Interested in meditation and wondering if it could benefit you? Seeking meaning and purpose in your work or life, stress relief, or just looking for a little peace and quiet? There are many benefits for everyone from all walks of life. Learn where meditation comes from, and how and why this ancient practice is necessary and relevant in modern times. Read on in How to Meditate and Why and explore different techniques and gain understanding of the healing possibilities of meditation. Gain insight into the process of meditation and know it is accessible and only a breath away. Become more mindful and aware of your individual needs. Gain understanding of how and why meditation fits into your life. Learn to let go, and if letting go is not accessible right away, learn to let it be. Meditation has a history, and you have yours. There are many ways to approach meditation. Meditation looks different wherever you go, but it can help you wherever you are.
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How to Meditate and Why
By Mara M. Zimmerman
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Mara M. Zimmerman
All rights reserved.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
"Meditation is active calmness." -Paramhansa Yogananda
The term meditation refers to a vast array of practices that include techniques designed to create awareness, promote inner peace, encourage well-being, as well as develop mindfulness, intuition, compassion and patience. Meditation supports efforts to regulate breathing and clear the mind, which can assist in stress relief, and may even ease many health issues.
Meditation is not a religion or lifestyle. It simply allows for a heightened awareness. This can range from awareness of your connection to the world to self-awareness. Becoming more self-aware allows you to have a clear perception and better understanding of who you are. Self-awareness allows for introspection and increased consciousness.
Meditation often evokes an image of someone sitting in a cross-legged position, eyes closed and burning incense, a religious person deep in prayer, or even an elite athlete in preparation. There are actually many different types and techniques of meditation. Remember, meditation is not necessarily one size fits all. Each person is unique and should be true to his or her own needs. All forms of meditation involve harnessing the dynamics of the mind in order to think in a more intentional and less random or accidental manner. This can also help develop your intuition.
Most approaches to meditation entail a certain quieting of the mind and a sense of surrender to a higher or deeper aspect of the mind and of yourself. Whether your goal is metaphysical, to discover your true self, find purpose and meaning, achieve inner peace, heal, grieve, celebrate blessings, or even just take a moment to enjoy a little quiet, harmonizing your body and mind has the potential for many benefits. Meditation can promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness, assist in self-regulation, improve concentration, promote creative thinking, reduce the "monkey mind," promote relaxation and restoration, and enhance spiritual development.
Focusing on your breath is instant access to the beginning stages of meditation and connecting with yourself. Imagine someone suggested meditation to you for your high blood pressure. How would this work? Meditation is the science of the soul and spirit. Still, calming your mind and slowing your breath has an effect on your nervous and circulatory systems. After all, your brain and body are connected and must send clear signals to each other in order to read symptoms and register your immediate needs. For example, I'm thirsty. I need water. Or, I'm tense. I need a break. Honoring this direct connection, and taking good care of your body and mind, will ultimately lift your spirits.
Meditation is a training of the mind different from study and education. When the mind is stilled and there is quiet and pause, movement toward the best course of action is more accessible. So often we rush when only a moment would have created the opportunity to make a better decision. Meditation holds a key for self-control and behavior management, better problem solving, harnessing mindfulness, and possibly bringing treasures. The question is, will you notice them?
While there are many common misconceptions about meditation, what is important to know is that meditation is a goal and that the process is relevant. The spirit in which you do something is almost as important as the act itself. There are many activities that are key to the process in that they first restrict the mind so that you may begin meditation, which aims to expand it. Quieting the mind requires many steps in order to actually do so. These steps, many of which are discussed in Part III of this book, give purpose to the process and make the goal reachable. When you stop talking and get quiet, you can hear your breath and tune into yourself, which is difficult to do when there is too much noise.
A goal of meditation is to become interconnected and relieve stress – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This will allow for your spirit and energy to f low and grow. When we discuss focusing and restricting the mind in order to expand it, this is a new idea that may not be grasped right away. But the process in which to do so can be grasped immediately if only we can learn to be less attached to the outcome and more willing in the process.
