Help For Panic Attacks Can Be Close

When you’re in the middle of a panic attack, relief can seem very far away. Perhaps you’ve had the symptoms for so long now that they’ve become a regular part of your life. You don’t know what brought them on, you only know you want them to stop.

The great news is that you can rid yourself of these attacks forever. You might find yourself taking two steps forward and one step back, but if you stick to it, you will be the victor.

What genes you carry from your family can give you a predisposition to developing the condition. But it can also be stress that’s triggered the beginning of this cycle for you and without help, the cycle can drain your energy and leave you with less than the great life you should have.

Treating these attacks needs to be a priority because they can turn into severe phobias that can cause you even greater stress. It’s okay to attempt some self help steps if you think you don’t need or aren’t ready to talk to your doctor or other professional.

The attacks usually don’t last longer than a few minutes at a time. Don’t allow your mind to think about what hasn’t occurred and don’t drag past attacks up. Fearing an attack can actually cause an attack to happen. Put what’s happening in the right place in your mind. What you’re dealing with are emotions and not real circumstances.

More often than not, attacks are brought on by feelings that are a projection of a known or unknown fear and not a reality. Panic attack relief can be found by facing what it is you’re feeling the fear over.

If you’re afraid of a fire starting in your home, take steps to make sure you have a fire safety plan. Have your home checked by a qualified electrician. Keep a fire extinguisher where you can get to it.

Don’t allow pride or fear of what people might think stop you from reaching out for help. Keeping emotions locked inside can make an attack worse and it can cause them to happen again.

If you feel anxious and stressed because of past attacks, that anxiety and stress can trigger another attack and each subsequent attack will only reiterate those emotions. Let someone know what you’re dealing with. Sometimes just getting those emotions out relieves the anxiety.

The anxiety doesn’t have to control your life and it doesn’t have to take away your ability to handle life. Don’t think you have to fight alone, not when panic attack relief can be as simple as a phone call or a getting a prescription filled. Panic Attack Relief Through Counseling Not only are there medical approaches to panic attack relief, there are counseling and biofeedback approaches that might be useful.

The counseling approach most often utilized is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and this type of counseling will ask that you pay attention to your thinking and dispute thoughts which can begin the panic feeling.

A biofeedback approach, like heart rate variability biofeedback, can combine a powerful physiological training with the CBT.

I really like heart rate variability biofeedback personally because it feels good, and I can induce the feel good physiology on any given heart beat, and if I decide to pay attention to a fearful thought too long, I can switch out of that to a coherent thought in the proverbial heart beat.

In other words, I can practice heart rate variability biofeedback every five minutes for a couple of heart beats, and very soon my body gets used to this coherent physiology, and it doesn’t let me get too far away from it.

Other useful tools that I have discovered over the years are to remember that “Gratitude is the Attitude”, which certainly takes me away from the fearful thought.

I have also had a wonderful experience using the Open Focus model of Les Fehmi, Ph.D, which asks me to consider the space around the anxiety or my thought which brings the anxiety.

If you stop and think about it, there is a great deal of space, a universe of space around my thoughts and my body.

As a professional though, the heart rate variability biofeedback process is the one my clients find the most believable, because they see the process on the computer screen.

Clients seeing biofeedback experience that the learning is happening and are more confident that they can repeat the good feeling heart rate variability biofeedback on their own.

The Magic Of Meditation

Meditation in the Mind

More and more these days we see countless recommendations to practice the age old art and science of meditation. Most, if not all, extol its seemingly magical power on the human psyche through its purported benefits. These recommendations and claims have stood the test of time- they are universally accepted and well justified. For eons past those who came before us have spoken volumes regarding this great gift we all posses but today sometimes, we neglect to use. Why now are we again reminded of this?

All of us are participating either aware or unaware. in a quantum shift bringing at times, tumultuous changes in all areas of our society and world structures. No one is exempt from the effects these rapid changes bring. While universally experienced, these trans-formative energies are individually unique and processed differently depending on a person’s outlook. With a little discipline and practice we can apply this gift of meditation to help balance stress levels, reduce mind-movies which seem to play nonstop to bring increasing levels of joy, clarity and purpose into life.

While it’s true that meditative practices are known by many names in virtually all cultures each with various forms of practice, finding one that will work for you is quite easy. Best of all, this gently leads us ultimately to a special place we often desire and want- greater understanding and acceptance to life’s mysteries.

