There are many types and styles of meditation all of which are practiced for a variety of reasons. These reasons span from simply finding a calm space in a hectic world to actually changing ones view of how one perceives the world. Whatever your motivation or reason to meditate then hopefully you will find some useful information and guidance within the following series entitled Meditation in Daily Life.
Meditation & Calming the mind
Whether you are a complete beginner to meditation or an experienced Buddhist practitioner the first goal in meditation is to calm the mind. There are several techniques to help with this although by far the most common way is to have something to concentrate the mind on, like a point of reference or a focus point. Whilst this may sound a little contradictory when you say calming the mind by focusing on something, it may help to understand that as well as calming the mind, when meditating we also need to be fully aware and consciously working with our mind otherwise we may as well just be asleep.
Meditating on the breath is one of the most popular methods and especially easy for beginners to practice. This involves focusing on the breath, not forcing the breath but just being aware and conscious of our breath; ideally using the stomach to control your breathing and inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Perhaps just try this for a minute before you move to the next paragraph and see how it feels.
Before talking in more depth about meditation practice, maybe it would be helpful to explain how having this focus helps to calm the mind. We all have distracting thoughts to contend with whilst meditating, no matter how much meditation experience one has. The difference is that the more you meditate the less the thoughts distract you.
To analyse thoughts is sometimes referred to as contemplation and whilst this can be positive in some situations, it is not particularly beneficial for calming the mind. Neither, on the other hand, should one try and block these thoughts as this will just dull the mind and in the end make you feel quite tired. What we do when a thought pops into our mind when we are meditating is simply acknowledge the thought but then let it go without judging or focusing on it; give it the least amount of energy possible. Then we return to our focus, in this case our breath. Without something to return our focus to it would be difficult to steady and calm our mind as it would soon start to follow its own picture show and before long we would be off on a daydream.
There are many scientifically proved benefits from meditating and calming the mind that we start to experience as part of our daily lives: It is known to increase our ability to focus and concentrate, increase our self awareness, develops a real sense of well being and calmness and if this is not enough, extensive research claims meditation leads to an increase in happiness!!
The next article in this series talks about practical aspects of meditation such as where and when to meditate along with useful tips to help motivate you to get your bum on the cushion