Hello beautiful Souls,
Welcome to Somatic Balance.108, I am Caroline Hey, your mindfulness practitioner. In this Blog Post, I’d like to talk to you about meditation.
Why is meditation such a thing of late, how did it become known, and why do the top 2% of the world swear by it?
Taking a few minutes to silence your mind each day can reduce stress, pain, depression, gain focus, and more.
You can't see or touch stress, but you can feel its effects on your mind and body. In the short term, stress quickens your heart rate and breathing and increases your blood pressure. When you're constantly under stress, your adrenal glands overproduce the hormone cortisol. Overexposure to this hormone can affect the function of your brain, immune system, and other organs. Chronic stress can contribute to headaches, anxiety, depression, heart disease, and even premature death.
Though you may not be able to eradicate the roots of stress, you can minimize its effects on your body. One of the easiest and most achievable stress-relieving techniques is meditation, an exercise in which you focus your attention inward to induce a state of deep relaxation.
Although the practice of meditation is thousands of years old, research on its health benefits is relatively new, but promising. A research review published in JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2014 found meditation helpful for relieving anxiety, pain, and depression. For depression, meditation was about as effective as an antidepressant.
Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. Yet meditating has a spiritual purpose, too. "True, it will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self," says Burke Lennihan, a registered nurse who teaches meditation at the Harvard University Center for Wellness.
History of meditation.
Archeologists found relics as old as 5000 BCE that document some sort of meditative practice. Mostly common in ancient Egypt and China, as well as in Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and of course Buddhism.
Different types of meditation started travelling with handlers along the Silk Road at the time. It wasn’t until the 20th century that meditation practices entered the western world. For the western world, Paramahansa Yoganada travelled from India to America in 1920 and introduced a holistic life approach. He is referred to the “father of meditation” in the western world.
The most “famous” meditation teacher is the Buddha. An Indian prince who left wife and kids over night to sit under a tree in the jungle to find relieve from his suffering. Over the span of 60 years, he became the Buddha. The highest stage of enlightenment. It is believed that there are roughly 20 Buddha’s living on earth right now.
Type of meditations:
Zen meditation involves increased awareness of the ongoing physical and self-reflective processes. Individuals who practice Zen meditation attempt to expand their attentional scope to incorporate the flow of perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and subjective awareness.
Zen meditation often involves keeping the eyes semi-open, which is different from most other forms of meditation that encourage closing the eyes down. During Zen meditation, practitioners also dismiss any thoughts that pop into their minds and essentially think about nothing.
Zen Meditation - preferably practiced in your home during a quiet time, in the shower, or when resting in nature.
When in the shower, try to really lean into the sensation of touch, feel how the water meets your skin, wash your body with full purpose, presence and awareness. The touch of your hands, cleaning your body, the soap foaming, gently enveloping you.
Concentrative meditation (Trataka) Preferably you’d choose a spot where you are able to focus on one thing only. Concentrative meditation is great to practice on your way to work on public transport, in the shower, or at home. Find yourself a comfortable seated position and choose one sensation to focus on for about 10-15 minutes. Put on a timer, maybe use the Insight Timer app, and tune in what you chose to focus upon.
On Public transport, one consistent sound, maybe the humming of the motor of the bus or train, a consistent clicking sound, the air conditioning, or a prayer from the Insight Timer app. Focus on that one sound, acknowledge if other sounds arise and might distract you, but return to that initial sound you’ve picked to focus on.
At home, chose a calming object like a pot plant, or a candle, or a book lying on the table. Observe how details crystallize during the time while observing this one object. How that one thing turns into a 1000 little things that make that one thing whole.
Throughout this exercise, breathe calmly, without force through your nose only.
Mindfulness Meditation - perhaps the most common meditation practice known to the western society. This requires little experience, and should be practiced either at home or in nature, in a quiet environment. This meditation is perfect for a morning and night-time routine. Before you do anything else right after getting out of bed, or after you’ve done it all, right before you get into bed.
You should sit either in full lotus or casually crossed legged to allow the bodily energy to flow freely, your spine is upright, your arms and hands casually resting on the thighs, or knees, or in your lab.
Once you have found a position you can remain in for 15-20 mins, start with three deep controlled breaths through your nose to signal your body it’s time to calm down. With the last deep exhale, close down your eyes and focus on your natural breath. Inhale, your tummy expands, exhale your tummy deflates. This is your key part of this practice. Whatever arises to distract you, simply observe. Don’t lean into it, don’t give it any meaning, don’t get annoyed by it. Thoughts, urges to move, feelings, emotions… The moment you catch yourself paying attention to the distraction, meet yourself with loving kindness, move the subject aside like a cloud, and return to your breath.
Heart-centered meditation. Very similar to the above. However, as the name states, this time you are tuning into your heart. This might be challenging for beginners, as this requires absolute stillness within the rest of your body and mind.
Sitting in lotus position and dropping deeply into your being to feel your heart beating, and observing how the heart rate slows down and relaxes throughout the practice. To start off with, you might want to place one hand on your heart to find your heartbeat. However try to let go of your hand after a few minutes and focus simply on the beating sensation.
Transcendental Meditation is that flash phrase that is kicking around the media for some time now. It is a technique in which you repeat a mantra—a word, phrase, or sound—to quieten your thoughts and achieve greater awareness. A mantra can be basically any positive reaffirming phrase.
“I am love.”, “I am healthy.”, “I am in peace, and peace is within me.”
To get a greater benefit from the mantras it is recommended to look up and learn the pronunciations of mantras in Pali Language. These Mantras are designed to regulate your inner bodily energy through vibrations caused by the word.
For example: “Om mani Padme hum” = “Praise the Jewel in the lotus” - or more freely translated, focus on your self compassion in the heart center.
“Shakti hum” = “Peace within me”
“Om” = the ultimate sound of the energetically alignment.
Make sure to not “sing” these sounds, but rather press them up from your throat. Creating a vibrating sensation within your body. You might go really subtle and deep in your voice.
If you’d like to learn more about meditation, how to practice it, and meditate with a community. Reach out and book a 10 week mindfulness course.
Book here: https://www.carolinehey.com/contact
Or, enjoy one of the many locations from “”theSit. Australia”. Free, every Saturday 6.30am.