So, let’s briefly explore the subject for the sole purpose of learning how to reap many beneficial rewards available through meditation. Besides, it is true, the best things in life are free. So let us begin to clear our minds of useless, wayward abstract thoughts having no justification to control or dictate our life’s direction. We will find meditation allows you in the purest sense, to create your own life’s experiences. (More discussion about that possibility a bit later). For now, consider that during meditation you can replace, and clear out unwanted thoughts with life affirming versions gaining- a true, lasting peace of mind, body and soul. Meditation is your gateway offering all that and more…you can even create some magic in your life through this simple process!

As you may have heard or if you are already a dedicated practitioner, individuals report profound psychological, physical and spiritual well-being as they practice meditation daily. What then is meditation really all about? For beginners, how can one start? And how far can I go with sincere dedication? In this article are going to examine a few areas- some historical background, benefits, science of the mind and advanced possibilities.

History to Date

According to many archeologists, meditation pre dates written records. It could be easily envisioned a person entering an altered state of consciousness by simply gazing in the mind-stilling flicker of fire while taking no thought. The earliest documented record of meditation comes from India in their Hindu scriptures called tantras. These records date back over 5,000 years coming from the Indus valley and were combined with what is referred to today as yoga. Along with expanding trade, cultural exchange was also carried westward and meditation practice was soon embedded in eastern thought and spiritual practices.

With the advent of Buddha around 500 AD, many diverse cultures began to develop their own interpretations and specialized meditative techniques. Some techniques still in use to this day are said to deliver incredible mind-over-matter powers and supernormal skills that transformed the practitioner. Today, these are devout individuals and are not necessarily monks living in some remote mountain monastery. They are everyday people like you and I. Of course advancing through time, the long history of meditation is no longer only attributed to the Hindus and Buddhists. Not to be left out, Christianity, Islam and Judaism also participate in the perpetuation of meditation each with its own take on the practice.

However, historically these religious faiths do not dominate in their teachings and practices a culture of meditation when compared to the Asian traditions. Meditation finds its place here in our Western culture in the early 1960’s into the ’70’s. This was a time when much of our culture was being tested, demanding to be redefined. Meditation found fertile ground in which to flourish and expand. Some could say it was the “hippie” revolution which inspired to embrace acceptance of foreign ideas but only ones that possessed real substantive value. It was not long after that when the Western medical and scientific community began to conduct research and studies on meditation. And what did most studies if not all, to varying degrees find?

You guessed it- significant health benefits. One of the most important aspects of meditation is how it releases stress from our bodies. This is achieved by bridging the gap between our conscious and un-conscious selves, situations or non-justified thoughts that ferment stress become less significant and actually lose their power. Through meditation, it does not take long before you feel more peaceful and relaxed about everything. What happened to cause this nearly miraculous change? Studies have proven that meditation raises serotonin levels which directly affect our behavior and emotional temperament. Conversely, low levels of serotonin lead to depression, headaches even insomnia. All symptoms associated with stress.

Today, our western civilization with all our “advanced” knowledge has re-affirmed the ancient knowledge and understanding of meditation’s therapeutic power to help alleviate mental and physical ailments. And this was just the infancy of discovery or shall we say re-discovery of unlimited powers available inside each of us. Today, mediation without question is a universally medically accepted form of holistic healing used worldwide. Meditation could be summed up as a natural mechanism within each of us that enables the spirit within, the higher, true self to bridge the communication gap into our physical aspects grounding us in unconditional love.

Rebirth through Breath

Beyond all the medical community assertions lies a vast segment of the population seeking additional benefits when practicing meditation. How can what appears initially only to be a physical act, effect our true inner being so profoundly by simply clearing our conscious thoughts and focusing on our breath? Well the secret really is in our breath. When you first start a meditative practice at face value, it appears really easy. Yet, early on many are easily frustrated because they have really never truly attempted to quiet their thoughts while awake. Successfully navigating the mental mind field of what apparently appears to be non-stop streams of thoughts popping up can at first be a daunting task. Be forewarned this is a common occurrence and quite normal and there is a solution. It’s funny actually once realization sets in that you really are like two individuals within a single physical body. And that is not far from the truth.

I, like many who meditate found out early on one key to successfully get beyond this mental speed bump is to acknowledge the thought. Proceed to then dismiss it entirely or agree to revisit the thought after the meditation session and return the mind’s focus to your breathing. I have used this method to great success getting past the egos gate keeper role which it often plays.

