Meditation – The Art of the Practice

Meditation is an art that goes back many centuries and has many proven benefits for furthering a person’s health, happiness, and success in life. The simplest definition of meditation is “best described as increased concentration that leads to increased awareness. Meditation first requires the discipline of focused attention. With practice, the focused, quiet mind opens up to insights and ideas that, until that time, remained a mystery. A wonderful Chinese proverb about meditation states, “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come,” inferring that we are both the student and the teacher”.

Meditation was and still is intimidating to me sometimes. This is a practice that goes back through ages and has been perfected by many. But, just as they did, I must start from somewhere. So, I began to follow these guidelines and some days I stick to each one and other days, I’m lucky if I accomplish one step. If this is the same for you, that’s ok! The point is to keep doing it every day until it becomes a habit and a natural part of your daily life.

  1. Find a quiet place. Finding a place where you feel safe and comfortable is essential for being able to relax and really let your mind be still. For me, this place is in my room. There isn’t a whole lot that I can get distracted by and if there is, I go into my closet. It’s small, quiet and cozy.
  2. Schedule a regular time each day. This should be just as high on your priority list as working out. Schedule an extra 15 min before your run to calm your mind and get your thoughts together. I typically do this before even leaving my bed or my room.
  3. Minimize all distractions by shutting off your phone, leaving the computer put away and find the silence that ensues. This typically means that I shut my phone on airplane mode and put it under my bed. That way I won’t even be tempted to look at it. 4. Find a comfortable position. This is important, as you don’t want to be distracted by fidgeting because you are uncomfortable. Laying down, sitting up with your back against the wall, lying on your stomach are all comfortable positions that don’t normally require too much moving around. I’ll normally sit in my bed with pillows propped up all around me so that I’m comfortable.
  4. Create an object of focus. Since there are many different types of meditation (i.e. exclusive, inclusive, mindfulness), you have to choose which one you will be using. “In exclusive meditation, the device is called a mantra. The purpose of the mantra is to help cleanse the mind by focusing exclusively on one thought, which, in turn, helps erase all the extraneous thoughts that beg for attention. There are many types of mantras—a word that is endlessly repeated, sounds that are listened to, beads that are touched, or the cycle of the breath that is observed. Because breathing is something that everyone does naturally, focusing one’s attention on the breath, the inhalation and exhalation, serves as a simple mantra. For those with a penchant for Zen (inclusive) meditation, a mental device that allows the mind to expand beyond its normal limits of ego is helpful. Images such as watching logs floating down a stream, clouds floating across an afternoon sky, playing with a koan, and stating an unanswerable question can all serve to liberate the mind from ego attachment”. I typically tend to veer more towards an exclusive meditation and normally find myself focusing on my breath or a single word as my mantra. These words range from ‘peace’ to ‘courage’ and ‘strength’. It is dependent on how I feel that day.
  5. Establish the duration of meditation. For those that are just starting out, try 5 min of stillness and solitude and maybe you’ll find that you eventually work yourself up to an hour. I am at around 10 min right now but would love to make that time longer and more intentional.
  6. Keep a pad of paper and pen nearby. I’m not very good at this step yet as I haven’t done this in my meditation practices. It’s been said that by keeping a paper and pen next to you though, is important to the meditation process as you are easily able to let different thoughts and ideas be written down so your mind is clear and able to go deeper into your thoughts without blockage.
  7. Relieve the boredom factor. Most of the time when people hear meditation, they feel boredom before they even begin the process. The importance of this final step is to ensure that meditation still remains exciting and challenging for each individual based on his or her needs. This can be done through different meditation exercises or by adding a small devotional at the beginning of the session from The Bible or another prayer or encouraging daily reader that can be contemplated throughout the duration of the meditation. I typically find myself reading “Jesus Calling”, a little book about peace and encouragement.

“THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION, clearing mental chatter to gain clarity of thoughts and feelings, is an ageless health practice found in nearly every culture on the planet. The ego is thought to be responsible for this mental chatter, and the expression “domesticate the ego” refers to this calming of psychological defenses. In doing so, you gain greater clarity on various aspects of your life. Some people refer to this clarity as enlightenment, a deep-seated wisdom that can only be accessed through a quiet mind. One cannot meditate just once to gain the benefits for a lifetime. The practice of meditation requires discipline. The reward of discipline is inner peace”.