Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind and relaxing the body. When used consistently over time an individual can literally train the mind to obtain clarity and even different levels of consciousness and awareness about themselves, others and their environment. Although originally a spiritual practice often combined with prayer, meditation or meditative practices are now found outside of that traditional use. Many secular uses of meditation include therapy, counseling, exercise and sports training as well as in relaxation and healing practices.
Most commonly associated with quiet, relaxing places and nature, meditation can really be used anywhere. Many people stereotype meditation as the traditional Buddhism mediation and imagine the practitioner sitting legs crossed in the full locus position with the palms upward on each knee, eyes closed and chanting or humming a mantra. While this is one option for meditation, it certainly isn`t all you have to choose from.
In the Western world meditation has become very much a part of many types of relaxation and exercise programs. Combining mental meditation with body relaxation is a wonderful way to unwind after a stressful day or to just take a quick break from a challenging problem right at your desk. Meditation used as a scheduled activity in a morning or evening routine helps you to focus, relax and stay positive and relaxed throughout the day. Before bed it helps promote a deeper, more relaxing sleep, allowing you to wake feeling mentally and physically refreshed.
Occasionally meditation is confused with yoga. While mediation and yoga both involve a practice of thinking and training the mind, yoga is much more involved and requires physical discipline and control as well as mental training and control. Meditation is typically taught during yoga classes and may have more or less of a central focus depending on the specific yoga practice used.
Meditation as a hobby is a terrific idea and one that is certain to bring an additional level of relaxation and focus to your world, even if you only meditate once or twice a week. The more regularly you use the practice the more effective you will be at clearing your mind and focusing in on specific aspects of your life. Most meditation is relatively short in during with 15 to 30 minute sessions all that is required. Some people enjoy two shorter sessions during the day while others prefer a longer session and supplemental meditative practices throughout the day of just a few minutes each.
One of the biggest benefits to meditation is, besides the relaxation and well-being it brings, it is a very simple, very easy to learn activity. There is really very little in the way of equipment and you can largely learn through books, DVD`s or online self-instruction types of programs. Of course there are retreats and classes for meditation as well, many which are hosted by recognized meditation leaders from around the world.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a form of mantra meditation. According to proponents, it is effortless when conducted properly. The mantra sound is utilized as a thought in the meditation process, and as a vehicle that allows the individual`s attention to travel naturally to a less active, quieter style of mental functioning. The technique is practiced morning and evening for 15–20 minutes each time.
Mediation is Buddhist practice is slightly different. This mediation is based on the religion of Buddhism and as such is designed to provide the individual with enlightenment on their life and choices as they become more and more proficient with the technique. Each monastery provides their own style of Buddhist meditation, so there is not one commonly accepted definition of how the specific technique is used.
One common thread or element in Buddhist meditation is that the individual has to practice what is called anapanasati. This is the word for "watching the breath" or controlling the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Used in several types of meditation as well as relaxation and yoga, anapanasati helps to control the body and helps the individual to clear the mind by focusing in on the breathing techniques. It also helps to slow down the metabolic rate of the body, providing a calming effect on the brain and mind and a deeper relaxation in the muscles of the body.
Hinduism also practices meditation, and this religion is also the practice of yoga as two of the seven components of the practice. Breath control is key in this type of meditation as are the specific physical postures and the ability to cut off input from the senses and simply experience pure thoughts in the mind. This specific discipline is known as pratyahara or withdrawal from the senses. Individuals that are trained in Hindu meditation take years of training to achieve the state of pratyahara during their meditation.
Jainism, a very ancient India religion, uses meditation as a way to gain enlightenment about acting in non-violent ways towards all living entities. The goal of meditation , which is the core practice within the religion, is to make the individual aware of his or her own thoughts and consciousness. The goal is through understanding of self a great understanding of the world will occur. This is synonymous with spiritual freedom.
Jainism uses an open eyed glaze, typically on a fixed object, and the individual is in the lotus or cross legged position. Breathing is critical and it is seen as a way to direct the energy flowing through the body and eventually into the world. Like Hindu meditation Jainism also focuses on eliminating any external stimulus such as sounds, touch, temperature or visual distractions. Once this has been achieved there are specific mental exercises that can be included in the meditation. These contemplations are structured to allow the mind to open to new possibilities and enlightenment about the world.
This is style or type of meditation uses mantras which can be either words or themes. From Jainism the famous "OM" mantra is developed. This, sound is actually a very complex verbal symbol for the thought that the speaker is an omniscient soul.
