Our minds can be one of our greatest assets and our biggest obstacles. Almost every culture and age of humanity has searched for ways of attaining more awareness, clarity and peace. Collectively we have come to call these practices meditation. Essentially, meditation is a mind therapy, which helps to restore balance and equilibrium in our minds and consequently our entire being.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and there are many ways to meditate. Some meditations for example are guided meditations while others are quietly and deeply focussed on mindfulness and self-awareness. Some involve making repetitive sounds, like chanting and mantra. And surely one of the earliest meditations is what we call prayer, where we surrender the burdens of our minds to peace and love.
We can use meditation practices as a tool to help us move beyond stress-inducing thoughts and into a more peaceful state of awareness anchored in the present moment. This allows our body and mind to naturally balance, harmonize and regenerate. In the past, meditation has been associated with Eastern spirituality. Meditation does however not belong to any faith or religion, yet all faiths and beliefs can include meditation.
So much research has been conducted to explore the benefits of meditation from reducing stress, sleep problems, balancing states of mind and attention issues to determining the physiological effects on the brain and body. The truth is that when we meditate, we can enter a deep stillness that affects our entire brain and subsequent health and well-being. Findings have shown positive effects in relation to the regulation of heartbeat, blood pressure and metabolism. Most simply and obviously, when we are calm we are more relaxed and when we are relaxed we are generally more physiologically, emotionally and mentally balanced.
I have had the opportunity to train extensively with renowned meditation masters from different traditions and have found both personally and in my work with others, the different practices of meditation immensely beneficial to all on all levels. Studying and teaching meditation for over thirty years in my own country as well as monasteries and ashrams in India, where I received rigorous instruction and also now lead meditation groups, I have witnessed the most wonderful changes in peace and well-being when people regularly give this “space” to themselves if even for only15 to 30 minutes a day.
Here are three of the meditations I teach which can be easily learned and practised by both beginners and those pursuing deeper meditation opportunities:
- Metta, the Meditation of Loving-Kindness.
Metta means loving-kindness and inherent in loving-kindness is a spontaneous expression of giving, sharing, caring and empathizing, When we begin to bring Metta into our lives we start with ourselves. Not in a selfish way, but because we genuinely want to share ourselves positively with others. We recognize that whatever we feel for ourselves can be extended towards and shared with others. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to be able to feel good about other people, about life even. Metta is a meditation, which has been practiced for more than two thousand years, introduced by the Buddha but which is now practised by those from all faiths and disciplines.
- Jyothi Meditation – A Meditation of Light.
This is a guided meditation using a visualised symbol of light. This is one of the most ancient recorded meditations and has been practiced throughout the ages by multitudes of meditators. Using an image of “light” one is guided within and out with the body helping to create a state of peace and harmony body and mind.
- Self-awareness and Mindfulness.
Our mind is potentially constantly engaged, involving itself in the past or the future. Developing stories about events and thoughts, fretting over ideas or in anxious excitement about possibilities. Mindful self-awareness is a tool when practiced regularly helps us to move beyond the minds busyness and stress-induced habitual thoughts to a more peaceful state of being where our awareness is helped to be anchored in the present moment. We can achieve much in 15 minutes or better still, 30 minutes.
May we all be happy and have the causes of happiness.
May we all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May we all live in equanimity without too much attachment,
That holds some close and others distant.
May we all live believing in the equality of all that lives.
(Adaptation of Metta Prayer)