Self Esteem

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
Harvey Fierstein

History of Self-esteem:

As the quote from the great 18th century Scottish Enlightenment thinker, David Hume, shows the idea that it is important to value and think well of yourself has been around for a long time. However, the first pure psychological use of the term can be traced back to 1890 and the work of William James who is generally seen as the father of modern psychology. James had a very simple definition of self-esteem: success divided by pretension. According to James the more success we have and the lower our expectations or pretensions then the higher our self-esteem. To raise self-esteem, therefore, we have two options: lower our expectations of ourselves or increase our achievements.

William James (1842-1910) is perhaps one of the first scholars who dealt with this topic. The thing that intrigued him and from which his studies began was the fact that he noted the lack of a direct link between the objective qualities of a person and how this person felt satisfied with him/herself: some people are equipped with a presumptuous and unbreakable confidence, whilst others, who are equally as able to succeed in life and are valued by others, do not believe in their qualities and capabilities. From this, James deduced that being happy or not about oneself does not depend on the results and successes of life as such, rather on the criteria one uses to judge these results and successes, that is, on the demands one has about one’s way of being and doing things. By following this logic, we can see that demands which are too high and which are regardless of successes, can inhibit good self-esteem.

From the late 1960s on self-esteem became a fashionable and influential idea. One of the first exponents was a young psychology professor called Stanley Coopersmith from California. A more influential figure was Nathaniel Branden. Branden was a psychtherapist and devotee of the philosopher Ayn Rand. He has written countless books on self-esteem and is considered the intellectual father of the self-esteem movement.

How Self-Esteem play Role in our life?

Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. (It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism.) Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories. Here are our best insights on how to strike a balance between accurate self-knowledge and respect for who you are.

The Key to Peak Performance

The flip side of self-esteem is called “self-efficacy.” This is defined as how effective you feel you are at doing or accomplishing a task or job. When you feel that you are really good at something, you experience positive feelings of self-efficacy.

One of the greatest discoveries in psychology was the discovery of the connection between self-esteem and self-efficacy. Now we know that the more you like yourself, the better you do at almost anything you attempt. And the better you do at something, the more you like yourself.

Each feeds on and reinforces the other. This finding is what makes time management so important for every part of your life. The better you use your time, the more you get done and the higher is your sense of self-efficacy. As a result, you like yourself more, do even higher quality work, and get even more done. Your whole life improves.

Three Self-Esteem Builders

There are three additional factors that affect your self-esteem that have to do with time management.

1. Determine Your Values

Living your life consistent with your deepest values is essential for you to enjoy high self-esteem. People who are clear about what they believe in and value, and who refuse to compromise their values like and respect themselves far more than people who are unclear about what is really important to them.

This immediately brings up the question, “How much do you value your life?” People who truly value their lives are people who highly value themselves. People who value themselves highly use their time well. They know that their time is their life.

The “Law of Reversibility,” says that feelings and actions interact on each other. If you feel a certain way, you will act in a manner consistent you’re your feeling. However, the reverse is also true.

The very act of living your life consistent with your values, and using your time effectively and well, improves your self-image, builds your self-esteem and self-confidence, and increases your self-respect.

2. Strive for Mastery

The second factor that affects your self-esteem is your sense of being in control of your life and work, your feeling of mastery in whatever you do.

Everything that you learn about time management, and then apply in your work, causes you to feel more in control of yourself and your life. As a result, you feel more effective and efficient. You feel more productive and powerful. Every increase in your feeling of effectiveness and productivity increases your self-esteem and improves your sense of Personal Well Being. 

3. Know What You Want

The third factor that directly affects your self-esteem is your current goals and objectives, and the activities that you take to achieve those goals. The more your goals and your activities are congruent with your values, the better you feel. When you are working at something that you believe in, and which is consistent with your natural talents and abilities,  you like yourself more, and you do your work better.

2 Major Self-esteem 

1) Low Self Esteem Not To Blame for being bad!

Firstly people with genuinely low self-esteem, a poor self image and low confidence, have been insensitively lumped together with bullies, narcissists, criminals and child abusers. No, really!

Popular assumption was that people did bad things to other people because they, themselves have low self esteem. But if you have ever asked yourself: “Do I have low self esteem?”, fear not. All the evidence points to the conclusion that low self esteem is a distinct condition, so if you do have self esteem you don’t have to feel that you are in the same group as bullies or abusers.

Research has found that people with genuine low self esteem tend to treat themselves badly not other people. Stopping people being bullies by trying to lift their self esteem may be like trying to get an obese person to lose weight by feeding them lots more cake.

In the 1980s there was a movement to raise self esteem in schools in the belief that this would stop bullies bullying and prevent future crime in society. But peer reviewed research has shown schools trying to raise self esteem don’t prevent bullies bullying (because low self esteem wasn’t causing them to bully).

Artificially and ineffectively focusing on lifting self esteem doesn’t raise academic performance either.  As you’ll see, the 4 methods schools attempted to raise self esteem may have even damaged the sense of self worth in those suffering genuine low self esteem.

Low self esteem is not to blame for nearly as many problems as has traditionally been thought. It was also assumed that self esteem could never be too high.

2) Too high Self Esteem Linked to Criminality

It is now clear that too high self esteem or ‘High Self Esteem Disorder’ is often more of a problem. (This is NOT merely a ‘disguised’ form of low self-esteem, as commonly thought). So, if you are the victim of a bully then you can rest assured you don’t have to feel sorry for them.

Hundreds of pieces of reliable research now show that bullies and many criminals are much more likely to suffer from unrealistically high self esteem and impulse control problems than low self esteem. An exaggerated sense of entitlement – expecting much from many situations – is more likely to lead to frustration and aggressive, antisocial, or even criminal behaviour. If self esteem can be too low it can also be too high. It was a crazy and unwarranted assumption that all human behaviour could be explained away by low self esteem.

Build on Solid Foundations

For anyone to be psychologically and physically healthy then core needs have to be fulfilled. Being clear about what you need and making efforts to meet those needs constructively means you’ll naturally have better self esteem as a by-product of living well.

This is useful list of basic human needs:

  1. The need to give and receive attention
  2. The need to look after your body.
  3. The need for meaning, purpose and goals.
  4. The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves
  5. The need for creativity and stimulation
  6. The need for intimacy and connection to others.
  7. The need for a sense of control
  8. The need for a sense of status and recognition from others.
  9. The need for a sense of safety and security.

** Read my next Write up on Women’s Self-esteem Psychology

 

7 Tips of on how to Prepare Yourself for Greater Experience of Meditation.

When it’s time for your sitting session, you can simply sit down and start. That’s what I was doing in the first few years of my practice. Or you can take a couple of minutes to center and “prepare” yourself – and your meditation session will be more pleasant and quiet.