You may find this method helpful as well if not, find what brings your focus back without distracting thoughts. Again, breathing’s role is of utmost importance in this whole process because it is the gateway bridging the physical body with the spiritual body. The goal here is what I refer to as the death of thoughts through focusing on your breath. Becoming more sensitive of taking no thought along with staying present in the moment by the simple act being consciously aware of your breathing, an amazing inner rebirth begins. Next, we define some good basic steps for all meditation practices.

Meditation 101

Chances are in your life you have unknowingly experienced moments in a purely meditative state. The odds are that when this occurred, you found yourself outside in nature. In nature we more easily find resonance with a deeper more real aspect of ourselves which often comes alive in the natural environment.

Perhaps it occurred while relaxing on a beach watching the hypnotic like waves repetitively washing ashore or possibly noticing the invisible wind rustle leaves on a tree as warming sunlight bathed your face. If you recall during these moments, you found a completely relaxed feeling immerse your entire being because you were free of distracting thoughts. This is what being in “the moment” is all about. It is as if your mind tunes into the higher natural frequencies of life which for the most part, are virtually non-existent inside buildings and such. Yet, with focus, proper intentions and processes we can escape these limitations imposed in man-made environments. Of course meditation can be greatly enhanced when it is practical in natural surroundings.

The whole concept of meditation takes on various identities depending what an individual’s intention is while performing a chosen meditation. Some may want physical or mental relief, others, answers or directions for a better life. Either way, choices are clearly individualized. Find yours since this goes a long way in helping you along the path aided with a unique, personalized purpose. Define it for you! To begin a meditation, a few simple rules are universally accepted. These generally are-

1) Break away from distractions. Turn off the outside electrical/technological intrusions like phones, computers, TV’s etc. A quiet, calm peaceful place is preferred. At first, commit 10 minutes or more with no interruption.

2) Posture is important in that you must be comfortable. Preferably this is with your back upright and your spine to you head straight. Normally a seated position on the ground is preferred with hands in your lap; it can also be done in a chair. Lying down initially is not suggested as you body can assume a sleep mode.

3) Close your eyes gently, relax your jaw and facial muscles. Do a “body scan” looking for any muscle tension that may exist releasing any found. Continue relaxing now for a few moments allowing your body to become comfortable. Be observant of bodily tension arising. The key is to physically relax.

4) Slowly evacuate your lungs completely. Gently inhale and exhale through your nostrils with a deep (from the belly) rhythmic cycle filling your lungs to capacity and expelling the air completely. Slow, long in and out breaths are ideal. Pausing momentarily at the end of each in and out breath. Focus on the feeling and sounds during the entire cycle.

5) Activate the heart-mind connection which provides an initial thought-clearing mode. Do not attempt to suppress these thoughts. Acknowledge them. Briefly as thoughts arise, dismiss them by surrounding any with the six heart virtues of: appreciation, compassion, forgiveness, humility, valor, and understanding. Another very powerful technique is to apply unconditional love (without a judgment position) to any thoughts that may arise, release them and return focus to your breathing.

6) Steadily and incrementally increase the time duration spent in your practice. As the moments of time lengthen between arising thoughts, you are now well on the way to higher levels of meditation. Remind yourself to notice and appreciate the beneficial by-products you have regained.

Eleven Benefits of Meditating Daily

Here’s a short list (certainly not all inclusive) of the benefits that come from a daily meditation practice-

1. Your life becomes significantly clearer and calm

The hustle and bustle of everyday life is choking our minds of the peace we deserve! Our technology advancements shouldn’t suffocate our minds; it should allow us to achieve more peace. Meditation helps put those events in perspective for our daily tasks.

2. Your blood pressure is lowered

Science has proven it, meditation lowers the blood pressure, which in return is related to your stress levels and stress management. Much better than taking pills to lower your blood pressure!

3. People around you enjoy your company

Regular meditation leads to higher/positive energy that you are consistently tapping into. This effectively makes you very pleasant to be around, and people like that! People naturally gravitate to the people who make them feel good.

4. Your connection with God is strengthened

Spiritual awareness is strengthened with a daily meditation practice. You naturally become more aware of your surroundings, and higher awareness always leads to a deeper connection with God. The trees begin showing personalities, and the landscape takes on different meanings… all through a deeper awareness.

5. You achieve several hours of sleep in one 20 minute meditation session

Another scientific fact is that meditation is known to put you into a deeper state of rest than deep sleep. Deep sleep is associated with a delta brainwave. Deep meditation can drop you into that delta brainwave rapidly, achieving the effects in a shorter amount of time.

