By Mark Pitstick MA, DC
“Silence is the language God speaks, and everything else is a bad translation.”—Father Thomas Keating
Meditation confers many powerful physical, mental and spiritual benefits. If you don’t want to take my word for it, consider the following:
Alan Watts, in his book Meditation, states: “Most of us think compulsively all the time…If I think all the time…I’m living entirely in the world of symbols and I’m never in relationship with reality…The difference between myself and all the rest of the universe is nothing more than an idea—it is not a real difference. Meditation is a way in which we come to feel our basic inseparability from the whole universe…By going out of your mind you come to your senses.”
A Harvard Spirituality & Healing conference noted: “For more than 25 years, laboratories at the Harvard Medical School have systematically studied the benefits of mind/body interactions. This research has shown that when a person engages in a repetitive prayer, word, sound or phrase—and when intrusive thoughts are passively disregarded—specific physiologic changes ensue. Metabolism, heart rate, and breathing frequency all decrease and distinctive slower brain waves appear.”
Further, “These changes are exactly the opposite of those induced by stress and can help reduce hypertension, palpitations, insomnia, infertility, pre-menstrual syndrome, chronic pain and the symptoms of cancer and AIDS. In fact, to the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, to that extent is this physiological state an effective therapy.”
Regarding the spiritual benefits of meditation, Paramahansa Yogananda wrote, “Why should you think He is not everywhere? The air is filled with music that is caught by the radio—music that otherwise you would not know about. And so it is with God. He is with you every minute of your existence, yet the only way to realize this is to meditate.”
Finally, French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Pascal said, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”
If you are wondering how to meditate: Classes are taught at many colleges, health facilities, enlightened churches and holistic retreats or seminars. With regular practice, learning to meditate is easy.
There are several methods I can recommend from personal experience:
• Transcendental Meditation (TM), taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
• Kriya Yoga from Self Realization Fellowship, founded by Paramahansa Yogananda
• Integral Hatha Yoga taught by Sri Swami Satchidananda
The latter two also teach yoga postures and breathing techniques that I have used for many years. I also have used the exercises described in Peter Kelder’s book Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth.
Other excellent resources include Journey of Awakening: A Meditator’s Guidebook by Ram Dass; The Varieties of the Meditative Experience by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.; and Beyond Biofeedback by Elmer Green, Ph.D. and Alyce Green.
One simple meditation technique involves working with the breath and/or sound while you sit quietly with eyes closed. Focus your awareness at the tip of your nose as you breathe in and out deeply but gently at a rate that is comfortable for you. Or, with each exhalation, silently repeat a mantra or word that has spiritual significance for you.
Recommended mantras include the creational and manifesting sounds OM and AH. Depending on your spiritual path, you may want to use names for the Light that contain the “AH” sound: God, Allah, Buddha, Ram, Wanka Tanka or Krishna. Others are Peace, One, Great Spirit, OM Shanti (Sanskrit for Divine peace), Shalom (Jewish for peace), Jesus or any other word that reminds you of Divine Oneness.
Use the mantra in three phases: aloud for a few repetitions, then more quietly until just moving the lips without sound and then silently. For beginning meditators, mentally repeat the mantra with each exhalation. Later, you can use the mantra only when you find yourself thinking too much or getting drowsy.
If you become aware of the mind wandering excessively, quietly return your focus to the breathing and mantra. Don’t chastise yourself for letting the mind drift; meditation should be an effortless and gentle process. While meditating, the mind may generate many reasons why you should be doing something else. Like a wild elephant, it may temporarily become even more agitated after initially being chained.
At first, meditation may seem like a practice in self-discipline. In time, however, your mind will naturally gravitate toward becoming more clear, peaceful and blissful. This level of consciousness can eventually generalize into your normative state.
Components of successful meditation include:
• Find a quiet spot where you won’t be bothered by the telephone, excessive noise, or interruptions.
• Program your mind to ignore any outside noises.
• Most teachers recommend meditating at dawn and dusk. Others recommend meditating just before lunch and dinner when your stomach is empty and you are somewhat fatigued or stressed.
• Sit with the spine straight. For some, a half or full lotus position works well. A pillow or two under the buttocks assists a proper upright posture in this position. For others, sitting on a chair with feet on the floor is more comfortable.
• Place your hands on your thighs or in your lap with palms up.
• Use diaphragmatic breathing. Let the abdomen move downward and outward as you inhale; gently pull the abdominal muscles upward and inward as you exhale.
• Breathe at a slow, rhythmic pace through the nostrils. Breathing through the mouth causes dryness that may interfere with a peaceful experience.
• Let the jaw and facial muscles relax completely with your lips parted slightly.
• With eyes closed, shift your focus on the sixth chakra, the “third eye” just between and above the anatomical eyes.
• Let the breath and/or mantra proceed naturally and effortlessly.
• Meditate for 15 to 20 minutes but don’t set an alarm. Simply open one eye to check a clock when you feel the time has elapsed.
• Sit quietly for a few moments before arising.
Remember to be patient and continue meditating every day. Soon it will become a highlight of your day, an oasis of tranquility amidst life’s hectic demands. A subtle but very important distinction will also become apparent. Thoughts may still come and go, but you’ll be in touch with the part of yourself that isn’t doing the thinking.
With practice, thoughts will drift through like fleecy clouds instead of incessant static. Just watch them pass by.
Any subject that repeatedly surfaces during meditation may indicate an imbalance that needs attention. Intra-psychic material, layers of negative thinking, and repressed emotions may be released over time. Inspirational ideas may also come to your attention. I keep a notepad by my meditation area so I can jot down new insights after the session.
Mark Pitstick, MA, DC is an author, master’s clinical psychologist, holistic chiropractic physician, frequent media guest, and webinar/workshop facilitator. He directs The SoulPhone Foundation and founded Greater Reality Living Groups. Dr. Pitstick can help you know and show—no matter what is happening to or around you— that your earthly experience is a totally safe, meaningful, and magnificent adventure amidst forever. Visit http://www.SoulProof.com for free articles, newsletters and radio interviews with top consciousness experts.