Mind expansion occurs when we have realization, something beyond what we already know, beyond our current thoughts, beyond our immediate needs and wants, beyond our control. By focusing in on our breath, being still, being quiet and in the moment, we give our thoughts a chance to evolve. There is a relief after holding on so tightly and being so attached to everyone and everything, forgetting to think and overthink. Let go. Realize your gifts and abilities. Allow your true self to shine through.
Allow small stuff to be as important as the big stuff. Allow the moments in life that are most difficult to be your catalyst for meditative moments, taking a moment to be okay. Allow the easiest moments to also be an opportunity. Becoming more self-aware can assist you in becoming more sensitive and less self-absorbed. Tell someone you love them and give them a moment when you thought you had no time. Slow down at a yellow light instead of rushing through it. Become more discerning. Know better when to speak up and also when to embrace the wisdom of silence. Notice when you think it is all about you yet you are having a large effect on someone else. Notice if you are consistently trying to please others or gain their approval. Notice if you are expecting others to please you. We simply need to meet life where we are. Movement toward your goals takes time and care. Your effort, attitude and awareness are steps in the process of meditation – not just trying to get somewhere, but also realizing more and more the manner in which you approach your life.
Time passes no matter how you use it. Your mind thinks no matter what your thoughts are. Your breath and heart give you life whether you notice or not. People will need you no matter how you show up. Beginning to focus on the present and how you show up in life, at the best and the worst of times, has an effect greater than you may think. Restricting the mind to the present and learning to gain some control of your thoughts allows for a mind expansion you cannot bargain for. Whether you have a focus or intention when you begin or if you are simply sweeping the floor, training your mind to remain present is gained by discipline, practice, development, and patience. Quieting the mind can eventually lead you toward increased awareness of the bigger picture, ah-ha moments that you missed before. This awareness can shed light on circumstances that have not changed but you realized you can change in the way that you experience them.
When you prepare for a marathon you do not go out and run the full amount of miles the first time. You build up to the goal by beginning with a smaller goal.
Also, not everyone has the same reason for running. Some are interested in the mileage, some need the exercise or weight loss, others may be running for a cause or donation, yet others may simply enjoy running and have no other motivation. Meditation is like any other process in that you begin with where you are and expand from there. You try a few running sneakers on before you find the right ones. As you consider a few meditation techniques you may find a fit right away or may need to try out a few.
Even a moment of forgetting what you were thinking or trying to say is worth noting. When you "lose a thought" where does the thought go? Why is it we "lose" a thought when we are not trying to and have such difficulty forgetting a thought when we are trying to? How and why does it come back? We so often hold on to thoughts, which can be unhealthy if they are negative or not useful. We often will say to forget about it for a moment and suddenly, without notice, the thought returns. This happens in meditation when you are sitting still and quiet. The thoughts are there and then you "lose" them. Without warning, rhyme or reason. It simply happens. Allowing for the letting go of thought on purpose rather than "losing" them is a skill that develops over time. Read on to discover a variety of steps and techniques to assist in the process.CHAPTER 2
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEDITATION
"This they call the highest state. When the 5 senses and the mind are still, when not even reason stirs." -Upanishads
Meditation is ancient. In one form or another, it has been practiced by many of the great spiritual and religious practices worldwide. Within these traditions one will find meditation in many different forms.
When meditation is linked to a specific religion or culture, there will naturally be differences of opinion and factual disputes. I am writing to send the message that meditation need not be associated with any of them. At the same time, age-old practices of all kinds have many things to teach us. We can learn to act upon and apply anything learned in a way that is suitable for our own interests, needs, beliefs, and values. Many of us live in a time and place of much independence and freedom. We are allowed to express ourselves in all types of ways. How do we use our freedom? How do we use our free time? People around the world have meditated for many different reasons. What is your reason?