I took me a long time to learn these hacks, and I wish I had known them before. That’s why I decided to write about them, so you can shortcut your learning curve, and experience deep meditation sessions more often.

The first three hacks are part of the preparation process and can take from two 20 minutes – it’s entirely up to you. You don’t need to go through all these elements, but I found that each of them is helpful.

The fourth and fifth hack are attitudes that you can develop during practice that will aid your concentration. And the last two ones is about what you do after your practice.

At the bottom of this page you will find a button to download the free PDFwith these 7 hacks.

BEFORE

(1) Calm Your Body And Breath

Our mind, body and breath are interconnected. So relaxing the body and calming the breath will naturally calm the mind as well. The parasympathetic nervous system gets activated, and as a result the stress response will be down-regulated. That is why, in the system of Yoga practice, one works with postures (asanas) and breathing regulation (pranayama).

Short version

Once you sit on your cushion/chair, take three to five full breaths – breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Make them aslong, even, and deep as possible.

  • Breathing in, center yourself in the present moment
  • Breathing out, consciously relax all the muscles in your body, letting go of all tension

Pay special attention to relaxing the jaw, throat, tongue, and forehead.

Long version: 

Take 5-10 minutes to do the following 9 Yoga Asanas, so you can relax and lighten up the body.

Then, for five minutes, do the following breathing exercise:

  • Breathe in for 4 seconds, through the nose
  • Breathe out for 8 seconds, through the nose

 

Instead of 4-8 seconds, you can go for 3-6, or 5-10, 6-12, etc. The important thing is that we are aiming for the exhalation to be longer than the inhalation (ideally double). That may be hard in the beginning, so you grow into it as you go.

Breathing should be soft, even, and as soundless as possible. Do not force yourself – it should be comfortable. So adjust your count according to your capacity.

 

(2) Gladden The Mind

Our brain is deeply wired to avoid pain, and seek pleasure. So if you can generate some stable feelings of safety and contentment, right before your meditation, you are sending a message to your brain that all is well, and it need not be restless.

When our mind is joyful and content, it is naturally more quiet, introverted, and together. So after relaxing your body and mind, I advise you to gladden the mind by doing one of these:

  • Remember something that you are grateful for
  • Remember the joy of meditation (if you have already experienced that)
  • Tell yourself that all is safe and well in this moment
  • Feel good that you are taking time to heal, grow, and master your mind
  • If you believe in God, doing a short prayer before meditation can help set a mood of attention, sacredness and centeredness1

Also, if you have practiced loving-kindness meditation before, you know you have the capacity to kindle feelings of love and compassion in your heart, and that doing that brings in joy. So you can remember these feelings, or generate them inside yourself, for a couple of minutes before meditation.

To explore more this fact, I recommend listening to episode 149 of Buddhist Geeks, on “neurodharma”.

Also, for increasing the feeling of safety, allocate a safe and quiet place for your meditation and remove anything that may interrupt your practice such as your mobile, pets, etc. Inform those that may need your attention to be respectful of the space and the time you are allocating for your practice and not to create any abrupt noise or move in and out of the room. If you cannot find such a place, alternatively you can use earplugs or headphones to cover your ears.

(3) Affirm Your Intention

Taking a few moments to just focus your intention before practice can do wonders for your meditation.

You can do this by saying to yourself, with intention and presence, something like this:

For the next X minutes I will only focus on my meditation. There is nothing else for me to do and nothing else for me to think about during this time. Mind, please don’t disturb me. I will start concentrating now.

Determination and will power are very important. As Swami Rama says, “I can do it. I will do it. I am going to do it.” This is an essential key to deepen your Meditation.

If you feel you don’t have good determination or will power, don’t worry. By practicing setting up your intention in this way, you slowly start developing these muscles.

DURING

(4) Don’t Suffer The Distractions

During your meditation practice, it is important never to criticize yourself, or feel bad about getting distracted with thoughts. These types of thoughts are harmful and not in line with the spirit of good meditation.

Learn to be gentle with yourself during your practice. For decades you have trained your mind to be distracted; so it will take some time to train it to be focused. Be patient and kind with yourself.

(5) Delight in Concentration

There will be moments when your mind is more focused on the meditation object. When this happens, it’s important to delight in it. Enjoy how quiet, stable and unified the mind gets.

Mind’s most fundamental habit is to seek pleasure/well-being and shun pain/suffering. By teaching the mind to appreciate the joy of concentration, it starts working more towards increasing that, by facilitating more focus.

According to the Buddha, joy (piti) and happiness (sukha) are two of the five factors of meditative absorption (jhanna). The more you learn to open up and enjoy your meditation, the less reasons there are for the mind to get restless thinking of other things.

This practice is very useful when your concentration is still wavering. Once concentration gets solid and stable, however, there is no need to disturb the mind with these thoughts and intentions – just stay there.

AFTER

(6) Gentle Transition

When the bell rings, get out of your meditation gently, not hurriedly. Keep the mind in the same state, gently move your fingers and neck, and then open your eyes. This transition helps you bring more of the “meditation feeling” into your daily life.

(7) Keep a Journal

I highly encourage you to then take some notes about how your practice went. This helps you solidify the meditation habit. It also develops a greater understanding of the workings of the mind, and the mechanics of meditation.

A simple entry could answer these three questions:

  • How long did I sit?
  • How do I feel now?
  • How was my mind during meditation?

For the third question, you can note things like how many times you got distracted, what types of thoughts or feelings were you experiencing, and for how long you could keep focused.

CONCLUSION

Before meditation: relax the body, calm the breath, gladden the mind, focus the intention.

CLICK TO TWEET

By integrating these 7 elements in your routine, your meditation can be deeper, more enjoyable and more transformative. Here’s a summary:

  • Before meditation
    • Relax your body and breath, to calm down and center yourself;
    • Gladden the mind with gratitude or other positive feelings;
    • Have strong intention in your mind
  • During meditation
    • Don’t feel bad about getting distracted
    • Find delight in the moments of concentration
  • After meditation
    • Move out of meditation gently
    • Take notes in your journal

In my beginners/intermediate meditation course I integrate these seven tips and other valuable principles.

I would love to hear how these hacks affect your practice and daily life. Please leave a comment sharing your experience.

How many types of Meditation Techniques are there & How to Practice them?

There are 23 Types of Meditation                                                               Alone Qigong exercises cataloged, involving over 80 different types of breathing

 

This article will help you navigate the sea of different practices of seated meditation, briefly explaining each of them, and pointing to further resources. There are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of types of meditation, so here I will explore only the most popular ones.

The advice regarding the posture of meditation is very similar among the different styles of seated practice, so I will go in to more detail about it only once, when talking about the first technique (Zen meditation).

