Modern science has affirmed that meditation is good for us, helping us not only find greater calm but even lowering our blood pressure. Meditation is also gaining ground as a valuable part of treatment for such conditions as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The problem is — how do I do it?
There are indeed many different approaches to meditation, some of them based in religion. A key element in all forms of meditation, however, has to do with breathing. It may seem odd to suggest that many of us do not breathe correctly. In fact this is true. Thanks to stress, many of us breathe in a shallow manner. In the extreme, such shallow breathing can trigger hyperventilation. In any case, a first step in meditation is proper breathing.
The basic goal is to breathe in the way you do when you are asleep. This typically involves breathing from your diaphragm. Put your hand on your stomach and try to breathe so that your hand moves up and down. If you are breathing with your diaphragm, this will happen. You’ll also notice that your breathing slows down as it becomes deeper.
This is different that the traditional advice when we are stressed: “Just take a deep breath.” Wrong! The key to relaxed breathing is to slow it down. Diaphragm breathing will accomplish this.
Many different form os meditation then suggest focused attention. Such focus can be on your breathing, a mantra (repeated phrase), a candle light, etc. When I do meditate, I find music helpful and in particular like the Native flute music of Carlos Nakai.
Time was I would relax my breathing and focus on the music. Then my brain would take over: “My breathing is relaxed. I am focused on the music. What am I going to do about that depressed client? What’s for dinner tonight?” and so on. My mind would wander and I would get annoyed with myself, muttering “You’re never going to get the hang of this. Just give it up!” I now understand that such wandering is normal and part of the process. I now try to just notice it then bring my attention back to the music.
There is also the variation known as mindfulness meditation where one simply observes the flow of thoughts across awareness without dwelling on any particular thought.
If you decide to take up meditation, be flexible given there are many varieties. You may also find that something less traditional works for you. Thus, one man I know benefits from the focused awareness of leather work. Another prays the rosary. For me, running also accomplishes many of the goals of meditation.
I will never be the highly trained meditator who can meditate for 30 minutes or more. The best I can do on a good day is 15 minutes (supplemented by a 40 minutes run). Nor am I a certified meditation instructor. But its values are clear.
The role of meditation in one’s spiritual journey is also clear and simply summed up in an AA dictum: “Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening to God.” Remember that God’s voice does not come in the thunder or the earthquake. God’s voice comes in a whisper. Perhaps we need to quiet ourselves to hear that Voice
Reflection: What have your experiences been with meditation? What has worked/not worked for you? How has meditation impacted on your spiritual journey?
Here for your lisening pleasure and possible meditation is some of Carlos Nakai’s music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19nm5_nAwQg