In Focus Meditation—a guide through the history, branches, and techniques of meditation—will help you delve deep within yourself to untangle the stresses of everyday life, complete with a set of 7 meditation reference cards. With our lives a hectic combination of running to and from work, planning events, fulfilling family responsibilities, and building personal relationships, we are on overdrive for the better part of each day. Add in the impossible task of keeping up in our social media lives, it's no wonder we are stressed out and yearning for spiritual meaning. In Focus Meditation begins with an introduction to meditation, followed by details about meditation equipment and the history of meditation. A wide breadth of meditation topics are covered: spiritual guide and angelic, emotional or psychological, spirit and totem animals, mindfulness, visualization, and reincarnation, among others. Packaged inside the book are a set of seven meditation reference cards (front and back), to give you quick and easy meditation exercises to gain clarity and relaxation. The In Focus series applies a modern approach to teaching the classic body, mind, and spirit subjects, using expert authors in their respective fields and featuring relevant visual material to smartly and purposely illustrate key topics within each subject. As a bonus, each book is packaged with index cards and/or a poster, to give readers a quick, go-to reference guide containing the most important information on the subject, for easy practice and retention.
About the Author
Author Jacqueline Towers, whose mother was interested in mediumship and spirituality, took an interest in these matters at a young age. She later trained in several psychic sciences, becoming a medium, reiki healer, and tarot reader. As president of the British Astrological and Psychic Society, she is in contact with many renowned workers in the field, especially the late Gordon Arthur Smith, who became her mentor, as well as her co-writer for the book Conversations with Spirit. Jacqueline has also authored two of her own books on psychic science subjects. She lives in England.
Read an Excerpt
We all live busy lives these days, so this is a way of removing ourselves from the rigors of daily life for a while and getting back to our true selves.
— Lynne Lauren
Meditation is calming but it isn't hypnotic. When you meditate, you are awake and aware, although you need your surroundings to be peaceful and non-intrusive. Meditation is often relaxing, but that's not its main purpose. You do not need to concentrate hard or even focus on a specific matter, and while some of the meditations in this book do have a specific purpose, others just allow you to let go of the real world and get closer to your inner self. You don't need to empty your mind, although some meditations can help you to push unwelcome thoughts out of your orbit. Neither do you need to meditate for hours on end. Ten minutes might be enough on some occasions, but you can progress to twenty or thirty minutes of meditation if you want to.
Although some religions advocate sitting in the lotus position, it is unnecessary, as it is far more important for you to be comfortable. You don't need to be religious or spiritual; or interested in angels, spiritual guides, gods and goddesses; or anything else of a metaphysical nature to meditate.
Meditations aren't something you need to work at because they just are ... and anything that results from them will raise your level of awareness — even if your only initial awareness is that you are so tense that you find it hard to meditate. There is no race to the top, no prize to be won, and nothing to be gained or lost. Meditation is a helpful practice for any person, for any purpose, and for any season.
What is Meditation, Anyway?
In some respects, one could call it a mental and physical form of aerobics, but without the physical movement or mental exertion. Confusing? No more so than "the sound of one hand clapping," which is a fascinating Zen paradox. A number of definitions exist, so it is easier to say what meditation may achieve than it is to define it — such as increased calmness, physical relaxation, improved psychological balance, better coping with illnesses, enhanced general well-being, and mutually improved links between body and mind.
Recent medical studies in the USA have intriguingly claimed that meditation can reduce blood pressure, and even reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It can very likely help with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, but it isn't regarded by the medical community as being capable of actually curing disease. Meditation is considered safe for healthy people. If you have any doubts, first ask a professional tutor and your own doctor as well. It pays to be safe rather than sorry where your health is concerned. Most certainly, don't ever replace conventional medication or care with meditation, and don't use it as an excuse to postpone seeing your doctor about a medical problem.
Where, When, and How to Meditate
While it would be nice to have a room that you set aside for meditation, this is unlikely to be practical, so a bedroom, a quiet sitting or dining room, a sunroom or conservatory, or your back garden are all fine, as long as you can be left in peace for a while. It's best if the room is decorated in gentle, pastel colors, because strong, bright colors can be intrusive and energizing.