I have strived to include a “Is it for me?” section, with general observations about each practice. Keep in mind these are tentative; they are there to give some direction, and potentially any person could feel attracted to any of these modalities.

This article does NOT tell you which is “the best” type of meditation – because there is no such thing, and I’m not here to create controversy. Also, I have here focused more on meditative practices; I may write another article on other similar practices, that are more about relaxation or contemplation.

If you are a beginner, you may also enjoy the post on meditation tips andmeditation for beginners – how to build the habit.

 The best meditation is the one which suits yourmind and body

GENERAL TYPES

 

Scientists usually classify meditation based on the way they focus attention, into two categories: Focused Attention and Open Monitoring. I’d like to propose a third: Effortless Presence.
 

1.Focused attention meditation

Focusing the attention on a single object during the whole meditation session. This object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object, etc. As the practitioner advances, his ability to keep the flow of attention in the chosen object gets stronger, and distractions become less common and short-lived. Both the depth and steadiness of his attention are developed.

Examples of these are: Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others.
 

2. Open monitoring meditation

Instead of focusing the attention on any one object, we keep it open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgment or attachment. All perceptions, be them internal (thoughts, feelings, memory, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.), are recognized and seen for what they are. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without going into them. Examples are: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist Meditation.

 

3. Effortless Presence

It’s the state where the attention is not focused on anything in particular, but reposes on itself – quiet, empty, steady, and introverted. We can also call it “Choiceless Awareness” or “Pure Being”. Most of the meditation quotes you find speak of this state.

This is actually the true purpose behind all kinds of meditation, and not a meditation type in itself. All traditional techniques of meditation recognize that the object of focus, and even the process of monitoring, is just ameans to train the mind, so that effortless inner silence and deeper states of consciousness can be discovered. Eventually both the object of focus and the process itself is left behind, and there is only left the true self of the practitioner, as “pure presence”.

In some techniques, this is the only focus, from the beginning. Examples are: the Self-Enquiry (“I am” meditation) of Ramana Maharishi; Dzogchen; Mahamudra; some forms of Taoist Meditation; and some advanced forms of Raja Yoga. In my point of view, this type of meditation always requires previous training to be effective, even though this is  sometimes not expressly said (only implied).

 

 

1) BUDDHIST MEDITATION

 

 

Zen Meditation (Zazen)

 

Origin & Meaning

Zazen (坐禅) means “seated Zen”, or “seated meditation”, in Japanese. It has its roots in the Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an) tradition, tracing back to Indian monk Bodhidharma (6th century CE). In the West, its most popular forms comes from Dogen Zenji (1200~1253), the founder of Soto Zen movement in Japan. Similar modalities are practiced in the Rinzai school of Zen, in Japan and Korea.

 

How to do it

It is generally practiced seated on the floor over a mat and cushion, with crossed legs. Traditionally it was done in lotus or half-lotus position, but this is hardly necessary. Nowadays most practitioners sit like this:

Types of meditation - Zazen posture

Or on a chair:

Types of meditation - zazen chair
Images courtesy of Zen Mountain Monastery

The most important aspect, as you see in the pictures, is keeping the back completely straight, from the pelvis to the neck. Mouth is kept close and eyes are kept lowered, with your gaze resting on the ground about two or three feet in front of you.

As to the mind aspect of it, it’s usually practiced in two ways:

  • Focusing on breath — focus all your attention on the movement of the breath going in and out through the nose. This may be aided by counting the breath in your mind. Each time you inhale you count one number, starting with 10, and then moving backward to 9, 8, 7, etc. When you arrive in 1, you resume from 10 again. If you get distracted and lose your count, gently bring back the attention to 10 and resume from there.
  • Shikantaza (“just sitting”) — in this form the practitioner does not use any specific object of meditation; rather, practitioners remain as much as possible in the present moment, aware of and observing what passes through their minds and around them, without dwelling on anything in particular. It’s a type of Effortless Presence meditation

Learn more:

  • Zen Mountain Monastery
  • Visit a Zen Buddhist center near to you. Most of them teach zazen for free.

 

Is it for me?

Zazen is a very sober meditation style, and you can easily find a lot of strong communities practicing it, as well as plenty of information on the internet. There is a lot of emphasis in keeping the right posture, as an aid for concentration. It is usually practiced in Zen Buddhist centers (Sangha), with strong community support.

In many of them you will find it coupled with other elements of Buddhist practice: prostrations, a bit of ritualism, chanting, and group readings of the Buddha teachings. Some people will like this, others won’t. Personally, I practiced zazen in a Buddhist group for 3 years, and I found that those elements and a bit of formality can also help create a structure for the practice, and in themselves they are also meditative.

 

 

Vipassana Meditation

 

Origin & Meaning

 

“Vipassana” is a Pali word thaTypes of meditation - Vipassanat means “insight” or “clear seeing”. It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. Vipassana-meditation, as taught in the last few decades, comes from the Theravada Buddhist tradition, and was popularized by  S. N. Goenka and theVipassana movement.

Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation, the “mindfulness of breathing” has gained further popularity in the West as “mindfulness”.

 

How to do it

[There is some conflicting information on how to practice Vipassana. In general, however, most teachers emphasize  starting with mindfulness of breath in the first stages, to stabilize the mind and achieve “access concentration.” This is more like focused attention meditation. Then the practice moves on to developing “clear insight” on the bodily sensations and mental phenomena, observing them moment by moment and not clinging to any. Here goes an introduction, aimed for beginners. To know more I’d suggest following up the links provided or learning from a teacher (perhaps in a Vipassana retreat).]Ideally, one is to sit on a cushion on the floor, cross-legged, with your spine erect; alternatively, a chair may be used, but the back should not be supported.

The first aspect is to develop concentration, through samatha practice. This is typically done through breathing awareness.

Focus all your attention, from moment to moment, on the movement of your breath. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Alternatively, one can focus on the sensation of the air passing through the nostrils and touching the upper lips skin – though this requires a bit more practice, and is more advanced.

As you focus on the breath, you will notice that other perceptions and sensations continue to appear: sounds, feelings in the body, emotions, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in the field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing. The attention is kept in the object of concentration (the breathing), while these other thoughts or sensations are there simply as “background noise”.

The object that is the focus of the practice (for instance, the movement of the abdomen) is called the “primary object”. And a “secondary object” is anything else that arises in your field of perception – either through your five senses (sound, smell, itchiness in the body, etc.) or through the mind (thought, memory, feeling, etc.). If a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes desire or aversion to appear, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labeling it with a mental note, like “thinking”,  “memory”, “hearing”, “desiring”. This practice is often called “noting”.