6. Problems that seemed very difficult suddenly have clear solutions

For every problem a solution exists. When your mind is clear and you’re in a state of peace, solutions appear. Being in a state of peace just naturally attracts solutions and pathways into your field of view.

7. Your productivity sky rockets because of your ability to have clear focus

If solutions to problems appear more frequently when meditating daily, then imagine what happens to your everyday tasks. Solutions to everyday life become more and more obvious. And you begin to take note of these subtle changes as your spiritual vision grows clearer and wider.

8. Your life expectancy increases

Science has shown that regular meditation will increase your life expectancy. It’s pretty obvious to see… less stress and more peace promotes healthy cells and healthy cells regenerate healthier cells. And likewise, stressed cells regenerate more stressed cells. So live longer by choosing more peace in your life.

9. You effectively reduce stress in your life

Speaking of stress, meditation has a profound effect on reducing stress in your body. Because meditation promotes peace and inner calm, stress dissolves dramatically from this meditative process. Again, science has proven it.

10. You can visualize powerfully when combined with positive affirmations and meditation

Meditation is powerful at clearing the mind and focusing on simple things… like breathing… or a flower. But, it can be used for so much more! To powerfully manifest your desires, you must get into a clear connection with the source of manifesting (God/Universe/Ethers). If your spirits are on high while you visualize then the communication channel for manifesting positive events in your life is strengthened.

While meditating I like to repeat affirmations, otherwise known as mantras, to help focus my energy into the positive. These statements can be as simple as “love” or “I am love, I am joy, I am peace”.

11. You feel fantastic throughout your day!

And finally, when you meditate on a regular basis, you just feel fantastic. Plain and simple. You feel good. Everything else is details.

Science of Meditation’s Magic

Today there is a great deal of scientific studies validating in a laboratory setting, that while in a meditative state, significant changes occur with our brain activity. Just as to why brain frequencies are altered is not yet fully understood. Neuroscientists hypothesize that our brain is actually rewiring connections sculpting new avenues of brain circuitry seen during magnetic resonance imaging.

Could we simply be accessing the higher mind which subdues the thinking, egoic-centric mind where boundaries of self-consciousness disappear? Seems very plausible. Regardless of the exact reason for this profound change, some other “super consciousness” force appears to be altering the way our brain functions while in a meditative state.

Dr. Gregg Jacobs who was the assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute now practicing at UMass Memorial Medical Center, published a book in 1993: The Ancestral Mind: Reclaim the Power. This book was the subject of a Time Magazine article back in August 2003 offering insight into the science behind meditation. Based on his research he made some interesting observations and statements referring to what he labeled: the Ancestral Mind and the Thinking Mind.

Dr. Jacobs argues, the scientific research implies our emotional well-being is being greatly hampered by the over-reliance on our dominant Thinking Mind- the verbal, rational, analytical and problem-solving part of ourselves. Over vast ages of time we have severed communication with an equally important part of our makeup- the Ancestral Mind. To me, this speaks of becoming a more fully balanced human being, maximizing the potential of consciousness. While that statement may not be in scientific jargon, the implication is the same.

The Ancestral Mind: Reclaim the Power Book blurb-

Dr. Jacobs offers a practical program for re-engaging with this indelible part of our being, explaining how to access life-enhancing positive emotions while minimizing negative ones; connect with a more intuitive intelligence and foster a deeper, expanded sense of daily awareness; and achieve a more integrated concept of self through a closer harmony of intellect and emotion.

What is Happening In your Brain During Meditation?

Scientists have only recently developed tools sophisticated enough to see what goes on in your brain when you meditate. Below are a series of three interactive graphics from the 2003 Time “The Science of Meditation” article showing brain activity changes that occur during meditation. Clearly some profound changes occur within the brain. Our brain appears to interact and be directly influenced by our higher-minds and consciousness itself.

  • Frontal cortex – is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self- conscious awareness. During meditation it tends to go offline.
  • Parietal lobe – processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
  • Thalamus – is the gatekeeper for the senses. It focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stops other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.
  • Reticular Formation – receives incoming stimulus and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditation dials back the arousal signal.

After training in meditation for eight weeks, subjects show a pronounced change in brain-wave patterns, shifting from the alpha waves of aroused, conscious thought to the theta waves that dominate the brain during periods of deep relaxation. Even people meditating for the first time will register a decrease in beta waves, a sign that the cortex is not processing information as actively as usual. After their first 20-minute session, patients show a marked decrease in beta-wave activity.

