Meditation techniques can bring about a sense of calm


Last updated 1/17/2008 at Noon

Last week we gave a short overview of the science behind meditation and how it aids in lifting, bringing about a sense of calm and peace in the mind and lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

This week we’ll focus on a popular method to quiet the mind, calm the body and bring about positive change in one’s life. This seated meditation method can be applied to either religious or secular philosophies.

One of the blessings and curses of being human is the ability to foretell the future. At least we think we can foretell it, and we pepper this future with scenarios that would make a director of a disaster movie proud.

“What if?” are two of the scariest words in the English language. Meditation is a time to let the mind rest from all the “what ifs” that torment the brain and our blood pressure.

A common method of meditation is to sit in a comfortable position, place one’s hands in the lap, close the eyes and focus on one thing. The attention can be on a word or an object. This word is repeated silently with each exhalation of breath. Some meditation teachers advise counting each exhalation up to four and then beginning again.

Another person may prefer to give her awareness to a particular object, such as a flower or a stone. The point is to not let the “monkey mind” leap from thought to thought.

A Christian might use “maranatha” as a focus word, with each syllable taking up an entire breath. It would go like this: “mar” (inhale) – “a” (exhale) – “na” (inhale) – “tha” (exhale). The word means “Come Lord” and is found in the Bible.

A secular person might choose to use a word like “peace” or “silence,” letting the attention rest on only the breathing and the sound of the word.

Once you have found a comfortable sitting position, straighten your back and put your hands in your lap. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing for a few seconds. Pay attention to your heartbeat and the sound of each breath. When you feel centered, repeat your word with each exhalation.

If you are using an object to meditate, you can sit on the floor and place the object in front of you, or you can sit on a chair next to a table and place the object there.

If your attention wanders (and it will), gently bring it back to the breathing and your word. You will probably find that your thoughts wander constantly, and it can be frustrating and disconcerting to know that you’re not as in charge of your thoughts as you believed you were.

This is not the time to beat yourself up, however. You need only to turn your reflection away from the distraction back to the focus word or object.

In the beginning, only a few minutes of this is possible for most people. Many people fall asleep during meditation, and that is okay at first, but make sure that when you sit down to meditate you don’t really need a nap. Sleep and meditation are not the same thing!

A second method of settling the mind is guided meditation. This is when the meditator uses a source (usually a CD, or teacher, if you are in a class) to lead one’s thoughts. These meditations tend to be practical and used for medical or stress-related problems such as pain management, insomnia and social anxiety.

If you choose to use a CD for guided meditation, try before you buy. The speaker may have a voice or intonation that is anything but relaxing to you or there may be background music that turns you off. sells guided meditation downloads for less than a dollar, and you can preview the teacher. They run the gamut from meditations to help you sleep better to transforming anger to focusing on one’s heartbeat.


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