Introduction: How to Meditate; Candles, Crystals and Zen
What Is Meditation?
There are a huge variety of meditation methods in use in the world today, making it very difficult to come up with a simple definition. Meditation usually involves focussing on a single thing without thinking for a prolonged period of time, many minutes, or even hours, with a view to improving the function of the mind, improve psychological wellbeing, treat psychological conditions like depression anxiety, to reach enlightenment or to develop or improve metaphysical abilities such as telepathy, telekinesis or astral projection.
It is clearly a massive subject and most texts on the matter will deal with it from a particular point of view, particularly with regard to the outcome which the reader is hoping to achieve.
This is useful as meditation is often a means to an end, rather than an end in it's own right. Although meditation is often enjoyable, it sometimes isn't as some may use it as a method to come to terms with and work through psychological stresses and let go of preconditioning, both of which may feel highly unpleasant but passes with time and ultimately gives a sense of relief and freedom.
However, the outcome of suffering this unpleasantness is clearly beneficial. The aim of meditation is usually to reach the state brought about by the meditation, rather just simply to meditate.
The subject of the meditation varies from discipline to discipline and according to the desired end point of the activity. Essentially, you could choose anything you are aware of, or alternatively you may seek out things which you are not aware of by opening your mind to inner and outer subtlety.
In Buddhism, many masters teach the value of meditating on nothingness, or 'no-thing-ness' as they often call this. This can be very difficult for the beginner but this nothingness becomes more obvious after you have spent some time meditating.
Please share your thoughts and experiences!
Step 1: Candle Meditation
A common beginner's meditation is to focus on a candle flame for ten minutes or more without thinking. The gentle soothing movement of the flame constantly reminds the meditator to concentrate and stop thinking, helping them to focus. It is also harder to fall asleep whilst sitting up, a common problem when you start off!
Simply turn off your phone, find somewhere quiet and private, sit comfortably and position a lit candle at eye level. Set a timer for 10 minutes and start watching the flame. Let go of thoughts; when you start thinking again, stop again. People often feel that they have failed if they have any thoughts; by having less thoughts than usual you will certainly feel the benefits. With practice you will improve, as will the benefits. Be patient!
Practice daily if you can. 10 minutes a day is great, 30 minutes is better, 30 minutes twice a day is amazing!
After this type of meditation the senses are heightened and the individual feels closer, more in tune with and more at one with that which they aware of. By not thinking the filters layered on everything by your mind are lifted, giving a much purer, clearer and true version of the world. This is impossible to imagine having not experienced it; words cannot do it justice.
Step 2: Breathing Meditation
Breathing meditation is commonly used in many disciplines, eastern and western. It is also used as a technique for relaxation. Chi Quong and Tai Chi both incorporate breathing from the lower part of the abdomen as a way of centring the body and mind. Indrawing of the breath brings positive strengthening energy and exhalation rids the body of negative energy. Those who ascribe to the elemental schools of thought such as Alchemists describe the indrawing of the air element to fan the fire of their inner development. They have three crucibles within them, the middle crucible in the centre of the chest is where the air element is combined with energy brought from the lower crucible in the pit of the stomach.
Breathing meditation is a useful day-to-day meditation tool. Simply count the breaths up to ten then return to one again. Breathe slowly and naturally paying attention to the air flowing in through your nose and filling your chest and expanding your abdomen. Try to do this for at least ten minutes without thinking or falling asleep. This can be quite difficult, although it sounds quite easy! Even if you don't quite manage it and do drop off you will feel much better afterwards. Each time you practice you will get a little better. Try to practice daily for ten minutes. Do a cycle of ten at your desk at work during the day to capture the magic.
A variation is to imagine that you are drawing in white light through your nose, down into the bottom of your stomach. When you exhale, imagine dark coloured smoke leaving your body, taking your negative feelings, bahaviours and ideas with it. Listening to or feeling the heart beat is another variation on the breathing meditation.
Step 3: Cloud Meditation
An alternative meditation which can be very calming and centring is to sit and look at an object or natural formation such as a trees, clouds or flowers. Clouds can be great because they are slowly moving and changing which is great for keeping your attention and reminding you not to think.
