To meditate upon something is to ponder it...to reflect upon it...to engage in deep thought over a subject. The act of meditation has become somewhat of a New Age buzzword, a practice reserved for Buddhists and Yogis. "Real" people don't meditate...or do they? Should they?
Prayer and meditation are two spiritual practices which go hand-in-hand. When we pray, we talk with God. We share our thoughts, hopes, fears, and praises. We communicate with our Higher Source. Meditation, on the other hand, is the art of listening for God's reply to our prayers and hearing what God has to say to us.
Meditating can be as involved as playing sacred music in the background, lighting candles and incense, putting on comfortable clothing, assuming a prayer posture and spending hours in a quiet, contemplative state of mind; or, it can be as simple as closing your eyes. The important and vital aspect of meditation is to shut off the external senses and focus inwardly. Day to day and minute by minute, we are bombarded with sensory input. We experience a multitude of sensory experiences each moment, some that we are aware of and many that we are not. Our bodies have grown accustomed to the constant barrage of input, so much so that we hardly realize how much stimuli we are processing at any given moment. We have become immune. The way to become aware is to remove the stimuli and experience ourselves in the silence which meditation can afford us. It is like learning to appreciate the sunshine after a cloudy day.
Why meditate? What are the benefits? What will I miss out on if I don't practice meditation? Meditation is a way to reconnect to yourself and your Source. It grounds us and quiets us. It renews our awareness and our perspective. It gives our soul a rejuvenation much like we give our body when we sleep. Meditation is not only great for the mind and the spirit, but it has many benefits for our bodies as well. It reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, increases circulation, allows for the release of endorphins, and allows for an open flow of energy throughout our body. Those who do not regularly practice meditation are at many of the same risks as those who do not regularly exercise. There is an increased risk of disease, stress-related illness, muscle tension, and a decreased sense of happiness and well-being.
How does one go about meditating? First, you must have an open mind -- no expectations or inhibitions regarding the practice. Reduce external stimuli as much as possible: wear comfortable clothing; make sure the room temperature is warm and pleasant; close curtains if you think you will distracted by outside light, activity, or noise; find a quiet, undisturbed location; if you are able, sit on the floor with legs "pretzel style" and back straight up and down--this helps to connect you to the earth and align you with heaven, allowing a free-flowing rush of energy to move through your body; if you are not comfortable on the floor, you may alternately lie down on a bed or couch, supported by pillows--the caveat to this is to make sure you don't fall asleep! After you have found your perfect niche, close your eyes. Breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale through relaxed, slightly parted lips. Make your breathing deep, steady, and slow. Use the rhythm of your body to find calmness as you become aware of its patterns--sounds, feelings, and motions. Feel gravity pulling you into the ground. Allow yourself to be firmly rooted by this force. Like a tree, feel yourself also reaching upward and connecting to God. Feel the flow of energy enter your head and go into the earth. Likewise, feel the earth energy rise up through you and reach upward. Envision your spine as the road through which this unseen, yet potent, energy travels. Feel the God-force entering your body through the crown on your head and exiting through your tailbone. Feel yourself as a channel through which life-force flows. Once you have grounded yourself to earth and connected yourself with God, you can allow a free-flow of thoughts to guide you. Do you wish to pray about a particular matter? Are you seeking guidance? Do you wish to just relax and enjoy the peace you are experiencing? Do you feel like laughing? Crying? There is no right or wrong answer here. Do what you feel led to do. Let meditation guide you as you open yourself up to the power of the universe. Feel that you are one with all things; one with God and one with nature; one with all life.
Spend as much or as little time as you like in meditation. Any amount of time will be beneficial for you. Just like physical exercise, though, the more you practice meditation, the more efficient you will become at it and the more benefits you will reap from it. Regular meditation can become a cleansing ritual, a time when you can shut the world away and refresh your spirit, being once again ready to face whatever may come, with renewed hope, vigor, and strength.
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