Consciousness Directs Matter

Are you ready to dive into infinite possibilities of the more unique, inherent benefits of meditation? How far can one go into the universal domain to retrieve enhanced power to intentionally co-create in this world? And no, you don’t have to become a Zen Buddhist monk. Rather than go off into the quantum realm too far, allot is becoming understood within the research community about the creation power of our thoughts.

This knowledge is equally important to understand and apply its power when practicing meditation. Deliberate thought combined with meditation is an extremely powerful combination. By now everyone has got a little taste of the premise in the movie “Secret” regarding the subject of manifestation or as I like to label it- “deliberate intentions of thought”. While this subject matter may seem new and novel to a whole segment of the population, like meditation, it has existed for a very long time. Ever heard the famous quote from Napoleon Hill in his 1937 book titled- Think and Grow Rich? It sure sounds like it could be in the Secret:

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”

Interestingly enough in the book, Mr. Hill did not expressly reveal the step-by-step process to create circumstances which aligned with ones invocation of a positive mental attitude. He left that for the reader to discover. However, he did provide clues and examples which he documented through interviewing over 500 successful people while researching his first course study titled: The Law of Success. He went on to describe this idea as a “Definite Major Purpose” in order for the reader to be challenged and ask the question- In what do I truly believe? His philosophical perspective was that 98% of people had no firm beliefs leading them to be handicapped in achieving what they want in life. So yes, change your thoughts, change your world.

I mention Mr. Hill because he clearly proved the absolute power of deliberate thought to create your desired life. And this approach succinctly aligns with the infinite possibilities afforded in meditation. Just as a professional stage hypnotist can temporarily manipulate someone’s actions by accessing and placing suggestions in a special place within their psyche, similar gateways or altered states of consciousness are possible during meditation. Our subconscious minds cannot distinguish between the physical “reality” we are witnessing and merely vivid thought projections. It is here that during certain meditative states one can interject desired images powered by emotions, or predefined affirmations by purposely focusing intent, expediting their arrival in the physical.

I personally believe the reason time appears to collapse between the desire (intention) and actual delivery is directly related to the reduced level of mental (Thinking Mind) resistance we hold while in certain meditative states. We receive sooner that which is wanted in our life because of the drastically reduced counterproductive, opposing beliefs or thoughts. During meditation these contrary brain wave thought forms are minimized thereby allowing quantum mechanisms to more fully dominate.

Call it magic or a miracle or quantum physics in action, but despite of the term used, it is real. This premise is exactly the conclusion Mr. Hill wanted his readers to arrive at. Of course, meditation is not directly mentioned, only alluded to, but clearly meditation accelerates this entire creative process by reducing resistant thoughts which hinder progress. Regardless if while meditating you receive an urge to take a specific action which leads to a solution or chance meeting bringing you closer or delivering entirely a previously specified outcome, the objective is manifested.

The only prerequisite is that you must clearly define exactly what you want. Remember- “Definite Major Purpose”. Begin to let yourself feel (believe) what you will experience when the object desired has arrived and let the universal powers do their part. You will quickly find this power is quite useful in improving your well-being when practiced routinely with meditation.

A New Direction Awaits

In closing, meditation is a wonderful gift that is available to all who seek. But, one must seek that which is worthy of attention. As we have learned there are many beneficial reasons to practice this lost but reemerging art. And apparently, the distraction and conveniences of this post-industrial age have dulled a part of us that has never forsaken us and remains vigil in wanting to empower us to our full potential. Just think, this is only breaths away!

As our socioeconomic landscape is now being radically redefined as we step further away from a primarily consumerism driven lifestyle, meditation can play a significant role in this era helping us to become more balanced and grounded. Many are awakening to the fact that a life based solely material gain to achieve a state of happiness is fraught with dangers and distorts real, lasting values. Material affluence is not a problem, but trying to live a life where that is the primary focus distances us further from our higher nature. We have many choices demanding our time and attention today, to sacrifice a critical activity like meditation which could alter and improve your life beyond where you find yourself now, would be a tragedy.

If you do not currently meditate on a regular basis, please consider doing so as this is a proven way for greater well-being, enhanced health and vitality in addition to becoming more at peace with the world surrounding you. Start today and thank yourself for directing you here- all is purposely directed!

