Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mind-Body Minute: Seated Meditation

You've probably heard someone somewhere talking up the benefits of meditation.  There's not really any escaping it; it's a buzzword.  Studies are showing things like increased brain plasticity, neurological regeneration, improved cognitive performance, and reversal of cardiovascular disease, just to name a few practical results of meditation.

Yoga and meditation are now common among athletes for improved performance.  Meditators of all walks of life attribute the ability to perform better in any situation, increased clarity, calmness, and reduced stress to meditation.

I would do all these folks one better and put it to you that, while yes, these are some very common meditation fringe benefits, these are only milestones on the path to every human's ultimate destiny.  This stuff is small potatoes compared to the real goal:  Enlightenment.

Imagine a state free of attachment and its doppelganger, aversion.  In such a state, desire has ceased to be.  One simply lives completely and fully in the moment, lovingly accepting every single fleeting thing that arises within awareness and then, when the time comes, letting it go; watching it dissolve again.  Without avoiding the things that we tend to dislike and clinging to the things that we tend to like, we are freed to see the beauty and perfection of each moment as it truly is.  We have Santosha, contentment.  We are freed from desire which, truly, frees us from suffering.

For most people, this last part is a little out there simply because most of us are VERY accustomed to having desires and it has never even occurred to us that there is an alternative.  This message is not for everybody but at least now it's occurred to you! 

Now that I've got all the airy-fairy stuff out of the way, lets get back down to Earth: Meditation is beautiful because whatever level of experience you are operating on, it sharpens latent skills and abilities that will enrich your experience as a human.  It nourishes body, mind, and spirit.

"So how do I do it?"

Being a Shaivite (a topic for another day), the method I will recommend is meditating on the initiatory mantra of my lineage, "Om Namah Shivaya" (pronounced: Ohm  Nah-MAH  SHEE-Vie-Yah).

Sitting or lying, with eyes closed and spine straight, recite the mantra internally.  Synchronize it with the breath.  If you are feeling dull, sluggish, tired, etc.:  Repeat the mantra on both the inbreath and outbreath.  If the mind is restless and making it difficult to focus on the mantra, repeat the mantra on the outbreath only.  

When you find that your attention has wandered to something other than the mantra, which it will almost certainly do, be kind to yourself.  Know that that is to be expected.  Simply acknowledge that attention has slipped and redirect it to the mantra.  Repeat as often as necessary.  If you have to redirect your attention 1,000 times in one sitting, that's OK.  This is a class where you get full credit simply for showing up and sitting for the duration.  Proficiency will come with practice.  This should be done for 15 minutes initially, up to 45 minutes and up to 2x/day.

"So what does it mean?"

The potency of the mantra has little to do with its explicit meaning.  The very vibratory quality of the mantra's syllables have an elevating effect on one's consciousness.  If the mantra is received from one who you are taking instruction from because they have already attained enlightenment themselves, the mantra can be considered even more energized; its effect more potent.

If you must know the literal meaning, the most accurate translation from the original Sanskrit is, "I salute consciousness, itself" or, "I bow to the Supreme consciousness in which all is contained; which exists in every thing".

There you have it, folks. everything you need to get started.  If you're interested in experiencing improved physical health, improved mental/psychological well-being, and/or the indescribably blissful transcendent state of true communion with your own spiritual essence, I would highly recommend giving it a shot.  Start right away, before you forget and give it a few weeks.  Then step back and re-evaluate how your life outside of meditation has been going since beginning to really gauge your success.  Happy OM'ing!

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