Your background and upbringing may be present in your meditation experience but it also does not need to be. For those who have less interest in spiritual aspects need not approach meditation from that point of view. If you have a body, breath, and a mind, the gifts of meditation are there for you with or without any connection to God, religion, or spiritual tradition. Having said that, the variety of meditation techniques that have existed over centuries offers many insights, ideas, and formulas for understanding meditation. I will touch upon some of the major faiths that contain a tradition of meditation.
From India comes the birth of yoga. In this tradition, meditation requires a process as described by the ancient yogis, and yoga serves as a good guideline. The Vedas are the original scriptures of Hindu teachings and the earliest literary record of Indian civilization. Veda means wisdom or knowledge. The Upanishads, or Vedanta, are inner or mystic teachings occurring in certain parts of the Vedas as essential summaries. They are the philosophical portion of the Vedas and are some of the oldest scriptures in the world to describe the practice of meditation.
Yoga can exist alongside the Hindu religion and its philosophical teachings are said to be universal. Yoga has always taught that meditation, the goal of yoga, is for all humankind. While the traditions and spirit of the Hindu culture are reachable, they can be separate from the teachings of meditation. The Hindu people brought their influence just as you can bring yours. Yoga has touched many traditions and people around the world. They may differ from one another in style, but in any case, meditation still remains the goal.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for energy, personal and universal, and the breath is the vehicle in which you carry your energy throughout your body. The ancient Rishi or Sage, Patanjali, was known to describe yoga as control of the fluctuations of the mind and as a means for becoming whole. His teachings in the Yoga Sutras of the eight limbs, eight petals or eightfold of yoga, are a wonderful and tangible guideline toward the goal of meditation as well as for well-being and quality of life.
Kirtan music is a call and response chanting accompanied by instruments, which creates a vibration in the body, having an effect on your mind and spirit. While it originates from Indian culture, it is said to be universal. Often sung in Sanskrit but heard in the West also in English, it aims to create a joyful mood and a path toward meditation.
Founded in India, Sikhs meditate to cope with life's everyday problems as well as to form a connection to the divine. Family life and spiritual life are interconnected and are rooted in Oneness and love. Amritvela, or early morning meditation, is a vital part of daily worship and life. This meditation occurs prior to dawn. This is considered to be the most opportune time for meditation, which is viewed as a doorway to consciousness. Yoga poses may be used to assist in clearing the mind for meditation. Kirtan music may also be practiced by Sikhs as a means for joy, enlightenment, and preparation for meditation.
In the story of Siddhartha, the boy who is later known as Gautama and eventually as Buddha was born a Hindu prince. He was hidden from witnessing any suffering in the world while confined to his palace as a boy. As time went on and the reality of the larger life outside the palace unfolded, he learned that the world contained great suffering, and he longed to see and know more. As he traveled, he tried different types of meditation, separating himself from society, fasting, and practicing acts of non-attachment. He soon learned that one cannot escape the world by fasting and meditating, nor is suffering avoidable. So he began a new path of moderation and middle ground, learning to be a seeker among the common people, gaining followers, including women, and guiding many to a life in which one is not sleeping but "awake" – the meaning of the word, Buddha.
Buddha eventually took his ideas on meditation further east, teaching it as a universal remedy for all ills. Anapanasati, used in Sanskrit and Chinese, means mindfulness of breathing, taught by the Buddha, to feel sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body. One of his principal teachings was cessation of suffering and self-awakening. He taught that mindfulness is important and key in meditation.
Buddha taught basic technique on meditation by simply watching the breath. This suggested that anyone could meditate and tune into his or her energy through the breath. Buddha made clear in his teachings that focus on breathing alone can bring better concentration, helping to focus and live a meaningful, awakened life.
Meditation in Judaism is ancient. The Hebrew word, kavanah, which means intention or more literally pointing the mind, is an essential part of Jewish life. Shalom implies not only peace, but also contemplation, completion and wholeness. Tzedakah, doing the "right" thing such as acts of charity, is highly valued and encourages compassion. These are all aspects of meditation.
