Ignore the myths that have arisen in our society about meditation: there are no special positions that one needs to be in; meditation does not mean ‘having no thoughts’; meditation is not ‘just a lazy pastime’; meditation is not ‘just a religious or spiritual pursuit’. This article is for those of you who have given up on meditation or who have not introduced meditation into your life on a regular basis, or who would just like to know more about meditation and pass it on to others.
What is the ‘meditation state of mind’?
From a technical point of view, meditation occurs when one is deliberately in a deep mind state, the theta brain-wave state. Do you remember the four different brain-wave states? The beta state is the one we predominantly live in; we can think of nine things at a time in this state (we need to, to drive a car) and in this state we take on stress. The alpha state is the relaxed focused state; we think of only one thing at a time in this state and we release stress in this state (the ‘peaceful place’ method teaches how to do this in 30 seconds or less). The theta brain-wave state is the meditation state (it takes about 4 – 7 minutes to get to and I teach going down through the colours of the rainbow after you go to the ‘peaceful place’). When you are in the meditation state; your mind is extremely acute and you have often lost that awareness of your body. The delta state is deep sleep – no thinking. To get to the delta state you go through alpha and then theta (as the dream state) and then to deep sleep – no dreams.
At this time it is important to say and know that if you can go to sleep, then you can meditate. You can reach the theta state by going to sleep can’t you? Well, when you do that deliberately, all you then need to do is to hold yourself in the theta brain-wave state (without going to sleep) – that is the meditation state.
Here are some commonsense practical hints. Sit in a comfortable chair, in an open body position, with your feet flat on the floor. If you lie down then there is a tendency you may go to sleep. If you prefer to lie down then have your arm from the shoulder to the elbow on the floor (or bed or lawn) and then from the elbow to your finger tips have pointing towards the sky – that is at right angles to the top part of your arm. If you fall asleep then your arm will probably drop to your chest and wake you up – we need to be awake. By the way, if you cross your arms or legs then you could be disturbed half way through your meditation either by wanting to move your arms or legs because of the lack of blood flow and therefore some pain. As to clothing, have it comfortable and loose – if your belt or shoes are tight, then loosen them and have a blanket to keep warm if necessary.
A few words first about Eastern meditation. Most Eastern meditation is based on working towards ‘emptying the mind’ or ‘having no thoughts’. We talk to ourselves 65,000 times a day. It’s a huge challenge to have no thoughts (and I’m not sure of the real value of that) and many people who try to learn this type of meditation give up, saying that they “can’t meditate” because they are always interrupted by thoughts.
It’s encouraging to know that you can have thoughts and still be in the theta brain-wave state – that is, still meditating!
I much prefer the usefulness of active meditation, that is, doing something in your mind, controlling your thoughts using guided imagery (an audio CD or your own thoughts guiding you) and visualisation. When you are relaxed and in the deeper meditation state, the filter – the reticular activating filter – is open, allowing information to flow between the conscious and subconscious mind. With active meditation you consciously give the subconscious mind words and imagery to work with (this is visualisation using any or all of the five senses: see, feel, smell, hear and taste, as well as talking to yourself and using your imagination). In this way you can achieve so many things – pain release, healing, forgiveness, overcoming fears, self-confidence, moving through depression, creativity and so many more things.
Meditation produces enormous life benefits. Every meditation you do releases stress – the first component of anxiety and worry. Look at the way Thomas Edison used meditation to produce literally hundreds of practical inventions. Most artists use it to get ideas. If you are a hands-on person wishing to come up with a design or manufacturing process, use meditation to help. Ask yourself questions. If you’re in an office and are ‘snowed under’, then daily meditation will help to set priorities and see solutions more clearly.
