Meditation is an ancient spiritual practice, central to many spiritual traditions such as Yoga, Buddhism and Christian mysticism. This article explains the basic steps to meditation.
Any posture that is both comfortable and keeps the spine upright is suitable for meditation. Sitting postures are ideal. The important thing is that the posture is stable and can be held comfortably during the whole meditation session. Suitable meditation postures are listed in one of the links at the end of this article. Once you’ve settled in your sitting posture, begin by consciously relaxing the whole body.
The next step is to simply observe the breathing. Watch your breath as it moves through your nostrils or be aware of the rhythmic movements of your belly. Whenever the mind starts to wander and begins its habit of daydreaming, planning, recalling or imagining, simply bring it back to the breath as soon as you become aware of the distraction. Distractions will happen a lot and you may find you have recapitulated your whole day at work or relived a recent movie before you realize it.
Most forms of meditation require a meditation object. This can either be your breath, a mantra, a mental or physical image or an idea. In meditation, one concentrates on the chosen meditation object without straining the mind. Whenever your attention wanders somewhere else, gently bring it back to the meditation object. Although these moments of distraction will be very numerous, you will develop a deeper awareness of what goes on in your mind and the senses will turn inward. Find out more about meditation objects in one of the links below.
Basic Rules for Meditation
Set aside a regular time for meditation, for example 20 minutes every evening. Choose a quiet, clean and orderly place. If you wish, you can meditate in front of a little altar, a picture or a plain wall. Don’t expect immediate results – the positive effects of meditation may take some time to make themselves felt and they may be too subtle to notice immediately. Having distracting thoughts is completely normal. After all, meditation is about becoming more aware of what’s going on in your mind and not necessarily about having no thoughts at all.
Eventually, you will be aiming at extending your meditation to the whole day. This doesn’t require you to sit cross-legged for hours on end – it’s enough to continue with about 20 minutes of sitting meditation or whatever amount of time you choose to dedicate to sitting meditation. However, you should try to consciously extend the meditative state to other activities. This is done by being mindful of whatever you’re doing rather than daydreaming or allowing the endless chatter of the mind to accompany you all day long.
Meditation Brings Happiness
Meditation can become an invaluable companion in life. Rather than changing anything on the outside, meditation allows you to shift the way you perceive the world and yourself. If practiced regularly and properly, meditation can be a powerful instrument of personal transformation. It should ideally be practiced under the supervision of an experienced meditation teacher.
There are different ways a person can practice mindfulness meditation. For this guided meditation, the focus is on food. After all, who doesn’t love food!?
The Power of Meditation
Paying attention and focusing on all five senses is a great way to improve a person’s concentration. To begin this meditation, wash your hands. See the washing of the hands as getting rid of any negativity of the day. While preparing the food, focus only on the food.
Notice the colors, the scents, and the textures of the food. Not only can mindfulness meditation increase awareness, it can also increase a person’s memory and help with concentration. This is why it’s important to stay focused on the food.
While preparing the food, think about who the food is being made for. With each step of washing, chopping, and stirring, envision the food fulfilling each individual at the table with love. Listen to the sound of the food as it’s being prepared, focusing on the freshness of the food. When presenting the food, do it with making the food on the plate look beautiful.
Vaastu Tip for Meditating With Food
Vaastu is the ancient Hindu practice having to do with placement.
While preparing food, it is suggested that it is best done while facing east. The reason behind this is? The east is associated with the sun. Think of this as a way to bring harmony to the food.
Before taking the first bite, look at the colors of the prepared food. Do they bring about any emotional response? Take a moment to relax your mind. When ready, take the fork and pick up the first bite. Notice how much food is on the fork. Is there excess food falling off the fork? Be sure to take small amounts of food and eat slowly, paying attention to each bite.
What does the texture of the food feel like? How does it smell? What kind of flavor does the food have? Is it sweet, sour, or spicy? Are you eating slowly enough to appreciate the flavor of each bite? All too often people eat way too quickly and don’t bother to fully appreciate the taste and flavor of the what they’re consuming. Eating should be about enjoyment.
From time to time, put the fork, close the eyes and think about all that is being experienced. Think about the work and love that went into creating the meal and the enjoyment that is being experienced by all whom are eating it.
Mindfulness meditation is all about slowing down and experiencing everything one does with each of the five senses. People are in such a hurry these days that they forget to slow down and experience some of the most simple and enjoyable things in life. Learning how to experience all aspects of things in life can lead to better focus and concentration in school, the workplace, and around the home.
