The "Right" Way to Meditate
Definition of meditation:
1 : to engage in contemplation or reflection-He meditated long and hard before announcing his decision. 2 : to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Does a person have to meditate in a traditional manner? Most of associate meditation with the lotus position, the most widely recognized pose in yoga. The lotus pose (also known as Padmasana) demands that one sits cross-legged, with each foot placed on the opposite thigh. One must remain in this demanding position with a ramrod, straight spine, hands resting on thighs, and palms facing down. Padmasana it is thought to be the ultimate pose for long periods of seated meditation, as it is both grounding and physically stabilizing. There is a surprising reason Lotus became such a prevalent pose; if one drifts off to sleep while meditating, he won’t fall over! Really, I’m not kidding.
If conventional poses were required for achieving mindfulness or spiritual enlightenment, I would be a lousy meditator. I’ve attempted to sit in the lotus position. I’ve tried really hard, but just can’t handle it. My back hurts. My knees hurt. I can’t sit still. My wrists get tired. My fingers go numb. My hips feel like they are being tugged out of their sockets. It’s impossible for me to achieve mental clarity and emotional calm while in a contorted, awkward position. After all, my body is not a pretzel. I get frustrated. All I can think about is how miserably uncomfortable I am.
Indeed, the Lotus pose is advanced and physically demanding. It puts tremendous demands on the joints, especially the hips. To achieve a full Lotus, both thighs must rotate externally in the hip sockets and flex to 90 degrees. It is designed for those with superb flexibility or perhaps gymnastic aspirations. Not people like me.
Thankfully, there isn’t a right or wrong way to meditate. What’s essential, however, is to find a meditative ‘style’ that fits one’s needs, personality, and physical comfort level. In fact, there are numerous and less physically taxing mediation techniques, which require different skills and mindsets. These include:
Mindfulness meditation-Allowing thoughts to pass through the mind without judgment. You simply observe them, and let them go. Mindfulness combines concentration with awareness.
Spiritual meditation-Similar to prayer. Reflecting on the silence around us, while seeking a connection to God, Source, or Universe.
Focused mediation-Involves either internal or external concentration. Internal focus may use any of the five senses, including breath. External focus may include counting mala beads, staring at a candle flame, or listening to meditative music.
Movement Meditation- An active, rather than passive form of mediation. This practice is especially appealing to nature lovers. Examples of movement mediation include walking, gardening, and gentle forms of motion, such as tai chi (The ancient Chinese practice of combining slow, deliberate, movements, meditation, and breathing exercises (often practiced outdoors).
Mantra meditation-A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid in concentration and clearing the mind. The most popular mantra is “OM.” OM is the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, and is generally considered to be the sound of the Universe. This technique is helpful for those who prefer verbal repetition to silence.
Transcendental meditation (TM) -Transcendental meditation is the most popular type of meditation around the world. TM. Like Mantra meditation, TM uses sound for focus, and allows the mind the freedom to follow its natural tendency towards happiness. Unlike Mantra meditation, TM is most frequently taught by a teacher, or Yogi. The Beatles brought worldwide attention to TM. After meeting the late Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during his 1967 lecture tour of England, the “Fab Four’ began its practice in earnest.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi recalls his first meeting with the Beatles:
“They came backstage after one of my lectures, and they said to me: ‘Even from an early age we have been seeking a highly spiritual existence. We tried drugs and that didn’t work.’ They are such practical and intelligent young boys that it took them only two days to find that Transcendental Meditation is the answer.”
I don’t practice any of the above techniques. Instead, I created my own method, which I term, “Feeling the Energy.” I flop on my bed, wearing loose, comfortable clothing. I close my eyes and ask energy to begin flowing throughout my body; restoring it, refreshing it, relaxing it. Soon, warm, gentle waves of energy begin pulsating. I lose awareness of everything, except feeling incredibly relaxed and utterly at peace. I feel connected to the Universe. Deep relaxation enables our energy to vibrate more highly and towards its true nature, which is spirit.
I have always been extremely attuned to energy. My energetic ‘sensitivity’ increased dramatically when I became a certified Reiki Master. Reiki is an ancient Japanese healing art. The word Reiki originated from the Japanese words (Rei) which means “Universal Life,” and (Ki) which means “Energy.” Reiki uses spiritually guided life force energy to heal our physical, emotional, spiritual, or astral bodies. It is believed that meditation is the number one way to allow the free-flow of our Chi life-force energy.
Thus, meditation may be practiced in numerous ways. It does not require endless sitting or standing in contorted, uncomfortable positions. It does not necessitate perfect technique, nor a mandatory time frame. Feel free to disregard the ancient Zen saying, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
Don’t feel obligated to ‘perform like a yogi.’ Instead, experiment with different techniques. As in everything else, it takes trial and error to find a good ‘fit’. Don’t be afraid to step out of your meditation ‘comfort zone.’ Get creative. We can sit like a pretzel or lay comfortably on our bed. The goal is not to be a ‘perfect’ meditator, but reduce stress, be in the moment, and perhaps, find spiritual enlightenment.