You need somewhere to sit in comfort. Some people like to lie down, some sit cross-legged, and others prefer to sit, but whatever you choose to do, you need to be comfortable. Avoid tight clothes because these will bother you.
You might prefer to meditate in the morning in order to prepare for the busy day that lies ahead, but if you aren't a morning person, you might want to make some time for yourself in the evening, as long as you aren't too tired. In the worst case, you will doze off, which is probably not a bad thing. Just try again another day when you aren't as tired.
Some people find sitting and meditating difficult, especially if they try to do it on their own, so you might be better off working with a group with someone acting as the leader who reads the meditation to the group. This kind of activity is called a "led" or "guided" meditation, because someone has to lead or guide it.
Opening, or Preparatory, Meditations
Opening meditations are quick and simple, but you may need more than those, so I have included some deeper preparatory meditations of various kinds. Some are important for grounding, while others enable you to open your chakras, which is important for those occasions when you want to do something spiritual or metaphysical.
Chakras are the seven psychic centers that line up along the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. You will discover more about these mysterious centers later in the book.
Mental and Physical Benefits
In addition to the spiritual factors, meditation provides mental and physical benefits, such as these:
Reduces high blood pressure.
Increases memory retention.
Improves the immune system.
Increases energy levels.
Encourages creative thinking.
It has been scientifically proven that meditation creates changes in the brain and the way it responds to situations, so it helps us deal with daily stresses and problems that life can throw at us. It can help us deal with pain, with certain medical conditions, and with mental blocks, so that memory and creativity can be improved. Meditation may even boost the immune system. It helps balance the body's systems in all areas of physical and emotional well-being, and the more it is practiced, the greater the benefits.
Over the centuries, meditation has developed into different branches that address different problems and needs. Today's world vastly differs from medieval times, let alone a couple of thousand years ago. Some of the current forms used worldwide are discussed below.
Various Meditation Techniques
This is a recent technique, yet it originates from Buddhist monks. In this concept, rather than letting the mind go free, you concentrate your mind on a specific matter or situation. This may be something that requires attention, or it may just be something on which you wish to gain further understanding and appreciation. You should focus on positive and relaxing thoughts, using these as guides to eliminate all other feelings from the mind. If guided visualization is used consistently, the benefits range from stress relief, through spiritual upliftment and healing, to many other enhancements of your personal skills and abilities.
This form of meditation concentrates your inner energies on developing your own conscious abilities. The heart will normally be the prime thought focus, but regular, deep breathing is emphasized throughout the session. You may expect to feel improvement in physical, spiritual, and even emotional directions. Stress handling and improved appreciation of life are additional benefits.
This is a deep form of meditation, and the intention is to activate the Kundalini energy lying dormant as a coiled serpent within the base chakra at the lower end of the spine. The meditation concentrates on arousing the serpent's energy and flowing it upward, through the other six main chakras and along the spine toward the crown chakra above the head. Healing is one of the benefits of this powerful meditation, but the main intention is to attain spiritual perfection and the ability to experience different states of consciousness.
Here is another system that owes its origins to ancient Buddhist traditions. Its value in today's world is high, as it addresses and helps to alleviate many of our day-to-day worries, stresses, and uncertain, indecisive behaviors. The mind is allowed to wander and to drift into a relaxed and quiet state. Breathing slowly and consciously is the key to successful mindfulness meditation, although it should not interfere with the acceptance and understanding of passing thoughts and images. Regular use of mindfulness has been shown to reduce conditions of depression, anxiety, and similar mental conditions that abound in our stressful Western way of life.
The origins of Qi Gong come from ancient China, and it is one of the oldest forms of meditation. It leans more toward physical improvements such as better respiration and posture than to mental and emotional ones. Invariably, these improvements lead to more confident, relaxed, and easier mental abilities. You combine breathing, physical movement, and mental techniques to drive energy forces through the chakra centers and around the body in general.
The Transcendental Meditation(r) movement, started by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s, has been one of the popular and very well known organizations of recent times. The technique uses a specific form of mantra meditation, most commonly performed while seated in the basic lotus position, which involves crossing the legs with the feet resting on top of the opposite thigh. This pose is common in Hatha Yoga, but it is difficult to adopt unless one's knees and leg tendons are very flexible. Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes, but if one still finds it too uncomfortable, an option is to use the "half-lotus" position: this calls for only one leg to be placed atop the opposite thigh; the other leg can be left loose under the opposite thigh.
