Learning to Harness a Meditative State
Written by: Michelle Belanger
Meditation allows you to intentionally enter an altered state of consciousness that is more focused and more profound than ordinary consciousness. While meditation is associated mainly with Eastern religions, it is important to understand that meditation is not necessarily a religious practice. Meditation is simply a tool that helps harness and balance spirit and mind. The heightened and focused state of meditation gives you a greater awareness of your energy. It also helps you balance that energy and achieve a greater sense of clarity. Finally, meditation helps you achieve the kind of internal concentration that is necessary for advanced energy work and visualization.
Most people equate meditating with the techniques practiced by Hindu Yogis or Buddhist monks. This traditional style of meditation typically involves sitting rigidly in a fixed position and turning the mind inward. The meditator clears his or her mind, discarding distracting thoughts or input from the body until a heightened state is achieved. In traditional meditation, the main tools used to reach this heightened state involve breathing and a mastery of the body-mind duad. However, this style of meditation does not work for everyone. There are numerous other methods, almost as varied as the people who practice them, that can help you achieve a similar kind of internal focus. Almost all of these involve some repetitive action that helps the mind transcend the limits of the body, including drumming, dance, chanting, singing, and even driving.
While you are encouraged to experiment with other methods and find what works for you, for right now we are going to focus on the most familiar, and arguably the easiest, style of meditation.
For this exercise, you will want to sit or lie down. If you sit, make certain that you maintain good posture, keeping your spine erect. You donít have to cross your legs in the Lotus position in order to properly meditate. Find a position that is most comfortable for you. If you are lying down, hold your arms close to your sides or cross them on your chest, and cross your ankles as well. This helps close the circuit of your body, and it keeps your energy focused inside you.
One of the most basic aspects of traditional meditation is breathing. By focusing on your breathing, you heighten your awareness of the movement of both breath and energy. Once you are aware of the flow of breath and energy, you can easily achieve a heightened state where your consciousness is balanced between spirit and body.
When meditating, you typically take deep, regular breaths. This is not the kind of breath where you inhale sharply all at once and your entire upper chest expands. Instead, you must breathe with your diaphragm and imagine the breath being pulled down to the very bottom of your lungs. It is helpful to imagine that you are breathing through a very small straw. You need to exhale just as slowly as you inhaled, letting go of the breath in a controlled and steady stream. Some systems suggest that you breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, though this is not strictly necessary.
If your are breathing correctly, you will naturally begin to relax. If you are having trouble relaxing, you may want to try a simple but effective muscular exercise. As you breathe in, tense the muscles throughout your body and hold this tension for a few moments. When you exhale, release the tension and imagine all of the tension leaving you with the breath you exhale. Do this several times, and you should begin to tingle all over, feeling very light and relaxed.
Once you have gotten the breathing and relaxation, close your eyes and turn your attention inward. Focus your eyes as if you were looking into the middle of your own head. Now still your thoughts so all you can feel is the low hum of awareness that is you. If random thoughts and images flit through your mind, do not allow them to break your concentration. Instead, simply do not focus on them and allow them to pass away. Do this until nothing you do not want to focus on is entering your mind.
Once you have achieved this point, take a few moments to enjoy this stillness of mind. Your whole body should be thrumming. You will also have a heightened sense of focus and mental clarity. This in and of itself can be a very enlightening and empowering experience. However, meditation is best used as a stepping stone to other more complicated metaphysical work. Despite the common misconception, the goal of meditation is not to clear the mind so you can focus entirely on nothing, but to clear the mind so you can turn that one-pointed focus toward potent and transformational metaphysical techniques. One of these techniques is visualization, a skill which serves as the foundation for nearly all energy work.