Watching them change can be very therapeutic. A high vantage point sitting in a chair looking out of the window is ideal, otherwise try lying on your back on the beach or in the garden on a warm day. This one is clearly weather-dependent so do it whenever you get the chance!
Step 4: Crystal Meditation
Crystals can be useful meditation tools. The form of the crystal can become very engrossing. You can imagine yourself or your consciousness entering the crystal and taking on it's qualities. Choose a crystal you have an affinity with or which is associated with a chakra which may be blocked (I will cover chakra meditation in a separate Instructable). Simply gaze in wonder at the crystal and you will enter a 'crystal thrall', a twinkly, relaxed, hyper-aware state which is wonderful.
Holding an amethyst or quartz point in your left (receptive) hand can aid concentration and improve the quality of your meditation. Lie down and place crystals on your chakras to help balance them. Match the colours of the crystals to the colours of the chakras.
Step 5: Meditating on Thoughts and Events
Thoughts can interrupt your meditation, reducing it's quality and distracting you from the task at hand. Sometimes people use the thoughts as the subject of their meditation. This enables them to objectify the thoughts and pick and choose which they wish to take notice of and which to discard. The objectification makes them easier to let go of, aiding the process of meditation.
Sometimes people meditate on natural thoughts which come and go, or you can choose a thought according to your spiritual aims and meditate on that. Meditating on dreams or coincidences is an important way of gaining insight into causality in your life. Many people see the information gained as signs for them to follow which will aid their spiritual development. Meditation can strip away your preconceptions about the information you are presented with and make the true meaning clear. Associations between events can also become more obvious. Past traumas often shape our present lives by directing and limiting our reponses to people and events in our current lives by programming our subconscious minds. It is often easy to believe that one has psychologically recovered from the event without realising that it is still affecting your life through your relationships or work.
Do you find recurring problems in your life? It might be that these are the results of a psychological trauma you haven't resolved which needs attention. Alternatively this could be a sign pointing towards a higher place; either way, meditating can help to make this clear. Meditating on traumatic events can be painful. If you are feeling some anguish whilst facing up to a problem you are probably on the right track and must persevere. Face up to it, accept it and move through it in order to come out the other side. It will be worth it.
Meditating on people and events is a way of sending positive energy to places where you can see there is a problem. Here meditation overlaps with prayer. Focussing on the future may give you a glimpse of what is going to happen. You can use directed energy to try to create a better future. Use your instincts and feelings to let you know where you need to look.
Step 6: Walking Meditation
Walking meditation is an ancient Buddhist mindfulness meditation which is not widely used nowadays. Buddhist monks used to walk round and round a post rapidly, entering a deeply mindful state. Mindfulness is a Zen Buddhist concept which involves filling your consciousness with whatever you happen to be looking at, listening to or feeling. It is often simply meditating on your life as it happens. It has become more prominent recently in the west because of many reasons including the 'instant expert' quality it confers on people.
We can do a variation whilst walking to work, the shops or on a sunday stroll. Simply stop thinking and place your attention on the wind in the trees, the path ahead or the feeling of the ground beneath your feet. Allow these to pervade your mind, diaplacing the thoughts. You will feel free!
By excluding all distracting thoughts you will react to the situation at hand with instinct from your subconscious mind. For instance, whether you are a marathon runner, sprinter or chess player, if you trust your natural reflexes and responses, rather than trying to think your way to the end of the track or the end of the game, you are more likely to be successful. This is something which needs to be tried and tested by yourself in a stepwise fashion. Start by making the dinner mindfully, then build up. Many experts are said to enter a trancelike mindful state whether they are sports men, playing the piano or at work in a high-pressure job it can be highly beneficial to step aside and take yourself out of the equation. Once you have performed a task many hundreds or thousands of times, however complex, you no longer need to think about your decisions and the actions just flow naturally.
Step 7: Practice!
Practice, practice, practice.
The more you do it, the easier it will become, as well as being more benificial and more enjoyable. After a while you will automatically enter a meditative state whenever you have the chance, without even thinking about it.
Drop me a line to let me know your thoughts and experiences.