One of the easier forms of meditation, Zazen comes from the Zen Buddhists in Japan. The name translates as "seated meditation" and the posture is self-evident. One typically sits on a flat mat called a zabuton. A cushion called a zafu is also used, while other variations include sitting on a chair. One should be relaxed but not so comfortable that one falls asleep.
The intention is to allow thoughts, ideas, and images to pass through one's mind without becoming involved or judgmental about anything that one experiences. Separating oneself from all experiences while being aware of them is a very powerful form of self-control and gaining inner spiritual development.
In Japan, Zazen is often performed together with a number of other practitioners in a meditation hall called the zendo. A ritual begins and ends the session, with the participants bowing to their seats and then to each other.
A mantra is a short phrase that is repeated during a meditation cycle. Concentrating on the phrase helps to keep out other thoughts, and in time, one develops a spiritual understanding of the meaning of the phrase. Mantras may be spoken or chanted out aloud.
Yoga and the Lotus Pose
Yoga is the type of physical activity most often used in conjunction with meditation. Meditating styles and yoga postures frequently include sitting, standing, and lying variants. Choose whatever suits you — many people have back pain problems, and lying down on a padded yoga mat is perfectly acceptable; just don't get so comfortable that you fall asleep!
Some of the yoga asanas, or positions, can be difficult for the elderly or disabled to achieve, let alone to maintain for some time. The best solution is consult a professional yoga tutor, who will help you to work out a suitable plan.
The lotus position (Padmasana) features in many branches of meditation, religious and otherwise. It consists of crossing the legs with the feet placed on top of the opposite thigh. When this position is done correctly, the knees should be flat on the ground, and the feet close to the abdomen. Keep the spine straight and the head and neck muscles relaxed. A cushion may be needed in order to stay balanced and not fall back. An easier version of the lotus position is called Sukhasana or the Burmese pose. It is simply the way you normally sit crosslegged — feet on the ground, not on the thighs. However, there is a tendency to fall or lean forward, so a cushion under the knees may help.
The lotus position can be difficult to achieve. Even if you have trained your legs to obey your command, you may need a cushion to maintain your balance (zafu). To bring the body forward into a balanced posture, sit on the front of the cushion, with legs on the floor. The lotus position is suitable for lengthy meditation or contemplation.
Enclosed Meditation Cards
Included in this book are seven guided meditation cards you can use to relax, refocus, and re-center at any time and any place in your practice. One side contains a guided meditation, and the other side an illustration to serve as a visualization tool for the meditation.CHAPTER 2
HISTORY AND RELIGION
There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.
Background to Meditation
Meditation goes back thousands of years and is practiced by most religions, albeit in different ways. It is sometimes called by other names and often takes different forms. If you are a newcomer to meditation, you should look into a range of beliefs and systems to find one that is closest to you and with which you feel most comfortable. This chapter can give you only a brief introduction into the vast range of meditation practices used in various religions. Furthermore, meditation is not limited to being part of any religious beliefs — it is a widely held system of self-improvement, spiritual enhancement, and healing processes.
It is thought that meditation originated from Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE, but archaeologists think it goes back at least five thousand years. The ideas spread to China via the Buddhists in the fifth and sixth centuries BCE and formed part of Taoism.
In the religious writings of Hinduism and Buddism, the word dhyana (meditation, contemplation) occurs, and it is evidently taken from earlier Jainist sources. Meditation is essential in Jainist beliefs; it differs from Buddhist and Hindu meditation in that its aim is to avoid negative karmic entrapment, rather than being a positive route to spiritual upliftment.
As far as can be established, the roots of meditation evolved within the Sramanic religious movements in distant, pre-Buddhist times. Austerity and renunciation were common practices in these movements, prevailing until recent times, when less drastic traditions evolved. The Hindu Vedas refer to a monk-like way of life as part of commitment to the strict, ascetic traditions of the time.
Close links exist between yoga and many meditation systems, and one of the earliest treatises on yoga — the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali — dates back to at least 100 BCE.