A mental note identifies an object in general but not in detail. When you’re aware of a sound, for example, label it “hearing” instead of “motorcycle,” “voices” or “barking dog.” If an unpleasant sensation arises, note “pain” or “feeling” instead of “knee pain” or “my back pain.” Then return your attention to the primary meditation object. When aware of a fragrance, say the mental note “smelling” for a moment or two. You don’t have to identify the scent.

When one has thus gained “access concentration”, the attention is then turned to the object of practice, which is normally thought or bodily sensations. One observes the objects of awareness without attachment, letting thoughts and sensations arise and pass away of their own accord. Mental labeling (explained above) is often use as a way to prevent you from being carried away by thoughts, and keep you in more objectively noticing them.

As a result one develops the clear seeing that the observed phenomena is pervaded by the three “marks of existence”: impermanence (annica), insatisfactoriness (dukkha) and emptiness of self (annata). As a result, equanimity, peace and inner freedom is developed in relation to these inputs.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

Vipassana is an excellent meditation to help you ground yourself in your body, and understand how the processes of your mind work. It is a very popular style of meditation. You can find plenty of teachers, websites, and books about it, as well as 3~10 days retreats (donation based). The teaching of it is always free. There are no formalities or rituals attached to the practice.

If you are completely new to meditation, Vipassana or Mindfulness are probably good ways for you to start.

 

Mindfulness Meditation

 

Origin & Meaning

Mindfulness Meditation is an adaptation from traditional Buddhist meditation practices, especially Vipassana, but also having strong influence from other lineages (such as the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism from Thich Nhat Hanh). “Mindfulness” is the common western translation for the Buddhist term sati. Anapanasati, “mindfulness of breathing”, is part of the Buddhist practice of Vipassana or insight meditation, and other Buddhist meditational practices, such as zazen (source: Wikipedia).

One of the main influencers for Mindfulness in the West is John Kabat-Zinn. His Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) – which he developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – has been used in several hospitals and health clinic on the past decades.

 

How to do it

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise.

For the “formal practice” time, sit on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair, with straight and unsupported back. Pay close attention to the movement of your breath. When you breath in, be aware that you are breathing in, and how it feels. When you breath out, be aware you are breathing out. Do like this for the length of your meditation practice, constantly redirecting the attention to the breath. Or you can move on to be paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and feelings that arise.

The effort is to not intentionally add anything to our present moment experience, but to be aware of what is going on, without losing ourselves in anything that arises.

Your mind will get distracted into going along with sounds, sensations, and thoughts. Whenever that happens, gently recognize that you have been distracted, and bring the attention back to the breathing, or to the objective noticing of that thought or sensation. There is a big different between being inside the thought/sensation, and simply being aware of it’s presence.

Learn to enjoy your practice. Once you are done, appreciate how different the body and mind feel.

There is also the practice of mindfulness during our daily activities: while eating, walking, and talking. For “daily life” meditation, the practice is to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, to be aware of what is happening – and not living in “automatic mode”. If you are speaking, that means paying attention to the words you speak, how you speak them, and to listen with presence and attention. If you are walking, that means being more aware of your body movements, your feet touching the ground, the sounds you are hearing, etc.

Your effort in seated practice supports your daily life practice, and vice-versa. They are both equally important.
 

Is it for me?

For the general public, this is perhaps the most advisable way to get started with meditation. It is the type of meditation that is most taught at schools and hospitals, as far as I am aware. The “mindfulness movement” as practiced nowadays in society at large, is not Buddhism, but an adaptation of Buddhist practices due to their benefits in good physical and mental health and general wellbeing.

For most people, Mindfulness Meditation may be the only type of meditation they will like, especially if their focus is only the physical and mental benefits of meditation, as it is usually taught dissociated from several of the eastern concepts and philosophies that traditionally accompanied the practice. And for that it is great – it will bring many good things to your life.

If your focus is a deeper transformation and spiritual development, however, then mindfulness meditation may be just an initial step for you. From here you can then move into Vipassana, Zazen, or other types of meditation.

 

 

Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

 

Origin & Meaning

loving kindness meditationMetta is a Pali word that means kindness, benevolence, and good will. This practice comes from the Buddhist traditions, especially the Theravada and Tibetan lineages. “Compassion meditation” is a contemporary scientific field that demonstrates the efficacy of metta and related meditative practices.

Demonstrated benefits include: boosting one’s ability to empathize with others; development of positive emotions through compassion, including a more loving attitude towards oneself; increased self-acceptance; greater feeling of competence about one’s life; and increased feeling of purpose in life (read more in our other post).

 

How to do it

One sits down in a meditation position, with closed eyes, and generates in his mind and heart feelings of kindness and benevolence. Start by developing loving-kindness towards yourself, then progressively towards others and all beings. Usually this progression is advised:

  1. oneself
  2. a good friend
  3. a “neutral” person
  4. a difficult person
  5. all four of the above equally
  6. and then gradually the entire universe

The feeling to be developed is that of wishing happiness and well-being for all. This practice may be aided by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke the “boundless warm-hearted feeling”, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love; or by imagining the state of another being, and wishing him happiness and peace.

The more you practice this meditation, the more joy you will experience. That is the secret of Mathieu Richard’s happiness.

For one who attends properly to the liberation of the heart by benevolence, unarisen ill will does not arise and arisen ill will is abandoned.” – The Buddha5

In this article, Emma Seppälä, Ph.D explores the 18 scientifically proven benefits of Loving-Kindness meditation.

Learn more:

Is it for me?

Are you sometimes too hard on yourself or on others? Or feel like you need to improve your relationships? Loving-kindness meditation will help you. It is beneficial both for selfless and self-centered people, and it will help increase your general level of happiness. You cannot feel loving-kindness and depression (or any other negative feeling) at the same time.

It is also often recommended, by Buddhist teachers, as an antidote to insomnia, nightmares, or anger issues.

 

 

2) HINDU MEDITATION (Vedic & Yogic)

 

 

Mantra Meditation (OM Meditation)

 

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - mantra meditation beadsA mantra is a syllable or word, usually without any particular meaning, that is repeated for the purpose of focusing your mind. It is not an affirmation used to convince yourself of something.

Some meditation teachers insist that both the choice of word, and its correct pronunciation, is very important, due to the “vibration” associated to the sound and meaning, and that for this reason an initiation into it is essential. Others say that the mantra itself is only a tool to focus the mind, and the chosen word is completely irrelevant.

Mantras are used in Hindu traditions, Buddhist traditions (especially Tibetan and “Pure Land” Buddhism), as well as in Jainism, Sikhism and Daoism (Taoism). Some people call mantra meditation “om meditation”, but that is just one of the mantras that can be used. A more devotion oriented practice of mantras is called japa, and consists of repeating sacred sounds (name of God) with love.