Some challenges and solutions
You may well be in the middle of a meditation, say about overcoming anger, when other thoughts come in. What do you do with these thoughts? You can pretend that the thought has come in through the left ear and then let it go out through the right ear; or that you capture that thought and put it in a pilot-less aircraft flying overhead – the thought goes. If the thought comes in again, then take that action again. If the thought keeps on coming, then write the thought down and tell yourself that you will take action later, then go back to meditation. If it happens again, then say to yourself that you have taken the action of writing it down and you will handle it later, then let the thought go again – out your right ear. It generally won’t come back. Remember also that some of these thoughts may well prove to be very useful reminders.
Baroque music at 60 beats to the minute can be useful to help to meditate when you’re not doing an active meditation using a CD. The heart-beat tends to get in time with the music, which in turn helps to keep you in the meditation state of theta.
A few words about sleep. For active meditation, you need to be awake; so if you have a tendency to drift off to sleep, then do two things: one is to meditate when you are not tired, and the second thing is to get into a more uncomfortable position. With some people who have gone to sleep both lying down and sitting down, I have suggested to stand safely, with their back in the corner of the room. Recently one seminar participant was so overjoyed at using this standing position, experiencing meditation for the first time, having tried to meditate for years. There are always those exceptions aren’t there? When you are using meditation to go to sleep, this is an obvious exception. When you drift off doing the healing meditation, know that it still works when you’re in theta and I suggest that you stay calm and focused for as long as you can, for it can take considerable effort to meditate when one is quite ill and say perhaps battling cancer.
If you drift off and find yourself on say a beach on a tropical island while you’re meditating about self-confidence (for example), then just tell yourself to come back to your ‘peaceful place’ and then continue to listen to the active meditation on CD. You have remained in theta. All that’s happened is that your thoughts have wandered. You get better and better at focusing in meditation as you practise daily meditation.
How do you get to the theta state?
After you have gone to the alpha state (using ‘peaceful place’) then it takes about another few minutes to get to theta. The science behind getting to the theta state using the colours of the rainbow is what helps us. The outside colour of the rainbow is red and it has the longest wavelength and therefore the coarsest vibration when you bring it into your body through guided imagery and visualisation. The next colour, orange, has a lesser wavelength and a lesser vibration. This continues through all the colours so that the vibration of the colours in your body is getting finer and finer, whether you feel it or not (some people feel it – so be aware that this might also be the case for you). The remaining colours are yellow, green, light blue, dark blue and indigo. The interaction of the colours in your body helps you to get to the theta brain-wave state. I then always ask for the highest light, the clear, colourless light, to fill, surround and protect us for the highest good of all concerned.
The following ideas have come from my spiritual teacher, John Roger of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.
The passive process of meditation is one of emptying the mind and could be equated to ‘waiting for Spirit’ or ‘waiting for God’.
The process of prayer is also a meditation. Deep focused thought that can be equated to ‘talking to God or Spirit’.
The process of contemplative meditation can be equated to ‘thinking about Spirit’ or ‘thinking about God’.
The process of active meditation when one is doing the chanting of God’s names, for example ‘Hu’ – the ancient name of God (known as spiritual exercises) can be equated to ‘going to Spirit’ or ‘going to God’.
So, what the latter process does is to awaken you to the soul within you, soul is that dynamic, forceful, unit of energy. Soul is an extension of God or Spirit. To go within and ask for direction from your higher self, that part of you connected to soul, which knows your purpose this lifetime, can be a very useful process.
I do urge you to meditate. Make meditation part of your life – it is so rewarding, with all its practical benefits. Develop a program of meditation. If you have never meditated before do so 10 to 15 minutes each morning and each night. See which suits you better and then decide to do 20-30 minutes each night or each morning. You will notice the benefits. If you say you can’t fit it in to your busy day, then I suggest getting up earlier – yes, that means reduce your sleep time. Meditation is better than sleep and remember as adults we only need eight hours rest a day, that is, eight hours made up of delta (deep sleep), alpha (relaxation) and theta (meditation).
So, here’s to the benefits you achieve by deliberately meditating each day.
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