With respect and with the assumed consent from the few teachers I have come across, I will paraphrase their teachings.
What is meditation?
Meditation is many things to many people. To some it is a concept as alien as a holiday on Mars and conjures up visions of portly Indians levitating cross-legged in orange robes and sandals. Fair enough. Meditation may be like that but in the broader sense meditation is whatever it takes to allow an individual to recognize his part in the big scheme of things.
The Eastern philosophies believe that every molecule within our body is connected with all others, both within the self and the surrounding environment and universe by an, as yet, un-measurable energy. Attempting to achieve a connection with this energy source is what meditation is about.
Most of us achieve some contact either through prayer or formal meditative techniques, and all of us achieve a glimpse of meditation when we drift into sleep. At that time most of us, provided that we have not taken any extreme anxieties to bed, and even then, find that those moments before sleep are blissful.
A more orthodox view suggests that meditation is a technique that stimulates relaxing chemicals within the brain, which takes us to a happier place. In reality both the orthodox and alternative views are accurate and, actually, the same.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has probably done the most to bring meditation to the Western consciousness. His association with the superstars of the 1960s attracted much media space and time and made a distinct change in Western consciousness. However, the Maharishi simply spread to the West those techniques that had been formalized thousands of years ago but have probably been practised since our higher mental state developed. ‘Since’ might actually be unfair to primates, who, for all we know, meditate at a very high level.
There is no reason why anybody has to meditate. But then again there is no reason why anybody should exercise or eat correctly. It is simply how an individual’s consciousness may choose to exist. Healthily or unhealthily, that is the option. Meditation can be looked upon as the aerobics of the mind and whether one takes the orthodox approach to the production of calming chemicals or the Eastern philosophy of connecting with the ‘whole’, the benefit is better than not meditating at all.
How to meditate
Meditation may be a silent, passive event or found in prayer, chant or non-aerobic exercise. The body’s energy (Qi) or neurochemistry can be influenced by all and any technique. The important thing is to find the avenue that you feel most comfortable with.
Personally, I have had the privilege of befriending or being in the presence of some of the world’s greatest meditators. I have never felt comfortable in a passive, stationary meditative technique. I have found it easy enough to learn but difficult to continue at my current level of spiritual development. I think I need and hope to get to a point where passive meditation is accessible to me but for now the use of Qi Gong seems perfect. The breathing techniques, stretches and positions in association with the conscious practice of finding the time can lead me into a state of relaxation within 10-15 minutes.
Twenty minutes twice a day is an acceptable minimum in order to benefit from meditation, but 5 minutes a day is better than none. I suggest that a human being is geared towards 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work, 6 hours of play and 2 hours of meditation within a 24-hour cycle to balance the body’s energies. It is difficult to imagine contriving a lifestyle that allows this but I believe that we should all have this goal.
I considered describing a basic meditative technique that I have found benefits most people but somehow I felt that it would defeat the object of this short section by creating a finite technique. An individual may find that it is perfect but most may demand an alternative and be put off by attempting the wrong concept – a bit like trying to learn tennis, not enjoying it and therefore considering all racket sports an anathema. • Ask around and see if any of your friends or acquaintances practise an art of meditation. Very often those within your social circle may share your preferences.
Do not give up if one particular type of meditation does not suit. Try others. See if yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi or a martial art attract your attention rather than a more passive form.
If you find one that you enjoy but get bored, persevere and keep returning to the practice even if it is only for a few minutes, days or weeks apart. The body, mind and soul will appreciate even a few moments of meditation. Can you think of anything that you have achieved that you have not had to work at? Meditation is the same.