Taoism also used meditation and contemplation as part of the mental training within the religion. It is also used in martial arts training to prepare the mind for complex motions and body positions. Tai chi, a martial arts technique that is designed to promote physical health and well-being as well as protection uses meditation as part of the training forms and exercises . Energy in the body and remaining calm and tranquil in times of stress are critical elements of this meditative practice.
New Age meditation includes the model or style of Transcendental meditation discussed earlier. It can also include several other Western style of meditation that can be used with specific breathing techniques, visualization exercises, mantras and focusing in on specific objects. Typically in most of these types of meditation religious or spirituality is not the goal, rather the goal is free form types of thinking, relaxation and connecting with the world and environment on a thought level rather than a physical level. Very popular in the 1960`s and 1970`s, New Age meditation is still very common in conjunction with yoga classes and spiritual classes.
Although mediation is rooted in religious practices, particularly religions of the East, there does not have to be religious training to learn to use the specific techniques. It is important to do a bit of research and decide which technique you want to use, or perhaps choose a meditation program that simply focuses in on posture, breathing and focus when you get started. After you have gained the basics of the postures and styles you can then specialize in one specific type of meditation or continue on with a western style of meditation.
There is no right or wrong way to do meditation, however different styles of meditation may require specific postures or positions. These are often very comfortable once you have practiced the position and are able to relax your body and mind during your session. If you aren`t sure which mediation position you like, try out different options. With sitting on a stool, waling or sitting on a chair even those with physical pain or limitations with sitting cross legged can easily find a way to meditate in comfort.
Posture and positions are important in meditation, at least until it is comfortable to obtain a meditative state. Focusing in on correct posture and breathing techniques as well as position is one way to help the mind focus and prevent distractions from sneaking in.
Training and Classes
There are several options when it comes to learning the hobby of meditation. As mentioned earlier, this is a very personal type of hobby and one that is not typically considered a group activity. However, learning how to clear your mind and bring your thoughts to a focus can be a bit challenging, especially if you are new to the discipline.
There are specific meditation trainers available in most major cities and larger areas. If you are considering a specific type of meditation practice because of a religious nature, be sure that the individual teaching the class is aware of your reason for taking the training. Most types of advanced meditation techniques will require that individuals take basic classes first by a certified or accepted trainer so the leader is aware of your expertise with the method.
Training costs for private meditation tutors or trainers will vary based on the technique and style of meditation you wish to practice. Looking around online can help you both find classes and private trainers as well as learn about the cost of lessons and the requirement for participation in these classes.
If you just want general meditation training you may want to consider combining it with a beginner`s yoga class. These classes are usually available through community centers, fitness centers and private trainers in most locations. Check out the experience and the qualification of the instructor, paying attention to their understanding of meditation and the methods they use and teach in the class. At the very least the focus will be on breathing techniques and clearing the mind, but posture and position while meditating should also play a part in the training.
Martial arts training programs may also offer specific classes or tutoring on meditation. If you are considering these types of classes you may be able to get involved in a group activity such as Tai Chi which can be done inside or outside depending on the location and the trainer.
The internet has made meditation training and practice very easy as well. Many online websites provide a self-guided type of study. These sites list the philosophy or religious background and meaning of the meditation style as well as provide written materials, videos and audio instructions for meditation. As a great free resource these training programs are very effective and may also provide imagines to meditate on as well as wonderful relaxing music to have in the background while you work on your posture and breathing.
There is really no requirement for specific equipment to start your meditation hobby, making it a wonderful idea for virtually anyone. Most people find that a large comfortable floor pillow or yoga mat works well for providing a bit of extra cushioning. Remember the goal is to move from experiencing the physical input to the mental processes, so having a nice place to sit is important.
Wearing the right type of clothing can also help in preventing your physical being from intruding on your mental relaxation and focus. A loose shirt and a pair of sweat pants or shorts is very comfortable and won`t become tight or restricting in any seated position. Socks or bare feet rather than shoes are also recommended for the same reason.
Some meditation techniques may require an object to focus on. This may be a flower, plant, sunrise or sunset, blank wall or a particular object such as a candle or a stone. These are very common things that you are likely to have in your home already, meaning there is really no extra expense for taking up meditation as a hobby.
DVD`s, CD`s books and audio-tapes on meditation are also available through fitness stores, health stores and online through different meditation groups. With the range of free information on the web you may find that you don`t need to purchase anything to get started.
Meditation is one of those hobbies that doesn’t take up a lot of time, doesn`t cost anything at all and can really benefit your entire body, mind and spirit. If you haven`t tried meditation yet, browse around online and look through some introductory videos and websites to help you get started. Remember that meditation is not something that is quick and easy to learn, it does take practice, discipline and patience; however it is well worth the effort.