There is no way to truly teach meditation. The most one can hope is to properly facilitate the process, model a proper environment and note techniques aimed at allowing learning to occur from the act of meditation itself.
Listed below are a few simple suggestions designed to help begin the discipline of a meditation practice. (The ideas in this article are indicative of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta approach to meditation and yoga.)
Practice Meditation on a Regular Basis
By creating and sticking to a regular daily meditation time, the mind begins to expect the practice of meditation and will start calming before the sitting begins. This is important because the mind likes to jump around and any assistance in aiding the distraction is welcomed. Preparing the mind to slow and settle will provide a head start in the initial struggle for peace.
Create an Area for Meditation Purposes Only
It is recommended to set aside an entire room for meditation purposes only. If this is unlikely, create a portioned-off section, one that is used solely for meditation. This will keep the area free from other vibrational disturbances. Pure, calm energy is important, because the mind can attach to any external intrusions. The area should have a nice smell, incense or fresh air, and an image, visible to the practitioner, that invokes a sense of well-being. As taught by Swami Sivananda, as meditation is repeated, the powerful essence created by the meditation will stay in the area – making it a restful refuge for the practitioner to visit during times of duress.
Begin Meditation with a Ritual
Command the mind to be quiet for a specific amount of time before mediation begins. The intent is to lose stressful connections to the past, present and future. Then begin with a prayer, a movement, a chant, or a mantra, aligning the mind to something held sacred.
Use Conscious Breathing throughout the Meditation Practice
By regulating the breath and placing awareness on the inhale and exhale, it becomes easier to detach from initial mind chatter clambering for attention. It is advised to begin with about five minutes of deep abdominal breathing. This doses the brain with oxygen. Then relax the breath to an easy, yet conscious, inhale and exhale lasting the duration of the practice.
Mental Ease and Meditation
Allow thoughts to wander at first – it is natural for the mind to jump around. Forcing stillness will exacerbate the process. Ease the thoughts, focusing on an object, symbol, or mantra. And if the mind persists in scattered motions, simply watch it – attempting not to judge. Simply observe.
What is meditated “on”, if anything, is an individual choice. What works perfectly for one, may not be right for another. This may take trial and error. Be patient with the self.
Begin the meditation practice working within 20-minute increments and then extending to longer periods of time. Once meditation becomes a practice, information meant uniquely for the practitioner is made known during and after the process of meditation.
Although meditation is simple, it is not easy. Avoid getting discouraged when the mind refuses to obey the initial commands. This discipline takes practice. It is said that when one meditates for only one half of an hour, on a daily basis, peace and strength become powerfully present in life. Meditation opens the door of trusting one’s innate wisdom and peaceful focus – something that all can benefit from in this fast-paced and seemingly crazy and chaotic world.
Most organic foods cost a bit more than their non-organic counterpart. For people on a tight budget deciding to eat organic foods can be a tough choice. When you live on a limited budget you have to choose carefully how you allocate your funds. What is really important to you? Perhaps you would rather have 200 cable tv channels instead of a refrigerator full of organic food. Perhaps you would rather eat dinner at a restaurant once a week than eat organic meals every day.
Eating organic foods on a tight budget begins with a choice. You can choose to eat foods that are sprayed, coated, genetically altered, artificially ripened, and unnaturally preserved. You can choose to eat foods that drain your health, destroy your environment and degrade your children’s future.
If you don’t like these choices then read on. Eating organic foods on a tight budget is easier than many people realize. Once you have made the decision to commit to a healthy organic diet, there are several tips for eating organic on a tight budget that can make this decision affordable.
Tip #1: Comparison shop
Most towns and cities have at least two stores that stock organic meats, produce, and dry goods. Many traditional chain grocery stores have organic foods. Compare their prices to those at the local health food store, food coop and/or farmer’s market and buy items where they are cheaper.
Tip #2: Spend your money where it matters most
Some produce items are more contaminated with pesticides and insecticides than others. The UNC School of Public Health suggests that people buy organic versions of these most contaminated conventional items: peaches, apples, nectarines, celery, pears, potatoes, bell peppers, raspberries, grapes (imported), strawberries, spinach, and cherries.
Other produce items are likely to have only a minimal amount of contamination. The organic version is better if you can afford it. But if your budget is tight, save money by purchasing the conventional version of these items: papaya, kiwi, broccoli, asparagus, onions, bananas, peas, mangos, cauliflower, pineapple, avocado, and corn.