Much later, the famous Bhagavad Gita ("The Lord's Song" in Sanskrit), an extensive discourse involving yoga, meditation, and spirituality in poetic form, enlarged upon these matters. Meditation itself forms a vital part of the Gita's discussion of Bhakti Yoga. Exactly when the Gita was written is unclear; it could have been anywhere between about the fifth and second centuries BCE.
In the eighth century CE, Japanese interest in Buddhism began to grow and localize. A strong and extensive culture developed.
Religion and Meditation
The Buddhist texts are the source of many forms of meditation. In most cases, the goal is to further your progress on the path to nirvana and enlightenment. Common features are breathing exercises and concentration on past or present experiences and ideas. Different regions or countries have developed specific forms of meditation that suit their way of life, so the Buddhist practices have become quite flexible, although still very similar in purpose. When Buddhists meditate, they usually take this to a higher level than most. Their meditations can be accompanied by chanting and the ringing of a bell.
Christian religions often refer to contemplation or contemplative prayer instead of meditation. There is a difference in emphasis as well. Whereas Eastern meditation is generally accepted as developing your own spiritual abilities or helping to heal yourself, Christian emphasis is more on the connection to God and seeking his wisdom, guidance, or help in dealing with life's problems as well as reaching communication with, and becoming more attuned to, the omniscient power of God. Forms of meditation have more in common with prayers than the mantras of Eastern systems. Catholics meditate through prayer and thinking of Christ, sometimes with the aid of rosary beads. Surprisingly, it was as late as 2013 before the Catholic Church formally approved of meditation.
From at least as far back as the fourth century CE, a major form of meditation has been the "Sacred Reading," or Lectio Divina. This form dwindled over the centuries to being used only by monks in their monasteries, but it has shown a strong resurgence in recent years. Nevertheless, it is too academic a form for general use nowadays. Today, we are more interested in meditation that is easier to understand and use on a daily basis without interfering with our daily lives.
Many different schools of Hindu meditation exist. Yoga is often used in preparation for the beginning of a meditation session, and there are yoga postures, or asanas, that can be maintained while practicing certain meditations. The Hindu objective of Moksha is similar in concept to Nirvana in Buddhist teachings.
Excerpted from "Meditation Your Personal Guide"
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 About Meditation 8
Chapter 2 History and Religion 18
Chapter 3 Equipment and Products for Meditation 24
Chapter 4 Master Key Meditations 32
Chapter 5 Ghakras 42
Chapter 6 Meditations for Knowledge 50
Chapter 7 Spiritual Guide and Angelic Meditations 58
Chapter 8 Emotional or Psychological Meditations 68
Chapter 9 Meditations for Troubled Times 80
Chapter 10 Spirit and Totem Animals 88
Chapter 11 Visualization Meditations 96
Chapter 12 Psychic Techniques 102
Chapter 13 Reincarnation Meditations 116
Chapter 14 Mindfulness Meditations 122
Chapter 15 A Medley of Meditations 128
Acknowledgments and about the Author 140
Image Credits 141
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In focus Meditation by Jacqueline Towers Interested in meditation and unsure where to begin? This might be the book for you since it gives not only the history and equipment one might need but provides a wide variety of meditation ideas/examples that are varied and plentiful. Some of the topics include: seeking knowledge, finding ones spiritual guide or guardian angel, animal totems, chakras, reincarnation, spirits, mindfulness and more. One of the new things to me was the idea of bringing in positive and visualizing the color gold then pushing the gold throughout the body to improve positive energy. Usually I have read that one breathes in positive and exhales negative so this was a tidbit I enjoyed. Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4-5 Stars
In Focus Meditation is a great book for those interested in meditation. I, personally have used meditation for many years. This book explains what meditation is. It is more than sitting on the floor and going om, but is it fine to do that if it works for you. It delves into the different positions you can use (whatever works for you), how long you should meditate and why. There are too many to count. I use it to relax, but I know many who use it for other health problems in conjunction with their regular medical care. The history is explored. The different religions who use meditations are discussed. I learned so much more than I already knew and am eager to use what I have learned. I received this book from Net Galley and Quarto Publishing Group for a honest review and no compensation otherwise.