 

How to do it

As most type of meditations, it is usually practiced sitting with spine erect, and eyes closed. The practitioner then repeats the mantra in his mind, silently, over and over again during the whole session.

Sometimes this practice is coupled with being aware of the breathing or coordinating with it. In other exercises, the mantra is actually whispered very lightly and softly, as an aid to concentration.

As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.
Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe. (Deepak Chopra)

Here are some of the most well-known mantras from the Hindu & Buddhist traditions:

  • om
  • so-ham
  • om namah shivaya
  • om mani padme hum
  • rama
  • yam
  • ham

You may practice for a certain period of time, or for a set number of “repetitions” – traditionally 108 or 1008. In the latter case, beads are typically used for keeping count.

As the practice deepens, you may find that the mantra continues “by itself” like the humming of the mind. Or the mantra may even disappear, and you are left in a state of deep inner peace.
 
Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

People usually find that it is easier to focus with a mantra than with the breathing. Because a mantra is a word, and thoughts are usually perceived as words, it can be easier to keep the focus on a mantra rather than on the breathing. It is useful especially when the mind is racing with many thoughts, since it mantra meditation demands constant attention.

Meditating with a mantra can also make it simpler to  integrate your meditative state into your daily life. In whatever activity you find yourself into, it can be as simple as repeating the mantra in your mind.
  
 

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

 

Origin & Meaning

Transcendental Meditation is a specific form of Mantra Meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1955 in India and the West. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to the Beatles, The Beach Boys and other celebrities.

It is a widely practiced form of meditation, with over 5 million practitioners worldwide, and there is a lot of scientific research, many sponsored by the organization, demonstrating the benefits of the practice. There are over 600 scientific papers, many of them peer-reviewed, and I have used part of their research when composing my benefits of meditation page. However, there are also critics of the Maharishi and his organization, and some accusation of cultish behavior and doubtful research practices.

Transcendental Meditation and The Beatles
[Image from NurseTalkSite.com]

 

How to do it

Transcendental meditation is not taught freely. The only way of learning it is to pay to learn from one of their licensed instructors. The support given seems to be good, though.

In general, however, it is known that TM involves the use of a mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day while sitting with one’s eyes closed. The mantra is not unique, and is given to the practitioner based on his gender and age. They are also not “meaningless sounds” – rather, they are Tantric names of Hindu deities. This probably is irrelevant for most people.

This is the official site of the movement: TM site.

There is another similar technique, called Natural Stress Relief, which was created in 2003 by a former TM Teacher, and is much cheaper to learn (47 USD instead of 960 USD), and has stripped out some mystical elements of the practice of TM, such as the initiation (puja) and yogic flying (part of TM-Siddhi).

Is it for me?

Personally I don’t feel comfortable advising anyone to try Transcendental Meditation anymore, especially if you are looking to go deep into meditation.

If you wish to try something similar, for a fraction of the cost or for free, have a look at NSR (above), or Mantra Meditation.
 
 

Yoga Meditations

 

Origin & Meaning

OM yogic meditationsThere is not one type of meditation which is “Yogic Meditation”, so here it is meant the several meditation types taught in the yoga tradition. Yoga means “union”. Tradition goes as far as 1700 B.C, and has as its highest goal spiritual purification and Self-Knowledge. Classical Yoga divides the practice into rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and contemplative practices of meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi).

 

How to do it

Here are some types of meditation practiced in Yoga. The most common and universal one is the “third eye meditation”.

  • Third Eye Meditation — focusing the attention on the “spot between the eyebrows” (called by some “the third eye” or “ajna chakra”). The attention is constantly redirected to this point, as a means to silence the mind. By time the “silent gaps” between thoughts get wider and deeper. Sometimes this is accompanied by physically “looking”, with eyes closed, towards that spot.
  • Chakra Meditation — the practitioner focuses on one of the seven chakras of the body (“centers of energy”), typically doing some visualizations and chanting a specific mantra for each chakra (lam,vam, ram, yam, ham, om). Most commonly it is done on the heart chackra, third eye, and crown chackra.
  • Gazing Meditation (Trataka) — fixing the gaze on an external object, typically a candle, image or a symbol (yantras). It is done with eyes open, and then with eyes closed, to train both the concentration and visualization powers of the mind. After closing the eyes, you should still keep the image of the object in your “mind’s eye”.
  • Kundalini Meditation — this is a very complex system of practice. The goal is the awakening of the “kundalini energy” which lies dormant on the base of the spine, the development of several psychic centers in the body, and, finally, enlightenment. There are several dangers associated with this practice, and it should not be attempted without the guidance of a qualified yogi.
  • Kriya Yoga — is a set of energization, breathing, and meditation exercises taught by Paramahamsa Yogananda. This is more suited for those who have a devotional temperament, and are seeking the spiritual aspects of meditation. To learn it, you can apply to receive the Self-Realization lessons, free of charge.
  • Sound Meditation (Nada Yoga) — focusing on sound. Starts with meditation on “external sounds”, such as calming ambient music (like Native American flute music), whereby the student focuses all his attention on just hearing, as a help to quieten and collect the mind. By time the practice evolves to hearing the “internal sounds” of the body and mind. The ultimate goal is to hear the “Ultimate Sound” (para nada), which is a sound without vibration, and that manifests as “OM”.
  • Tantra — unlike the popular view in the West, most Tantra practices have nothing to do with ritualized sex (this was practiced by a minority of lineages. Tantra is a very rich tradition, with dozens of different contemplative practices. The text Vijnanabhairava Tantra, for instance, lists 108 “meditations”, most of them more advanced (already requiring a certain degree of stillness and mind control). Here are some examples from that text:
    • Merge the mind and the senses in the interior space in the spiritual heart.
    • When one object is perceived, all other objects become empty. Concentrate on that emptiness.
    • Concentrate on the space which occurs between two thoughts.
    • Fix attention on the inside of the skull. Close eyes.
    • Meditate on the occasion of any great delight.
    • Meditate on the feeling of pain.
    • Dwell on the reality which exists between pain and pleasure.
    • Meditate on the void in one’s body extending in all directions simultaneously.
    • Concentrate on a bottomless well or as standing in a very high place.
    • Listen to the Anahata [heart chakra] sound.
    • Listen to the sound of a musical instrument as it dies away.
    • Contemplate on the universe or one’s own body as being filled with bliss.
    • Concentrate intensely on the idea that the universe is completely void.
    • Contemplate that the same consciousness exists in all bodies.
  • Pranayama — breathing regulation.1 It is not exactly meditation, but an excellent practice to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation. There are several different types of Pranayama, but the simplest and most commonly taught one is the 4-4-4-4. This means breathing in counting up to 4, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and holding empty for 4 seconds. Breathe through your nose, and let the abdomen (and not the chest) be the one that moves. Go through a few cycles like this. This regulation of breathing balances the moods and pacifies the body, and can be done anywhere.

