Thursday, October 26, 2006

Meditation: Connecting Above Pain

Meditation is a time-honored relaxation technique that has been used successfully in Eastern cultures for centuries to alleviate stress and focus the mind. This technique has recently gained popularity in the United States as millions of people discover both the physical and mental health benefits of meditation, while realizing that it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

In trauma applications, meditation can help you rebuild the energy your negative emotions zap and learn to cope with the difficulties associated with trauma. Meditation is one of the easiest and most inexpensive forms of self-therapy: all you need is yourself and a quiet room.

There are several variations of meditation you can perform. You should choose the steps or combination of steps you’re most comfortable with and use them on a regular basis. Following are a just a few of the hundreds of meditation forms in existence; or you can combine elements of different meditation programs to create your own unique method.

NOTE: In all methods of meditation, the object is to clear your mind of conscious thought and concentrate on simply existing in the moment.

Walking Meditation: When you perform walking meditation, you can meditate and exercise at the same time. To meditate while walking, you simply concentrate on either the feeling of your foot meeting the earth with each step, or on your breathing, which should be relaxed and natural. Achieving concentration in order to block out thought takes practice, but the natural rhythm of walking provides an excellent starting point for the beginning meditation student.

Standing Meditation: Performing standing meditation is a good way to practice proper breathing, as a standing position is conducive to correct posture and fully open airways.

To practice standing meditation, stand straight and comfortably with your feet pointed forward, approximately a shoulder-length apart. Place your hands one over the other on your lower abdomen and concentrate on breathing. Take slow breaths and hold for about four seconds before releasing slowly. Proper meditation breathing is done through the nose, both in and out. Standing meditation can be performed with your eyes open or closed, according to your preference.

Seated Meditation: This is the most popular form of meditation. In a quiet room, be seated either in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor, or on the floor in a cross-legged position (usually Indian or Lotus). As with standing meditation, you can concentrate on breathing and slowly empty your mind of thought. Seated meditation is performed with relaxed, open eyes focused on a fixed point on the floor approximately three feet in front of you. Many practitioners of seated meditation use external stimuli for concentration (see “Meditation with External Stimulus).

Reclined Meditation: Reclined meditation is best performed just before you intend to go to sleep, as often you will find yourself falling asleep as you do it. This variant is the same as standing meditation, only lying down. The eyes are always closed with reclined meditation. This is a helpful technique for people who have trouble falling asleep.

Some forms of meditation are best done at the end of the day, when it won’t matter if you fall asleep.

Meditation with External Stimulus: If you cannot (or would rather not) focus on breathing, you might consider using an external stimulus to focus your thoughts for meditation. One traditional example of external stimuli is a mantra: a word or phrase that is repeated either aloud or silently throughout the meditation session.

Some of the more popular meditation mantras are Buddhist or Indian in origin, such as om or aum (OHM: no English translation); om mani padme hum (OHM mah-nee pah-d-may HUNG: the jewel of the lotus); or rama (RAH-muh: chant used by Gandhi).

You can also create your own mantra with a meaning significant to you or your trauma. Other external stimulus used in meditation are: candles or incense; instrumental music or recorded chants; fans or white noise machines; small fountains; or recorded nature sounds such as waterfalls, bird calls or whale songs. You can use whatever you’d like, as long as it is soothing and relaxing to you.

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