Tip #3: Stock up on sale items
Organic foods go on sale just like every other food you can buy. When one of the organic goods you like goes on sale be sure to stock up. Dry goods are easy enough to store. Meats freeze well. But remember that certain fruits and veggies can also be frozen. Cut up pineapple, strawberries, mango and more and freeze for future smoothies. Lightly cook spinach, beans, corn, etc and freeze away.
Tip #4: Find coupons
Many health food stores, such as Whole Foods and Earthfare, have coupons that are specific for their store. Look for coupon booklets near the entrance or at the checkout counters. Additionally, many organic products have coupons available online. If you have preferred products, it’s worth a quick search on the internet to look for coupons.
Tip #5: Eat less meat
One of the most expensive grocery items that people buy is meat. Eating only antibiotic-free and hormone-free meat is essential for optimal health, particularly in growing children. However, many people eat more meat than is necessary. A serving size of meat should be no bigger than the size of a deck of cards. Limiting your portions to this size will save you money.
Additionally, consider cooking with meat substitutes. Tofu and tempeh are great alternatives to meat. Save money by purchasing these organic items when they are on sale and eating them in place of meat. Enjoy the variety of texture and taste that these non-meat proteins offer.
What is Soto Zen Meditation?
There is nothing special or different about Soto Zen meditation. It is not something weird or esoteric. It simply involves being still within, and allowing one’s real self to emerge from beneath the jumble of thoughts and emotions that usually fill an individual’s mind.
How Can One Practise it?
How can someone be still in this way? There are various techniques, but in Soto Zen Meditation the practitioner simply sits. The physical sitting position doesn’t really matter very much. Sitting on a zafu or meditation cushion using one of the lotus positions is traditional if the person is comfortable that way. But sitting on a chair or stool is fine, and often more suitable for western meditation practitioners who are not used to sitting in crosslegged psoitions for long periods. The eyes are kept open, and meditators usually face the wall. The technique is not to concentrate on anything, but instead to simply observe one’s thoughts or emotions, and come back to sitting still.
What About the Mind?
What about thoughts? When they arise, the practitioner tries to simply let them be. He or she doesn’t try to push them away, but does not try to hang on to them or actively ‘think’ either. It’s a little bit like sitting on a bridge watching the traffic going by. It is not necessary to try to stop the traffic, but one doesn’t have to get in there and try to speed it up or change it either. Thought is a natural process, and the meditator is not trying to do anything unnatural. Instead, the person is simply trying to be themselves as they truly are.
So What Comes Next?
In the beginning, meditation can seem very difficult. The practitioner may feel as though he or she has more thoughts and emotions than ever before. Time may appear to pass exceedingly slowly, and he may feel uncomfortable or downright miserable – worse than before he started! But all these feelings should be treated in the same way as thoughts, by not being held on to or pushed away, but simply accepted for what they are. When the meditator finds that he has started following his thoughts, ie thinking, it is best not to worry about it. Just by noticing what is going on, one has already begun meditating again. So the person shouldn’t get upset about it, but just come back to sitting still.
And What Can it Lead to?
This may all sound boring or pointless. But out of this simple practice, many things in one’s life can change. The details vary for different people, but simply keeping up a regular practice means that in time life becomes more peaceful, fulfilling, and natural. One feels calmer, more content, and less inclined to violent emotional swings for no good reason. In fact, it’s amazing what a few minutes of looking at a wall every day can do for one’s peace of mind!
When life gets busy, it’s easy to feel disconnected, even uprooted from one’s own life. The following nature meditation is designed to connect the individual with his or her self again by imagining the body as a tree, swaying in the breeze.
After practicing the tree meditation, one will feel grounded and connected again to nature and the self. This exercise is highly recommended after a stressful day or event, any time that one feels disconnected.
Preparation for the Tree Meditation
Drinking some water beforehand may relax the body and prevent distractions. Minimize interruptions by silencing the pager or cell phone. Explain to family members or roommates the need for privacy, and carve out some space to relax and be.
Directions for the Tree Meditation
One will need comfortable feet and ten to twenty minutes of uninterrupted time. Spend thirty seconds to a minute stretching the body and focusing on the breathing before beginning.
Meditation Suggestions for Daily Life
The tree meditation may be useful to reconnect with one’s body as well as mind and spirit. It could be practiced during cold weather when one misses nature, or at any time one desires a relaxing escape from the present.
A shorter version of the tree meditation might also be practiced in the midst of a stressful situation or encounter. Take a deep breath and imagine the roots connecting the body to the earth. Even though stress may be high, that stress does not have the power to uproot and disconnect the individual from his/her own life.