Yoga is a very rich tradition, with different lineages, so there are many other techniques. But the ones above are the most well-known; the others are more specific or complex.

 

Is it for me?

With all these types of meditation in Yoga, you are likely to find one that you like. If you are a musician, perhaps nada yoga is something that will attract you. If you are a devotional person, kriya yoga is a good option. Kundalini and Chakra meditation should only be attempted with a teacher.

Probably the simplest one to try is the “third eye meditation”, which is simple and yields results fairly quickly. For the other types you would probably need more instruction, either of a teacher or a good book (see references above). Besides, Pranayama is definitely something anyone can benefit from.

 

Self-Enquiry and “I Am” Meditation

 

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - self-enquiry of Ramana MaharshiSelf-Enquiry is the English translation for the Sanskrit term atma vichara. It means to “investigate” our true nature, to find the answer to the “Who am I?” question, which culminates with the intimate knowledge of our true Self, our true being. We see references to this meditation in very old Indian texts; however, it was greatly popularized and expanded upon by the 20th-century Indian sage Ramana Maharshi (1879~1950).

The modern non-duality movement (or neo-advaita), which is greatly inspired in his teachings – as well as those of Nisargadatta Maharaj(1897~1981) and Papaji – strongly uses this technique and variations. Many contemporary teachers to employ this technique, the most famous ones being Mooji  (whom I’ve personally been with and recommend),Adyashanti, and Eckhart Tolle.

 

How to do it

This practice is very simple, but also very subtle. When explaining it, however, it may sound very abstract.

Your sense of “I” (or “ego”) is the center of your universe. It is there, in some form or another, behind all your thoughts, emotions, memories, and perceptions. Yet we are not clear about what this “I” is – about who we truly are, in essence – and confuse it with our body, our mind, our roles, our labels. It’s the biggest mystery in our lives.

With Self-Enquiry, the question “Who I am?” is asked within yourself. You must reject any verbal answers that may come, and use this question simply as a tool to fix your attention in the subjective feeling of “I” or “I am”. Become one with it, go deep into it. This will then reveal your true “I”, your real self as pure consciousness, beyond all limitation. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but a question to bring the attention to the core element of your perception and experience: the “I”. This is not your personality, but a pure, subjective, feeling of existing – without any images or concepts attached to it.
Whenever thoughts/feelings arise, you ask yourself, “To whom does this arise?” or “Who is aware of _____ (anger, fear, pain, or whatever)?” The answer will be “It’s me!”. From then you ask “Who am I?”, to bring the attention back to the subjective feeling of self, of presence. It is pure existence, objectless and choice-less awareness.

Another way of explaining this practice is to just focus the mind on your feeling of being, the non-verbal “I am” that shines inside of you. Keep it pure, without association with anything you perceive.

On all other types of meditation, the “I” (yourself) is focusing on some object, internal or external, physical or mental. In self-enquiry, the “I” is focusing on itself, the subject. It is the attention turned towards its source.
There is no special position to practice, although the general suggestions about posture and environment are helpful for beginners.

 

Is it for me?

This meditation is very powerful in bringing inner freedom and peace; yet, if you don’t have previous experience with meditation, you may find it very hard to follow through. As an initial aid to give you a feeling for it, I would advise following some guided meditations from Mooji, in YouTube.

 

3) CHINESE MEDITATION

 

Taoist Meditations

 

Origin & Meaning

Types of meditation - Taoist MeditationDaoism is a Chinese philosophy and religion, dating back to Lao Tzu (orLaozi). It emphasizes living in harmony with Nature, or Tao, and it’s main text is the Tao Te Ching, dating back to 6th century B.C. Later on some lineages of Taoism were also influenced by Buddhist meditation practices brought from India, especially on the 8th century C.E..

The chief characteristic of this type of meditation is the generation, transformation, and circulation of inner energy. The purpose is to quieten the body and mind, unify body and spirit, find inner peace, and harmonize with the Tao. Some styles of Taoist Meditation are specifically focused on improving health and giving longevity.

Image from InternalArtsInternational.com

 

How to do it

There are several different types of Taoist meditation, and they are sometimes classified in three: “insight”, “concentrative”, and “visualization”. Here is a brief overview:

  • Emptiness meditation — to sit quietly and empty oneself of all mental images (thoughts, feelings, and so on), to “forget about everything”, in order to experience inner quiet and emptiness. In this state, vital force and “spirit” is collected and replenished. This is similar to the Confucius discipline of “heart-mind fasting”, and it is regarded as “the natural way”. One simply allows all thoughts and sensations arise and fall by themselves, without engaging with or “following” any of them. If this is found to be too hard and “uninteresting”, the student is instructed with other types of meditation, such as visualization and Qigong
  • Breathing meditation (Zhuanqi) — to focus on the breath, or “unite mind and qi”. The instruction is “focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft”. Sometimes this is done by simply quietly observing the breath (similar to Mindfulness Meditation in Buddhism); in other traditions it is by following certain patterns of exhalation and inhalation, so that one becomes directly aware of the “dynamisms of Heaven and Earth” through ascending and descending breath (a type of Qigong, similar to Pranayama in Yoga).
  • Neiguan (“inner observation; inner vision”) — visualizing inside one’s body and mind, including the organs, “inner deities”, qi (vital force) movements, and thought processes. It’s a process of acquainting oneself with the wisdom of nature in your body. There are particular instructions for following this practice, and a good book or a teacher is required.

These meditations are done seated cross-legged on the floor, with spine erect. The eyes are kept half-closed and fixed on the point of the nose.
Master Liu Sichuan emphasises that, although not easy, ideally one should practice by “joining the breath and the mind together”; for those that find this too hard, he would recommend focusing on the lower abdomen (dantian).

 

Is it for me?

People that are more connected with the body and nature may like to try Taoist meditation, and enjoy learning a bit about the philosophy behind it. Or if you are into martial arts or Tai Chi, this might be of your interest. However, Taoist centers and teachers are not as easy to find as Buddhist and Yoga ones, so it might be a challenge to follow through.

 

 

Qigong (Chi kung)

 

Origin & Meaning

Qigong (also spelled chi kung, or chi gung) is a Chinese word that means “life energy cultivation”, and is a body-mind exercise for health, meditation, and martial arts training. It typically involves slow body movement, inner focus, and regulated breathing. Traditionally it was practiced and taught in secrecy in the Chinese Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist traditions. In the 20th century, Qigong movement has incorporated and popularized Daoist meditation, and “mainly employs concentrative exercises but also favors the circulation of energy in an inner-alchemical mode” (Kohn 2008a:120).

