Many young people want to know about meditation. Nowadays meditation practice is more accessible and more acceptable than ever. In every corner of the United States, Europe, Asia, and many other parts of the world, yoga studios have sprung up and most of them offer meditation as well as yoga classes. Hospitals everywhere have meditation sessions for patients and health professionals alike. Martial arts dojos, Buddhist and other spiritual centers, all offer their own traditions of meditation practices.
Among the immediate benefits of meditation is a sense of relaxation, a slowing down of our body rhythms to a more natural pace. Practicing deeper breathing carries more oxygen to our blood vessels and muscles. Most of these benefits arise from beginning meditation practices that teach us to focus on the breath while sitting cross-legged on the floor or sitting in a straight backed chair with our hands on our knees. The straighter our backs, the more aligned our vital organs, especially our fully opened lungs. The breath is a constant reference point; it is always with us from the moment we are born until the moment we die; so the first exercise in mind-training is to always return to concentrate on our breath when our mind wanders (as it always will because that is what minds do.) At the end of most yoga classes we assume shivasana or “the corpse pose” where we put ourselves into a comfortable position prone on the floor, cover our eyes, and sink into the darkness. This is another good time to meditate.
Meditation, however, has other attributes. Practiced correctly by preparing the ground in easy stages can help us master advanced concentration techniques. That is why many types of meditation practices are called mind training. Concentration on mantras, guided visualizations, chanting, a blank wall or just sitting and watching the breath can help us distill our mind to the most complete one-pointed concentration. The benefits of mind-training are to improve our focus and general concentration, as well as to foster a greater sense of inner awareness and spaciousness.
1. It is easy to get started. Find a quiet spot; sit cross-legged on the floor or in a straight backed chair with your feet on the ground and your hands on your knees. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Follow the in breath and the out breath for as long as you can concentrate. Start with three to five minutes and build up slowly.
2. Make sure you return consciously to your immediate surroundings before you open your eyes.
3. Books on meditation written by meditation masters abound in book stores and there are many good web sites where you can learn more.