in your mind and, as before, pay attention to its movements and colors etc. If the image fades or disappears, continue to pay attention to its characteristics and try to bring it back. After two minutes, return your hands to your knees and open your eyes. Repeat this meditation technique as often as you wish.
Meditation with your breath.
In yoga, breath is called the string that controls a kite. So, if your breathing is slow and peaceful, your mind will synchronize with it and become calm. To begin become aware of your breathing as it is now, pay attention to it, observe it. If you are not already doing so, begin to use diaphragm breathing as silently and rhythmically as you can. Establish a rhythm and then slow it down. For example, slowly count to three as you inhale and three as you exhale. Then introduce a count of three for no breathing; this is done by breathing in to a slow count of three, breathe out for a slow count of three, rest without breathing for a slow count of three. The series of a count of nine is considered “One Round”. Give your breathing your full attention. If your mind wanders or you get distracted (internally or externally), simply bring your mind back to your breath with relaxed concentration. Work towards being able to repeat at least 10 rounds or for as long as you wish.