Tim’s writing expertise and intuition for understanding arcane, non-mainstream subject matter including esoteric topics begun at the age of 14. It is through his expansive career in finance which affords Tim a unique ability to apply a professional, down-to-earth approach when writing about the science of spirituality.

Please visit- http://www.shiftoftheage.com for additional articles complete with accompanying pictures and any embedded video offering you more wisdom during these chaotic, transitional times we face.

(c) Copyright 2010- Timothy Connolly, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

 

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Timothy_Connolly/809593

 

Discover Meditation Now

Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub
yet only the hole at the centre
allows the wheel to spin
Clay is moulded to form a cup
yet only the space within
allows the cup to hold water
Walls are joined to make a room
yet only by cutting out a door and a window
can one enter the room and live there

Thus, when a thing has existence alone
it is mere dead weight
Only when it has wu, does it have life

Verse 11, Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu

Wu is nothingness, emptiness, nonexistence

Discover Meditation and the Secret Gap

Stillness of mind, improved concentration and focus, heightened clarity, increased vitality and rejuvenation, happiness and emotional stability, improved memory and learning ability, inner peace, calm and oneness are just some of the benefits regular practice of meditation can give you.

Discover meditation and the secret gap and you will open a doorway connecting you to your true self, your soul, and leading you down the path of self realisation; that you are one with the universe, part of the whole that is everywhere, everyone and everything.

The simplest things are often the most difficult to comprehend. Meditation is the key that unlocks the door to your soul, who you really are, your purpose, why you are here and the true meaning of life.

Start your own journey and discover meditation for yourself.

What is meditation and where did it come from?

Meditation is the practice of focusing on an object or a single point of awareness. It is the practice of calming the mind to allow one to become immersed with their true essence; the true self that is one with all (source, universe, divine consciousness, universal consciousness or any other given name meaning the same).

As you will discover there are lots of approaches to meditation; hundreds of different tips and techniques. These all work; certainly in the beginning they help to focus your concentration. It is, however, important not to get attached to a particular technique or object. When it comes down to it meditation is all about a post realisation that you have discovered the secret gap that is as Wu describes; nothingness, emptiness, nonexistence. Only then are you meditating, and the key is not to grasp what you have discovered but, simply allow it to be, merging with the stillness, the silence and the tranquillity that is the pure essence of our universe.

It is the path to all wonder and the gate to the essence of everything. It can only be found within, by merging with the silence, the stillness and the tranquillity of the present moment. It is discovering meditation and the secret gap that leads to a life of fulfilment, happiness, and total inner peace. Life becomes flowing, effortless, and beautiful and at the same time you achieve self awareness which brings clarity, creativity and a deep sense of true purpose that is simply just being.

Meditation existed before history was recorded. Archaeologists found ancient Indian scriptures which detailed the practice of meditation dating back thousands of years. It is a well documented practice of many world religions to include Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Taoism. Spreading from the East meditation techniques are now practiced throughout the world by millions of people on a daily basis. Meditation in Sanskrit is Dhyāna and is one of the eight limbs of yoga which leads to a state of Samādhi (joy, bliss or peace). The physical practice of yoga, through the avenue of the breath, is in itself a moving meditation which again is practised by millions of people throughout the world.

What are the other benefits of meditation?

Studies have shown that meditation decreases the negative effects of stress, anxiety and depression. Overall we become calmer, happier and more fulfilled.

Meditation improves concentration, which is essential to realising our true potential. Focused concentration generates great power and when our powers of concentration are improved we are able to use this not only for the purpose of meditating but in our other activities too. Part of achieving our goals and desires is having the ability to master our thoughts. By calming the mind and focusing our concentration, we are able to experience this self mastery and we can begin to change and replace our negative or unwanted thoughts with positive ones. This shift in our thought process aligns our energy with that of universal energy vibrations and we will begin to notice positive changes and improvements throughout all areas of our lives.

Physically meditation reduces stress related symptoms such as heart palpitations, tension and migraine headaches, disturbed sleep and nightmares and hypochondria. As stress and anxieties are reduced we are actually decreasing the probability of experiencing any heart related illnesses.

Studies have also shown that meditation can relieve chronic pain, drop cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure. The flow of air to the lungs increases and improves and we will experience an overall greater sense of wellbeing.

How do I meditate?

Buddhism often describes meditation as a way of ‘training the mad monkey’, referring to the mind as a mad monkey, which is always jumping and racing from one thought to the next. During an average day we think around 64,000 thoughts!

