A beginner’s guide to meditation

Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for transformation. Unfortunately for many conventional people it is a “bit too out there”, so it is put in a box only to be used by the likes of martial artists and yogis. I believe meditation however need not be put in a box for the few but is a tool we all inherently know but just have forgotten how to use it in daily life.

As a kid who loved martial arts films my impression was that meditation would be like magic and would give me special powers.

Unfortunately however when I began to meditate through learning martial arts it was more a case of suddenly finding out how much chatter was going on inside my head (in fast forward). Over the years I have experienced various meditation styles and experiences and would like to share some very simple techniques in this article with you and perhaps invite you to the possibility of introducing some form of meditation into your life.

What is meditation?
Over 1500 years ago the ancient sage Patanjali wrote the yoga sutra’s (the original term yoga refers not to physical postures like hatha yoga but a connection to the inner self i.e. meditation) which consisted of 196 aphorisms on the art of meditation. He said:

“Yoga is the effort to still the thought and feeling waves of the mind.” (1)

However this effort comes from a calm and relaxed place whereby
the body is relaxed
the mind is quiet
the attention is focussed in the moment (not the past or the future)

This therefore does not mean you need to be sitting crossed legged and still with the eyes closed, that’s just one way. You could be meditating while listening to music, enjoying a cup of tea or playing with your pet.

You can meditate on: your breath, nature, a mantra, sensations in your body, even the noise outside – there are limitless possibilities. It is a matter of focus and therefore quieting the chatter otherwise known as the “monkey mind”.

Health benefits of meditation
Reducing your stress levels is without a doubt one of the most important components to living a long and healthy life.

Here are but a few examples of how through meditation we can promote health:
– By reducing muscle tension that can lead to pain and dysfunction
– Through stimulating the immune szstem and the healing process
– Increasing blood circulation and the functioning to our digestive system (which among other systems shuts down when stressed)
– Balancing left and right brain activity otherwise known as the thinking vs. feeling sides. Today most people are caught at one extreme especially the left or thinking hemisphere
Reducing the amount and severitz of hypertensive conditions including insomnia, headaches and migraines
Here a few different styles or examples of meditation:

1. Breathe Meditation
This meditation incorporates also belly breathing exercise – which most people have lost the ability to do and can dramatically improve your health alone by increasing the amount of oxygen you take in (2 birds with one stone).

To begin belly breathing:
1. Lie on your back on the floor or alternatively in a comfortable chair.
2. Place your hands on your belly and begin to slowly inhale allowing the breath to expand the belly raising the hands up.
3. Breathe in for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 6, increase the length of the breath keeping the out-breath two counts longer than the in-breathe – only go to a comfortable point then stay there (try breathing through the nose). Once connected to your belly breathe try placing your awareness on a point just below the nose and feel the sensation of the breath coming in and out. As your mind drifts away just gently bring it back to the sensation.

2. Body Scan
This meditation can be done at a number of times during the day including at red lights in the car or before falling asleep. Take a moment to scan the body from the feet through each body part to the head, the more time permits the more detail.

For example: Right foot, right calf, right thigh (then left side), hips, belly, solar plexus, chest, back, shoulders, right hand, right arm (left side), neck, head.

3. Walking Meditation
Do you find that you are always in a rush to get somewhere? Next time you go walking try slowing right down and practice this meditation. With each step correspond it to breathing in or out. Feel the weight shift through the movement of the feet from lifting, then shifting, to returning to the ground. Look straight ahead and let the eyes soften to observe the sensations within the body including the weight shift. Just 10 minutes a day will go a long way to a more relaxed mind.

Resources on meditation:

If you would like to learn more and importantly experience what meditation can offer then here are three possible places to go:

1. For those interested in a good book on meditation I thoroughly recommend:
Happy for no good reason by Swami Shankaranda.
It is an excellent manual on meditation including a CD to guide your practice.

2. There are also many centres that teach short courses in meditation, just check out your local directory. In London the best known is through: www.meditateinlondon.org.uk

3. For those after an intensive meditation course then this may be for you – 10 days silent retreat meditation.
It was definitely one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have ever had.

Vipassana meditation www.dharma.org (world wide organisation – funded by donations)

Happy Meditating 🙂

Your 3d coach
Craig Burton

1. Happy for no good reason, Swami Shankaranda, 2000, Information Australia