For a deep study on Qigong history, theory, and philosophy, I recommendThe Root of Chinese Qigong.

Daoist practices may also employ Qigong, but since Qigong is also applied in other Chinese philosophies, I decided to treat it as a separate subject.

 

How to do it

There are thousands of different Qigong exercises cataloged, involving over 80 different types of breathing. Some are specific to martial arts (to energize and strengthen the body); others are for health (to nourish body functions or cure diseases); and others for meditation and spiritual cultivation. Qigong can be practiced in a static position (seated or standing), or through a dynamic set of movements – which is what you typically see in YouTube videos and on DVDs. The exercises that are done as a meditation, however, are normally done sitting down, and without movement.

  • Sit in a comfortable position. Make sure your body is balanced and centered.
  • Relax your whole body – muscles, nerves, and internal organs
  • Regulate your breathing, making it deep, long, and soft.
  • Calm your mind
  • Place all your attention in the “lower dantien”, which is the center of gravity of the body, two inches below the navel. This will help accumulate and root the qi (vital energy). Where your mind and intention is, there will be your qi. So, by focusing on the dantien, you are gathering energy in this natural reservoir.
  • Feel the qi circulating freely through your body.

Other famous Qigong exercises are:

  • Small Circulation (also called “microcosmic circulation”)
  • Embryonic Breathing
  • Eight Pieces of Brocade (see this book excerpt  & Wikipedia article)
  • Muscle Tendon Changing (or “Yi Jin Jing”, taught by Bodhidharma)

The first two are seated meditation, while the latter two are dynamic Qigong, integrating body stretches.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

Qigong meditation may be more attractive to people that like to integrate a more active body and energy work into the practice. If seated meditation is unbearable for you, and you prefer something a bit more active, try some of the more dynamic forms of Qigong. Again, there are several styles of Qigong out there, and you may need to try with different teachers or DVDs to find the one that suits you.
Some people have a taste of dynamic Qigong through the practice of Tai Chi.

4) CHRISTIAN MEDITATION

In Eastern traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism) meditation is usually practiced with the purpose of transcending the mind and attaining enlightenment. On the other hand, in the Christian tradition the goal of contemplative practices is, one may say, moral purification and deeper understanding of the Bible; or a closer intimacy with God/Christ, for the more mystic stream of the tradition.

Here are some forms of Christian contemplative practice:

  • contemplative prayer — which usually involves the silent repetition of sacred words or sentences, with focus and devotion
  • contemplative reading — or simply “contemplation”, which involves thinking deeply about the teachings and events in the Bible.
  • “sitting with God” — a silent meditation, usually preceded by contemplation or reading, in which we focus all our mind, heart and soul on the presence of God

 

5) GUIDED MEDITATIONS

 

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - guided meditationGuided Meditation is, in great part, a modern phenomenon. It is an easier way to start, and you will find guided meditations ba

sed on several of the above traditions.

The practice of meditation requires some dose of determination and will-power. In the past, people that were into meditation were more committed to it, and also had strong ideals fuelling their motivation. Their life was more simple, with less distractions.

We live in very different times now. Our life is busier. Will power is a less common personal asset. Distractions are everywhere, and meditation is often sought as a means to develop better health, enhance performance, or improve oneself.

For these reasons, guided meditation can indeed be a good way to introduce you to the practice. Once you get the hang of it, and wish to take your practice to the next level, I would urge you to try meditation unassisted by audio. It is up to you to decide when you feel like taking this step.

Guided Meditation is like cooking with a recipe. It’s a good way to start, and you can eat the food you make like this. But once you understand the main principles and flavors, you can cook your own dish. It will have a different, unique taste; it will be tailored for you, and more powerful. And then you will not want to use the recipe anymore – unless if you are trying a dish of another cuisine. 😉

How to do it

Guided meditation usually comes in the form of audio (file, podcast, CD), and sometimes audio and video. You will find that any guided meditation will fall in one of below categories (with some overlap, obviously).

  • Traditional Meditations — With these types of audios, the voice of the teacher is simply there to “illustrate” or “guide” the way for your attention, in order to be in a meditative state; there is more silence than voice in it, and often no music. Examples are the ones offered by Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach, which are rooted in authentic Buddhist practices. The purpose is to develop and deepen the practice itself, with all the benefits that come with it.
  • Guided Imagery — Makes use of the imagination and visualization powers of the brain, guiding you to imagine an object, entity, scenery or journey. The purpose is usually healing or relaxation.
  • Relaxation & Body Scans — Helps you achieve a deep relaxation in your whole body. It’s usually accompanied by soothing instrumental music or nature sounds. In Yoga these are called yoga nidra. The purpose is relaxation and calmness.
  • Affirmations — Usually coupled with relaxation and guided imagery, the purpose of these meditations is to imprint a message in your mind.
  • Binaural Beats — Binaural beats were originally discovered in 1839 by physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. He discovered when signals of two different frequencies are presented separately, one to each ear, your brain detects the phase variation between the frequencies and tries to reconcile that difference. This is used to generate alpha waves (10 Hz), which is the brain wave associated with initial levels of meditation. There is scientific research into why and how binaural beats work.

While they all have their merits, it is the first type that most naturally evolves into individual unguided practice.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

If you feel traditional meditation is a bit too hard, or you are unsure where to start, then guided meditations can be the way for you to begin. Or if you are seeking some very specific experience or benefit – like improving self-esteem, working through a trauma, or just letting go of some tension in your body – you can also find some guided meditation that suits you.

 

 

WHAT NOW?

 

There you go. With all these styles available, and some many nuances in each of them, you are sure to find a practice you like. You can try some of these practices by yourself. But try also to find a teacher with whom you can connect with, as this can make a huge difference in your journey. Meet different meditation teachers and groups and see what their practice has done for them. Finding the right practice for you is important.

Once you have chosen your practice, and built the habit, the next step is to better understand the process of meditation. Also, consider implementing these 7 tips for deep meditation.

Do you know any other interesting resources (books, sites, teachers) that were not mentioned here? Please leave a comment.

My intention, like with all posts, is to work towards the mission of this site: “To bring meditation and personal growth to one million people”. If you have learned something from this post, it would mean a lot for me if youshare this.

I have more epic posts like this coming. Subscribe to the newsletter to keep in touch.