The Buddha said by the absence of grasping one is set free. Meditation is not something you achieve by trying. Although when you begin to practice you are seeking to meditate effectively, the more you try the more it will elude you. Meditation can be likened to holding a wet bar of soap; one minute you are holding it in your hands and the next it’s slipped through your fingers.

Meditation is about letting go and to discover the secret gap you have to let everything go. Let go of any outcome before you begin.

There are many meditation techniques, and over thousands of years different meditation practices have evolved. The true essence of meditation, however, is just to sit and be. Quite simply you are going beyond the ‘conditioned’ mind and elevating your mind to a state of pure self awareness.

Whilst you can focus on an object or on your breath to help you to reach this state, ultimately it is a natural process which evolves over time, the essence should always be in connecting yourself with your source. You are looking inward without actually attempting to do anything but to just sit and be.

It is also effective to meditate on particular struggles or problems we are experiencing in our lives. For instance, if we want to come to a decision on a particular aspect of our life; a career direction for example, meditating on this can help us to arrive at the answer. At times the answers we are seeking can come into our minds almost immediately. The power of focusing concentration and directing that focus towards a particular question or subject can produce amazing results.

It is a good idea to have a meditation space. This can be a room, or part of your home where you feel most comfortable. You might have soft lighting, candles, incense, cushions, flowers, and other objects which invoke feelings of calm and relaxation.

Aim to meditate twice a day. Sunrise and sunset are the best times of day for meditation because our minds are more receptive at these times. Sunrise is the dawn of a new day and everywhere is quiet, calm and peaceful. The day has not yet begun and following a restful sleep, our minds tend to be calmer. At sunset the day is ending and meditation at this time enables us quiet reflection on the day we have just passed. Our minds are winding down at this time before sleeping, and the stillness and calm that meditation brings will be with us as we drift off to sleep, helping us to feel refreshed and energised when we awaken the following morning.

Place a cushion on the floor and seat yourself so that your bottom is half on and half off the cushion. This will elevate your hips and naturally lift your spine and you will feel more comfortable than if you were just sitting on the floor. Take yourself into a cross legged position. Traditionally the lotus or half lotus pose is used when meditating but if you are not able to comfortably sit in these poses, sit as is right for you. Let your spine be upright and tilt your head so that your eyes, when open, are fixed three feet in front of you. Place your hands wherever they feel comfortable; one on top of the other in your lap, in a mudra with the tip of the thumb touching the tip of the first or middle finger to form a circle, or simply place them on your thighs. Whatever is comfortable and feels right for you.

As previously mentioned there are many things you can focus on during meditation; statues, flowers or a single rose, silk scarves, candles, crystals, music, mantras and the breath to name a few. Experiment yourself with each of these and find what works best for you.

Not surprisingly I have found the simplest methods to be the most effective; the breath and a mantra. The example I have used throughout most of this section is the breath, which is by far the most universal focus of meditation.

Close your eyes and begin to focus your attention on your breath. Focus on each inhale and exhale. Silently saying the words ‘SO’ on the inhale and ‘HUM’ on the exhale also helps focus. Allow your thoughts to come and go but always return your focus to your breath. If you have chosen an object, you would simply focus your attention on that object allowing the thoughts to come and go returning your focus to the object. Over time meditation becomes easier and you will find as your self mastery grows you are easily able to sit for 20-30 minutes.

To begin with just work on achieving 5 minutes twice a day and then increase to 10 and so on. Meditation can be effective at any time. If you are not able to meditate regularly find some quiet time when you can to allow yourself to simply sit and be. Focus on your breath and visualise yourself sitting somewhere which will help bring about a calm and relaxed state of mind. One of my favourites is on a beach in front of a beautiful calm blue sea. Choose something which feels right and true for you. Be patient and gentle with yourself. As your ability to meditate increases, your level of self awareness grows. You will begin to notice improvements with each day’s meditation practice.

Allow yourself to become your own silent observer and simply observe the breath. As you follow each inhale and exhale, thoughts will become slower. Let the thoughts come and let them go, simply observing them and not becoming attached to them. Your focus is the breath, always return to the rhythmic inhale and exhale. Then allow yourself to become the breath. With this merging comes release and without an actual momentary realisation you are immersed in stillness, in the silence and you have discovered the secret gap. This is the place of being, of presence and of your true self. Here you are at one with everything; whether that be God, universe, Tao, divine consciousness or whatever your term for it is, you are it, it is you and it and you are everything.

