Sunita Passi discusses how meditation can help restore balance in an age where people are time poor and high stress levels are rife
In today’s fast paced world, engaging in a meaningful relationship with your own mind and training it to perform optimally yields a multitude of health benefits for the body and soul. More people are recognising that as part of their well-being programme, they want a deeper experience that will help disconnect and recharge their mind, in addition to their body.
While different forms of meditation are practiced worldwide, the roots are most closely associated with the temples, caves and monasteries of the East (India, China, Japan) and Near East (now the Middle East). The techniques were refined by Asian monks and yogis, and then filtered to the layperson. Meditation also appears, though less conspicuously and in a slightly different form, in the Judeo-Christian tradition as prayer. The differences appear to lie more with the goals, purposes and styles. And though meditation involves a shift from thinking and doing, to just simply ‘being’, our forbears had the advantage of their lives being simpler, their thinking more rudimentary and their connection to nature and the sacred far stronger.
‘Meditation is a natural state, as is walking, dreaming and deep sleep. The mind will naturally go into meditation, given the proper conditioners.’ Swami Saradananda, meditation teacher
Meditation is a mental and physical process that a person uses to separate themselves from their thoughts and feelings in order to become fully aware. The practice helps us to see the patterns of the mind more clearly and teaches us to stay in the present moment, not looking to the past or future.
Meditation seeks to open what is closed in us, balance what is reactive, and explore what is hidden. Often, our senses and bodies are closed. Time lost in thought, judgement, fantasy and daydreams means we do not pay careful attention to the direct experience of sight, sound, smell, taste and other sensations in the body.
When our attention is scattered, perceptions become clouded. As meditation strengthens awareness and concentration, we spend less time lost in thought and gain greater sensitivity and refinement in our sense impressions.
As we go deeper into ourselves through meditation, our body begins to open up and energy flow improves. By directing our awareness inward, we experience clearly and intimately any accumulated emotional tensions, knots and holdings.
A state of consciousness
Meditation is a state of consciousness, similar to being awake, asleep and dreaming. When you are awake, you are thinking and reasoning, your eyes and ears are functioning, and you are aware of the sensations being experienced by your physical body.
During deep sleep, you will have no awareness of external experience. You are not aware of room temperature nor are you mindful of how comfortable your bed is. In between the waking state and deep sleep is the dream state. Most of us dream every night, although many do not remember their dreams when they wake.
Meditation is not only a state of consciousness, but an enlightening experience; while sleep is not. Sleep is essential to rest and recharge the body, while meditation is not. Meditation is a universal experience that changes the nature of your mind, your attitudes toward life and your level of awareness.
It is in the meditative state that the mind can transcend itself to give a higher experience. But before attaining these higher states, which may take much practice, simple meditation techniques practiced regularly cultivate stability, strength, clarity and openness.
The different types of meditation techniques include:
• Repetition of a meaningful word or phrase, known as a mantra
• Mindful awareness of the present moment
• Following or counting your breath
• Paying attention to the flow of sensations in your body
• Cultivation of loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness and other healing emotions
• Concentration on a geometric shape or other simple visual object
• Visualisation of a peaceful place or a healing energy or entity
• Reading and reflecting upon inspirational or sacred writings
• Gazing at a picture of a holy being or saint
• Contemplation of nature
• Chanting praises to the divine
Benefits of meditation
On the out-set, you may feel:
• More relaxed
• Less stressed
• Personal inner space
• Internal harmony at a deep level
Over time, with commitment and effort you may feel:
• A freeing of negative emotions
• Increased awareness
• More brain energy, leading to a reservoir of knowledge
• More receptive to new ideas
• A tingling sensation caused by increased energy flow
• Peace and contentment
• A growth of nobler goals to achieve in life
• A new vision for your life
• An awakening of joy, hence a development of your natural capacity for well-being and happiness
Self help exercises
”The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life’’ Sogyal Rinpoche, Tibetan Dzogchen lama of the Nyingma tradition
It takes practise to calm the mind and constant noise we hear daily, but in time we can reach a state of heightened awareness and inner peace through meditation.
Before carrying out these simple meditation exercises at home, or suggesting these to clients, the following optimum conditions will enhance the experience:
• A relatively quiet space free from disturbances, such as the telephone
• Focusing on nature before meditating
• Meditating before meals – the metabolism of eating will interfere with the resting metabolism of meditation and create more mental activity
• Having the ‘intention’ to meditate
Focus on the root chakra, a subtle energy vibration at the base of the spine, with the sound ‘o’ (rhymes with ‘so’). Repeat this sound silently or audibly three times.
1. Stand with feet about hip-width apart, arms by your side or extended out in front, palms down, eyes closed or downcast
3. Exhale and gently bend your knees a few inches, inhale and straighten the knees
4. Continue slowly bending and straightening your legs in co-ordination with your long, slow, deep breaths
5. Each time you bend and straighten your legs, feel yourself becoming more grounded. Surrender to the support of Mother Earth
6. Continue for one to three minutes
7. When complete, remain standing, or if you prefer, slowly lower yourself to a comfortable seated position
8. Close or lower your eyes and focus on the following thoughts: ‘I am grounded and balanced; I am safe and secure’.
This article is originally taken from International Therapist Magazine.
Sunita Passi is a meditation expert and ayurvedic and holistic health therapist and offers treatments, training and retreats in ayurveda and meditation. She is the founder of Tri-Dosha. Sunita knowledge in natural skincare and well-being led her to develop a the Tr-Dosha range of products based around naturopathic and holistic principles.
Sunita is running a Luxury One Day Healthy Ageing Retreat at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape located in the Metropolitan Hotel, on Saturday 20th June. Book through Soul Seed Media to receive an exclusive 10% discount for £179.