Article by Michele Hébert
Did you know that in a typical day you think approximately 60,000 thoughts? What is even more astounding is that 90 percent of those thoughts you thought yesterday. Most of us would like to think we are constantly expressing creative thoughts and ideas, but apparently that is not the case Psychology reveals that the majority of our thought patterns and beliefs are formed at a very early age and repeat themselves over and over throughout our lives.
Your thoughts and emotions are constantly affecting the trillions of cells in your body. When you are in a calm and relaxed state chemical messengers such as serotonin and endorphins are released from the brain into the rest of the system, creating a sense of well-being and harmony. When you are in a state of mental or emotional stress, however, the famous “fight or flight” response kicks in and the entire system prepares to defend itself.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is often thought of as a mystical practice from the East. The truth is that meditation has been practiced throughout the ages in many cultures and is not necessarily a religious activity. Through practice, we can learn to consciously move into a place of deep peace. The goal of meditation is to achieve union with the essence of who we really are in the deepest part of ourselves – in other words, to achieve “pure awareness,” or consciousness.
What is this state of pure awareness? Great thinkers, philosophers, psychologists, spiritual teachers and scientists have written volumes and spent lifetimes considering this timeless subject. In the literature, the term most frequently used to describe the essence of our being is spirit, the animating force of life.
But where is the spirit? How do we identify with our own spirit? The outer circumstances of daily living seem to hold us on a continual treadmill of endless activity, compounded by that treadmill of our repeating thought patterns formed early in life.
The following are thre e genera l suggestions that will assist you in developing a meditation practice.
1. Seek out a quiet environment for a calming effect that is ideal for meditation. This quiet spot may be in your home, a place of worship, or in nature.
2. Sit with the spine erect. You can sit in a chair or in a simple cross-legged position on the floor or a pillow.
3. Let go of the need to control the experience. A receptive attitude is key to meditation.
Preceding meditation, there are several concentration practices that help to quiet the chattering mind and lead to a state of heightened awareness. Three practices that are commonly used and are particularly useful to our modern Western minds include:
watching the breathconcentration on an objectreciting a mantraWatching the Breath. This technique is also referred to as mindfulness meditation. Sit quietly observing your nostril breath. Thoughts will move through your mind, but your object of attention is your breath. Follow your breath as it flows in and out make the two breath streams even and equal. When your mind wanders (which is very natural), simply bring it back to the breath. Approach this practice as a calm observer. Watching your breath is a wonderful practice to realize that you are not your thoughts, you are something besides your thoughts.
Object Concentration. Focus your steady gaze on an object such as a flower, candle flame or even the ocean. The goal is to bring the mind to one point of focus in the present moment.
Mantra Meditation. mantra is a Sanskrit word that means “control of mind.” In mantra meditation, you repeat a series of words to help you gain control of the restless mind. The selected mantra does not have to be a foreign sound. I teach mantra using the simple words “peace, harmony, well-being” from the Walt Baptiste Method of Raja Yoga.
All of these concentration practices will naturally lead to a meditative state of heightened awareness. The length of each meditation session is up to you. The important thing is to es tablish a daily practice. Just as you train the body through a consistent program of exercise, in meditation you train your mind through consistent practice, and you open up to new levels of mental clarity, physical health and spiritual inspiration.
About the Author
Michele Hébert is a Raja Yoga and meditation teacher, wellness educator, natural nutritionist, and motivational speaker. Michele holds the highest degree of yoga teacher mastery offered by Yoga Alliance (E-RYT 500) and was awarded the title of Raja Yoga Guide by her teacher Walt Baptiste. She implemented the first meditation-based stress management program at the renowned Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, CA, teaching mind-body wellness techniques to enhance the immune system. She has authored numerous articles published in industry journals in the area of mind-body health, and was one of the lead teachers in a private fitness video commissioned for H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Michele has been associated with Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort and The Golden Door Spa for 20 years, where she is a frequent presenter and speaker on spirituality and the art of conscious living. Michele and her husband Dr. Mehrad Nazari lead international yoga, health and spiritual retreats to exotic locations such as Esalen Institute, Costa Rica, Rancho la Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, and India. She has recently created the CD education series, “The Inner Practices of Yoga,” and teaches The Art of Meditation course at University of California, San Diego. To learn more about Michele and her latest title, The Tenth Door: An Adventure Through the Jungle of Enlightenment, please visit http://www.rajayogis.net