Meditation can bring relaxation, focus, and clarity to your life — just don’t expect it all right away.
For many, the word ‘meditation’ evokes thoughts of inner peace, true wisdom, spiritual enlightenment, and even extra sensory perception. However, my first piece of advice for anyone interested in meditation is to forget all that mystic mumbo jumbo.
Put all such notions completely out of your mind. Instead, think of meditation the same way you think of brushing your teeth: It’s good for you and you should do it at least once a day. The reason behind this line of thinking is simple: Clouding your mind with expectations of the fantastic will only serve to prevent you from truly focusing on the task at hand. Namely, meditating.
The startling and revelatory tooth brushing analogy doesn’t end there. Brushing your teeth is probably one of the few things you do with your full attention and concentration. You don’t brush your teeth while scarfing down breakfast on the way to class, or while you’re Napstering the Bee Gee’s “Saturday Night Fever” (arguably, their finest work).
Your sole concern is polishing those ivories — and if it’s not, it should be. In a very real way, if you’ve ever brushed your teeth like this, you’ve meditated. Mission accomplished! Anytime you do something with single-mindedness, full concentration and participation, you’re meditating.
For anyone interested in meditating without a toothbrush, here’s an exercise to get you started:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and shift forward so the balance of your weight falls 40% on your heels and 60% on the balls of your feet.
2. Place your hands, palms flat, on your abdomen. The tips of your thumbs should touch just below your belly button and the tips of your index fingers meet just above your pubic region. Basically, you’re forming a triangle with your thumbs and index fingers that points towards your “fun zone.”
3. Your arms should fall naturally by your side. There should only be enough tension in any part of your body to keep you balanced, supported and standing. Your shoulders should be relaxed, but avoid letting them slump forward.
4. Imagine a golden thread extending from the center of the top of your head straight up into the sky, gently pulling your head directly up from your body.
5. Now comes the hard part: While holding this position, rotate your hips so that your pelvis is up and forward. Like Elvis and Michael Jackson did before you, it’s now your turn to thrust your pelvis in the air! Only you’re going to leave yours thrusted while you meditate. Lucky you! The goal of all this thrusting is to straighten your back, to remove the natural curve so that a profile of your spine would closely resemble a vertical line. Why? The short answer is that the correct alignment of your spine will allow you to reap the most benefits from your meditation.
6. Now close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Your mouth should be closed, with the tip of your tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth. Breath slowly and evenly through your nose. Concentrate on making your inhalation and exhalation even and equal in length. Do not stop or hold your breath at any point. Inhaling and exhaling should be one continuous motion.
7. If any distracting thoughts enter your mind, do not try to shut them out. Let them come, and let them go. Gently return your focus to your breathing. When you begin to feel that your concentration is not so easily broken, in your mind’s eye, find the point about two inches below your navel in the center of your body. Focus on this spot as you inhale. As you exhale, slowly shift your attention to the center of the palms of your hands against your abdomen. Do this for as long as you can while maintaining your concentration. Be honest with yourself — if you find yourself fantasizing about Britney, wondering what the boys in N*Sync are up to, or snoozing, it’s time to call it a day.
A couple tips to meditate on:
The idea is to remain as relaxed as possible – this isn’t Tae Bo and Billy Blanks isn’t going to get all up in your face about tightening those abs. Don’t take this as permission to let it all hang out, but don’t blow an O ring trying to hold your position. Find that perfect balance.
Although the goal of meditation isn’t to get rippling muscles or increase cardiovascular endurance, it can be surprisingly taxing in the beginning. Don’t fret if you aren’t able to stand and meditate for very long at first. Keep at it. Over time, it will become easier and feel more natural.
Meditation doesn’t happen by accident. Meditating once every blue moon may feel nice at the time, but it’s not really going to provide you with many of the benefits of steady practice — increased mental clarity, increased creativity, lowered blood pressure, greater sense of well-being and ESP (just kidding, no ESP). Make it a part of your daily routine, like — you guessed it — brushing your teeth.
If you find you dig meditation and want to understand it better, that’s great. There’s far too much information to cover here, so we recommend that you find a good instructor and ask him or her the tough questions. Holistic health centers, martial arts schools, or yoga instructors might be able to offer referrals.
Matt meditates AND brushes his teeth at least once a day.
Image courtesy: urbankneads.com