History of Meditation

The word meditation, is derived from two Latin words : meditari(to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind) and mederi (to heal). Its Sanskrit derivation ‘medha’ means wisdom.
A Tibetan Lama was being monitored on a brain scan machine by a scientist wishing to test physiological functions during deep meditation. The scientist said – “Very good Sir. The machine shows that you are able to go very deep in brain relaxation, and that validates your meditation”. “No”, said the Lama, “This (pointing to his brain) validates the machine!”
The word meditate stems from the Latin root meditatum,  to ponder. In the Old Testament hāgâ (Hebrew) means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, hāgâ became the Greek melete. The Latin Bible then translated hāgâ/melete into meditatio. The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th century monk Guigo II.
The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism :
The Pāli Canon, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Indian Buddhist meditation as a step towards salvation. By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra which dates to 100CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism introduced meditation to other oriental countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Japan. Returning from China around 1227, Dōgen wrote the instructions for Zazen
Meditation in Religion:
Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, generally referred to as dhyāna, which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. The term “meditation” in English may also refer to practices from Islamic Sufism, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Hesychasm. A recent edited book about “meditation”, for example, included chapter contributions by authors describing Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and Taoist traditions.Scholars have noted that “the term ‘meditation’ as it has entered contemporary usage” is parallel to the term “contemplation” in Christianity.
The Islamic practice of Dhikr had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God in the Qur’an since the 8th or 9th century. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words. Interactions with Indians or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm, but this can not be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm was developed, particularly on Mount Athos in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.

Western Christian meditation contrasts with most other approaches in that it does not involve the repetition of any phrase or action and requires no specific posture. Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a “ladder” were defined by the monkGuigo II in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila in the 16th century.

By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West was a topic for intellectuals. The philosopher Schopenhauer discussed it and Voltaire asked for toleration towards Buddhists.The first English translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead was published in 1927.

Secularism in Meditation:

Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a Westernised form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self improvement. Both spiritual and secular forms of meditation have been subjects of scientific analyses. Research on meditation began in 1931, with scientific research increasing dramatically during the 1970s and 1980s. Since the beginning of the ’70s more than a thousand studies of meditation in English-language have been reported. 

Ever since Scientific Research on Meditation, it is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.

In Modern Philosophy term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force (qi, ki, prana, etc.) and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.

It’s No more a Surprise how your Mind & thoughts can Cause and Cure Disease

Your mind doesn’t care which one. You can think of your body as a blank page, waiting for you to tell it what to do. Unfortunately, your body is not set to some magical “good” default so that it will automatically convert all your thoughts to a beneficial result. It is completely neutral to the outcome, and only you can control the signals.

Unfortunately, most people tend to be caught up with their negative emotions. This is an easy trap to fall into as it seems to be the cultural norm. So you may easily allow fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt or countless other negative thoughts to interfere with your day. Yet, when you do this, your body will manifest these negativities into physical disease.

A classic example is a woman who believes she will get breast cancer because her mother had it. Well, if you believe it for long enough, your body will make sure that it comes true. But this is far from the only example. Everything from childhood traumas to your overall outlook on life will play a role.

You have likely heard of the placebo effect — the very real phenomenon of people becoming healed after taking a sugar pill or other sham treatment. Well, this is directly a result of your mind believing that you will get better after the fake treatment.

It is also not unusual for people to experience spontaneous remissions from cancer and other diseases simply because they have had a profound change in their beliefs or outlook on life.

But it works both ways. The “nocebo effect” refers to the fact that, just as positive beliefs can heal you, your negative beliefs can make you sick.

What are Your Thoughts Saying?

Most people, if given the choice, would like to use their mind to help heal their body. You may be wondering, if this is true, why many haven’t heard about it before.

In a word, money.

What do you think would happen if everyone started to tap into their inner ability to heal disease — and stopped relying on drugs and surgeries? Pharmaceutical companies would lose out big time, and so they would rather keep you completely in the dark.

Your beliefs are energy fields, and they are working to promote either health or disease in your body right now. Which one is up to you.

When it comes to the ability of your mind to heal you, there are NO limitations. The sky is the limit.

However, there is something you should know. Other people can influence your perception of things and ultimately your ability to express your true beliefs.

So, perhaps you feel thrilled to have learned this information, but when you share it with your spouse or coworkers, they will not feel the same way. Their negativity could then easily transfer to you and cause you to doubt your mind’s healing abilities (thus making your mind unable to manifest healing).

10 Yoga poses to combat Menstrual cramps

At the time of the month, many women suffer from menstrual pain – or to give it its medical name, dysmenorrhea (pronounced dis–men–o–ree–a). The pain can be a dull throbbing or sharp cramping in the lower abdomen that occur just before and during your periods.

Causes:

1. Uterus contractions cause much of the pain felt during the menstrual cycle because the contractions inhibit blood flow to the lining of the uterus. Abdominal cramps, low-back pain and leg discomfort are common symptoms.

2. It is believed to occur due to increased activity of the hormone prostaglandin.

3. Problems in women such as fibroids, endometriosis, sexually transmitted disease, stress and anxiety, etc. It is recommended that women suffering from menstrual cramps should take home remedies or herbal remedies to get rid of menstrual cramp

Popping painkillers during periods helps suppress the pain but is not a permanent solution. Also, the body gets used to such painkillers and may require you to increase the dosage with time, possibly inviting further problems. Also, it may not always be feasible to use hot-water bag every time your periods trouble you. Adoption of wholesome and nutritious food can help reduce the pain. Yoga, a time-tested natural technique is one of the rare side-effect free options available out there that can make your periods pain-free. Yoga strengthens the body physically and aids in alleviating pain caused due to menstrual cramps. It also calms the mind and empowers you to put up a stronger resistance against giving in to the pain.

These simple yoga poses for menstrual cramps work effectively to limit the pain from distracting your routine life:

1. Dhanurasana

2. Balasana

3. Pachimuttasana

4. Arching Piegion

5. Ustrasana

6. Vrajasana

7. Reclining spine twist

8. One armed Camel

9. Bhujanga Asana

10. Pasasana

** Acupuncture, acupressure, Ayurveda medicine and other relaxation therapies are recommended treatments.

What is Inspiration?

Literally, from the Latin, inspiration means “to breathe into” from the verb inspirare.

Psychological :

The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative; the quality of being inspired, especially when evident in something; a person or thing that inspires; a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea; the drawing in of breath; inhalation; an act of breathing in; an inhalation.

Your Effort:

You can go online and find countless quotes,  writers, articles and creative people commenting the same way, saying that the creative process is almost mechanical, like a “mechanic greasing your car” (E.B. White) or an engineer thinking about an engineering problem (Doris Lessing).

So, yes, getting to that inspired point is work. But if it is then that means we can all get there. But couldn’t it be both at the same time, work as well as allowing “spirit” to come into us?

Stendhal says something along the same lines:

Had I mentioned to someone around 1795 that I planned to write, anyone with any sense would have told me to write for two hours every day, with or without inspiration. Their advice would have enabled me to benefit from the ten years of my life I totally wasted waiting for inspiration.

Easier said than done!!

So, we need to make time, find space, be consistent, and have the intention to find inspiration by working.

As William Faulkner once said:

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.