Can I teach myself; do I need a teacher?

Meditation is a journey of self discovery leading to self mastery that you can start right now — today. There isn’t anything you need to learn that you don’t have right at this moment within you. Simply sit and allow yourself to be. It isn’t easy, training the mad monkey mind that races from one thought to the next but, with practice, it becomes a welcomed opportunity to spend time with yourself.

A meditation teacher can help and guide you through the practice of meditation and attending a group meditation session will enable you to share the experience with others, which can help your own practice. However, I would urge you to start practising yourself as I have described in this section. There is nothing a meditation teacher can tell you that you don’t already know, you just have to sit and be with yourself to discover it.

Silence is not something we often experience on a daily basis or even welcome for that matter. Most people find it very difficult to really relax and let go, particularly of their thoughts. The important point to remember is that you are not trying to push your thoughts away, but simply allowing them to be, without attachment to them. This practice over time reduces the number of thoughts, and distractions, you experience during meditation. Many people’s lives are busy and hectic with work commitments, financial pressures, parenthood, socialising, hobbies, interests and a whole list of other activities that take up the majority of our time.

Make a conscious decision to make time to meditate. Commit to embarking on your own journey of self discovery. Unlock your own great creative potential which, with continued practice of meditation, will be unbounded.

My own Meditation Journey

I was first introduced to meditation when I began studying Buddhism. Before then I think I believed, and this is a common misconception, that meditation was a rather mystical practice that took over your body and mind somehow, that it was something to be feared almost and it was only really practiced by monks and mystics. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Meditation is merely the gateway to the soul, the vehicle to carry you deeper into your self and a practice that opens up a part of you that has always existed, but that you never realised was there; your true self and that which gives you the true meaning of your existence and interconnectedness to the universe and everyone and everything else in it.

Without meditation I would not be the happy and fulfilled person I am today. It has enabled me to discover more about myself, to realise my true potential on many levels but, most importantly, uncovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that which people seek and often feel they never find. It is the complete and perfect oneness; the knowledge that we are all one, part of the whole that is the universe and beyond, that which is nothing but that which is everything. Try to understand it and it is gone. The beauty of this realisation brings many things; inner peace, inner calm and tranquillity, profound clarity and a deep sense of belonging, of purpose and of true joy. That is the essence of life, the true meaning of life.

I think the reason so many people never find this or discover this is because they are looking for something external. They seek happiness and fulfilment through materialism, relationships, jobs, holidays, money and so on. They miss what is already there, already perfect just as it is, right in front of them, and only by letting go and completely surrendering to it do you become it. This is what the Buddha meant when he said by the absence of grasping one is set free.

I have not reached my full potential because that would mean there is a boundary to my potential. My potential is infinite and so I enjoy the flow of life and trust completely in the direction that takes. Sure, I make intentions and create what I would like to bring into my life but I also trust that everything that comes into it is somehow part of my journey, my life lessons, and so I am always learning from it. I am a student and I am a teacher. I am many things but foremost I am just me and I am also you, the universe and everything in it. My purpose is to help others achieve their own self realisation and start their own journey. The journey begins beyond the doorway that leads to your soul; your true self and meditation is the key to unlocking that door.

My daily meditation practice, which is usually for an hour each morning, is like recharging my whole system. It’s like returning home to the place where I came from. It’s allowing me to completely let go of the dualistic reality we live in and enter a world that you cannot see or touch but that through your heart you know is always there whenever you should wish to be there. It energises, cleanses and revitalises your mind and body from the inside out. It is like diving within yourself and becoming one that is simply non existence, nothingness, but yet that which is everything and everywhere. This is the real meaning of finding heaven on earth.

The immersion of self in the silence gives great power and energy, recharging the whole system on all levels; spiritual, emotional and physical. Let it be, without trying to understand it or analyse it or name it. It is simply as it is, and cannot be found, cannot be named and cannot be understood. It is everything and when you are in silence, immersed within yourself, you are there, you are everything and it is you.

Just be.

Shelley Costello is a freelance writer and author of Holiday Road and Champagne Friday. She has also published several articles with the international Yoga Magazine and is currently writing her third book.

Shelley has a diverse career history in management and marketing and has a passion for creating websites which is part of her freelance services. She is a qualified life coach, yoga and meditation teacher and has studied Buddhism, nutrition and many other areas of self development.

Shelley’s life path is to help others overcome challenge and change.

Visit words by Shelley Costello at http://www.shelleycostello.net

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