Simple Meditation Techniques to Reduce Stress
By Andrew Saari
Although there are many different approaches to meditation, the fundamental principles remain the same. There are literally thousands of different meditation techniques, and it's hard to list them all, so here are few fundamentals many of them share. Many have you focus on the breath or a mantra. These are simply tools to help you reach the desired meditative state.
The best known meditation technique is to simply watch your breath. All you need to do is breathe deeply in and out while oberving and counting your breaths. Sit in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Your hands palm up and open resting on your legs. Breathe in fully, until your lungs are full. With each breath you inhale, you feel more and more relaxed. When you breath out, exhale until your lungs are empty. While you exhale, imagine all of your stress turning into smoke and going out to the end of the universe. With every breath, you feel lighter, more energized. Do this for 15-20 minutes while consciously observing your breath and see how well you feel! Even just repeating this for 3 deep breaths in...and out... will leave you feeling more calm and centered.
Breathing is effective because of how it plays a role in your daily life and well being. Many people that practice other alternative medicines, such as yoga and qigong, also believe that breathing is essential to maintaining the correct state of mind. During meditation, I believe that breathing must be regulated in order to meditate properly.
You can see this clearly in your everyday life without considering meditation at all. When you are relaxed and comfortable, your breathing is slowly and deeper. But, when you are worried, stressed or anxious, your breathing speeds up. If you are distracted, this happens as well. By regulating your breathing, you can focus your mind and gain control over it more effectively.
As a tool in meditation, you can gain control over your mind using breathing. To do this,simply focus on the rhythm of your breathing.
When you're not meditating, try to pay attention to your breath. When you catch yourself holding your breath when you become stressed, remember to take a few deep breaths. Soon, breathing will become something that helps to ease your mind. You'll see this as your breathing becomes more regular and then eventually deeper and slower.
When this happens, your mind is changing too. It becomes quiet, calm yet alert. You'll feel serenity and peace. You are also more aware of your surroundings and more likely to gain the benefits of meditation.
Although some meditation teachers will tell you that a specific selection of sounds should be used for your mantra as determined by your nervous system, I've found that there really isn't a lot of noticeable benefit from this. You can use any word that is neutral and that allows you to stay focused. It should not be something that easily brings another thought to your mind.
It doesn't have to be a word either. It can be a nonsensical sound or a grouping of sounds. One of the simplest, but probably the most famous meditation mantra of all is -"OM", sometimes also spelled "aum".
"Aum" does not have a literal translation. It has been taught that it is the essential vibration of the universe. If you were to tune into the actual sound of the cosmos, the perpetual sound of "Aum" is what you would hear. This mantra is often chanted aloud.
One of the keys to mantra meditations is repeating the mantra gently aloud or in your mind. The power of this technique comes from letting go and allowing your attention to dive into the deeper realms of awareness. Even though you will be focusing on the mantra, staying focused on the mantra is not the aim of this type of meditation. Trying too hard to stay focused would keep your attention from descending into the deeper realms of your mind. Remember that your mind needs to enter into a phase in which no thoughts or very few thoughts and no thoughts of meaning are passing through it. When this happens, the deepest level of thought and consciousness are found and only then can it happen.
Listening to music can do wonders for the meditative process. Everyone has different tastes in music. We should listen to the music that makes us feel comfortable. Sitting down and forcing yourself to listen to meditation music that you don't like may create stress, not alleviate it. Music is a significant mood-changer working on many levels at once.
The entire human energetic system is extremely influenced by sounds. The physical body and chakra centers respond specifically to certain tones and frequencies. Many experts suggest that it is the rhythm of the music or the beat that has the calming effect on us although we may not be very conscious about it.
Guided meditation CDs, and even downloadable meditation mp3's are very much widely available and you shouldn't have any trouble finding one that resonates with you. As the music plays, allow it to wash over you, rinsing off the stress from the day. Focus on your breathing, letting it deepen, slow and become regular. Concentrate on the silence between the notes in the music; this keeps you from analyzing the music and makes relaxation more complete.
Another type of cd or mp3 that is available is binaural beats. Binaural beats are an interesting phenomenon that occurs when you play two sound waves that are very, very close in frequency but not identical together. If you play these two audible frequencies separately, one into each ear, your brain will resolve the difference between the two and "hears" a third frequency even though it isn't there. This "allows" your brain to hear frequencies normally below the normal human hearing frequencies.
What's odd-and exciting-is that these perceived beat frequencies cause your brain to do some peculiar things. These binaural beat frequencies can work so well that you can recreate the effects of years of meditation in just minutes all without leaving the safety zone of your own trusty headphones.
Meditation has normally been associated with solitude, tranquility, and physical inactivity. When one talks of meditation, you may usually come up with a scenario in which a person finds a secluded area, closes his eyes in silence, and rests his body while working his mind out. Does meditation always have to be like this?
Meditation is an art. A method. A skill. A process. One interesting form of meditation that deviates from the old and traditional concept is walking meditation. Walking meditation is a lot different from other forms of meditation known to many. For one, you will not have to be physically inactive just to do it. In fact, you need to move and be active - you need to walk! You have to actively engage your mind and your body in this activity in order to experience a positive result. This brings another benefit. Since walking is a healthy activity, you can actually get the added benefit of exercise by meditating everyday!
You also will not have to find a secluded place just so you can meditate. Anywhere will do. Actually, a noisy and crowded place is even encouraged. Here is where the challenge lies. Concentration is important and awareness must be focused. You must not allow the outer world to bind your mind into it - by the things that you see, hear, or whatever you perceive. You may be aware of them, but you must guard not to do anything about them. Do not cling to anything.
The guiding principle behind walking meditation is achieving a balanced awareness, equilibrium, between your inner self and the outer world surrounding you. This meditation will invite you to feel your entire body, all the workings of the parts that make you up, being aware how each of your body parts operates. While doing this, you also have to notice your emotion and your mood. These are all done while you walk. The outside world need not be lost in your focus. There will always be stuffs that will catch your attention as you meditate, and you are not to resist. You are not to hang on to these, though. You have to let them pass by, observing them without doing anything at all.
This is the real sense of awareness. The ideal result of meditation is your consciousness of the outside world while being completely aware of your inner self. When this is achieved, many of the puzzles and complexities of life will become clearer and simpler. By bridging the gap between what is within and what is out of yourself, you can take full control of your life and enjoy a healthier and a more satisfied lifestyle.