It seems that every so often yet another piece of research pops up that shows the benefits of meditation thanks to advances in science meaning that we’re now able to measure the changes it brings about to the brain and our experience of life itself. You might say that meditation is one of the earliest spiritual practices, but ancient mystics wouldn’t have talked about it in terms of neuroplasticity or its effectiveness in literally rewiring the brain for positive thought. For them, and for practitioners now, it’s a way of stepping beyond our mind along own spiritual evolution towards enlightenment.
I’m always talking about the importance of meditation, especially when it comes to developing and tuning into our psychic intuition, and this is something that Caroline Reynolds emphasised in her book Spiritual Fitness. There are classes and workshops in everything from Transcendental Meditation to Vipassana techniques out there, but just in case you don’t have time to go or there aren’t any where you live, I thought I’d provide a few basic tips to help you with your home practice.
1/Understand where you are heading. At the start, what you are aiming for is a state of being where the chatter of your mind becomes less important and eventually falls away altogether and is replaced by a sense of peace and expansiveness.
2/Don’t push yourself too hard too fast. Caroline felt that as little as ten minutes a day were beneficial, and other research from the University of Oregon shows that just six hours of practice resulted in the kind of measurable changes that bring benefits – so there’s no need to feel that it’s not worth trying unless you can do two hours a day every day for the rest of your life!
3/Feel free to try different approaches. It’s up to you whether you want to keep your eyes open or closed, whether you want to focus on something such as a lit candle or just look at a blank wall, recite a mantra or be silent, sit in lotus position or just make sure that you are comfortable in a chair. As Caroline says, not every method works for every one and that means the one that is right for you is the right one. Another way of putting it is that at the point where you reach enlightenment, it won’t matter to you how you got there!
4/Avoid the temptation to be sidetracked by any thoughts that come up. It’s easy to spot the obvious mind chatter such as the urge to make shopping lists whilst you’re meditating, but you can get equally distracted at the start by musings that appear in a more spiritual guise. In a week long meditation retreat led by a Daoist master, a friend recalls how he dealt with one participant who, in a question and answer session, puzzled over what he should do about a particularly vivid vision he’d had. The master listened patiently whilst the vision was recounted and then simply said, ‘Ignore it!’ You often hear people say that they have meditated on something, and when you become more expert in different ways, that’s something you can do, but to start with you are practising emptying your mind so that when you come out you can bring that spiritual space to bear on your everyday life.
When you gain confidence in your ability to step away from the pull of your everyday mind, you can use different techniques, such as Chakra meditations or guided visualisations, according to what you want to do. I’ll talk about some of these next time.
Loads of love,
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