Meditation and prayer in Judaism allow for pause. Jews honor and embrace ways to remember and continue on, to celebrate and show up for others, gaining self-knowledge by remembering the past and doing better in the future. Meditation and prayer are a part of daily life for good reason, keeping order from Shabbat to Shabbat and taking time to find peace and quiet.
Jews are offered a guideline and given a reason to be mindful, take pause and look within through Torah, the Old Testament. The Talmud is a rabbinic text containing the collection of teachings of Jewish law and tradition. Talmudic sages have a long-standing tradition of meditation before and during prayer. The Hebrew word for prayer, tefillah, implies connecting to and bonding with one's spirit source. Reading, reciting and chanting prayers and blessings allows for contemplation and their meaning to permeate one's consciousness.
When meditation is used as a remedy for stress and anxiety, it replaces negative emotions with the feeling of peace. Chassidic philosophy demonstrates how inner turmoil is reduced when we have a clear understanding of our goals, and how the cultivation of trust, faith, awareness, and freedom from doubt, enrich our lives with joy.
Judaism has ancient wisdom and teachings known as Kabbalah. Among Kabbalistic teachings is The Zohar, a book of spiritual and mystical teachings of Kabbalah. Traditionally, it was taught only to those who had reached the age of 40 and had already learned Torah and Talmud. In modern times, Kabbalah is taught more universally. Kabbalah demonstrates the need for introspection and asking questions regarding the Self and beyond. It is considered a source of personal and universal power and energy to heal and transform one's life and the world for the better. These are all aspects and goals of meditation.
Excerpted from How to Meditate and Why by Mara M. Zimmerman. Copyright © 2015 Mara M. Zimmerman. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: A Background on Meditation, 1,
Chapter 1: What is Meditation?, 3,
Chapter 2: A Brief History of Meditation, 9,
Chapter 3: Why Meditate?, 17,
Part II: Understanding Your Whole Self, 23,
Chapter 4: Accessing Your Intuition, 25,
Chapter 5: The Mind-Body Connection, 37,
Chapter 6: The Anatomy of the Energy body, 45,
Part III: How to Meditate, 63,
Chapter 7: Types of Meditation, 65,
Chapter 8: The Building Blocks of Meditation: a Beginner's Toolbox, 81,
Chapter 9: Your Meditation Practice, 93,
References and further reading, 115,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite There is no denying the fact that more and more people are having trouble coping in today’s world, but there is help. How to Meditate and Why by Mara M. Zimmerman is a direct, easy to read and follow guideline for anyone interested in learning how to take a step back from the chaos of everyday life and find some peace of mind and physical healing. How to Meditate and Why walks you through the history of meditation, which may be an important addition for many people. Often considered an “Eastern” philosophy or some kind of gimmick, Zimmerman explains clearly how meditation has been practiced by many different groups of people around the world in some form or another for centuries and even longer. Another important aspect that sets this book apart from others is the description of the deep connection between the mind, body and even the universe as a whole, and how meditation benefits many aspects of our well-being. With this easy to follow approach that is quite flexible to suit anyone’s needs, it is possible to begin the practice of meditation right this moment and move on to whatever level of dedication will serve you best for your optimum health and mental welfare. If practical advice is what you need to get started, then How to Meditate and Why is the perfect solution. It all begins with just one breath or one mindful thought and a new way of life is ready for you to enjoy. Mara M. Zimmerman offers many different options on how to meditate – from getting started to sticking with it and to practicing more advanced techniques.
For years, I've been trying to find a way to integrate meditation into my daily routine. This book gave me great insight into how to do that. Mara's approach to mediating resonated with me and I now find myself meditating in many different way every day.
I borrowed this book from a friend and decided I had to own it! So informative and perfect for both beginner and advanced meditator. I highly recommend it!