Meditationmeditation

The tradition of meditation dates back to the beginning of human history. Thousands of years ago, Patanjali, an Indian Sage of legend, described the process by which the capacity to meditate is actualised. He called it "Self Realisation" since, in the state of meditation, he experienced an absolute awareness of his "Self".

The mechanism by which "Self Realisation" occurred was a closely kept secret that was handed down from a Guru to his disciple after long penances, discipline and purification.

In the 14 th century the great saint Gyaneshwara of Central India took permission from his Guru to translate the secret texts written in Sanskrit into the popular vernacular. Thus the tradition of mysticism and meditation began within the populace in India.

Meditation Techniques

Meditation is both an ancient spiritual practice and a contemporary mind-body technique for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Asian religious practices, particularly India, China, and Japan, but similar techniques can be found in many cultures around the world. Until recently, the primary purpose of meditation has been religious, although its health benefits have long been recognized in these cultures where these methods originated.

In the West, the first view was that meditation induced a type of dissociative state or a type of catatonia. Thirty years ago, meditation was still considered a religious practice, not appropriate for healthcare settings. The first articles on the health benefits of meditation appeared in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology in 1970. Meditation is the first mind-body intervention to be widely adopted in mainstream health care. Meditation is now widely taught at medical settings such as the VA clinics and Kaiser Permanente where it is prescribed as a technique for relaxing the body and calming mind.

The search for the true self through the meditative process is not something recently discovered, nor is it in any way alien to the basically rationalistic philosophical and spiritual traditions of the West. Although Western civilization has for the most part directed its energies outward in various efforts to control and exploit the resources of nature, there have always been inner-directed philosophers, saints, and mystics who have dedicated themselves to a higher purpose than material well-being, which is in all cases temporary.

Everyone knows that a happy life requires good health. Proper diet, adequate exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary to keep our bodies strong and fit. If we neglect these demands, our bodies become weakened and resistant. Highly susceptible to infection, we eventually become ill.

More important, but less well known, is the inner self's need for spiritual nourishment and attention. If we ignore our spiritual health requirements, we become overwhelmed by negative material tendencies like anxiety, hatred, loneliness, prejudice, greed, boredom, envy, and anger.

In order to counteract and prevent these subtle infections of the self, we should, as recommended in the Vedic literatures, incorporate into our lives a program of self-examination and steady inner growth, based on spiritual strength and clarity of thought. In the preliminary stages of meditation, the practitioner experiences a clearing of consciousness, peace of mind, and relief from unwanted drives and habits. As one develops more realization by meditating, he perceives the original, spiritual existence of the self./

Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in establishing the efficacy of meditation for health through his research at Harvard in the early 1970s, showed that meditation acts as an antidote to stress. Under stress, the nervous system activates the "fight-or-flight" response. The activity of the sympathetic portion of the nervous system increases, causing an increased heart beat, increased respiratory rate, elevation of blood pressure, and increase in oxygen consumption. This fight-or-flight response has an important survival function. It helps an organism to run quickly to escape an attack or to fight off an attacker. But if activated repeatedly, as happens for many people in modern societies, the effects are harmful. Many researchers believe that the current epidemic of hypertension and heart disease in the Western world is a direct result.

Dr. Benson demonstrated that the effects of meditation are essentially the opposite of the fight-or-flight response.

Meditation:

  • Decreases the heart rate
  • Decreases the respiratory rate
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Decreases oxygen consumption
  • Decreases muscle tension
  • Gives overall better health
  • Gives better sleep
  • Makes one calmer
  • Gives better concentration

In the Caitanya Caritamrta, a seventeen-volume commentary on the life and teachings of Sri Caitanya, founder of the modern-day Krishna consciousness movement, the ultimate benefit of meditation is described as follows: "The result of meditation is that one awakens his love for GOD and tastes transcendental bliss. Ultimately, one attains the association of GOD and engages in His devotional service, as if immersing himself in a great ocean of love."

Meditation has been prevalent since the evolution of the mankind in different forms. The earliest written text about it comes from the Indian philosophy as one of the components of the highly enlightened philosophy of "YOGA", where it has been called as "DHYAN" or mental concentration. Later on it was exported to China and Japan when the Buddhist monks reached there to propagate the new religion. It was then called by the names of Zen etc. Yoga is a complete manual for the de-stressing of mind as well as the physical body in a very scientific layout. Its philosophy was considered sacred and was kept secret for ages.

Preparation Exercises

These little exercises are helpful for beginners or before any meditation to get you in the mood: Caution should be exercised when learning as it can lead to eye strain or headaches if overdone or done incorrectly. Contacts should be removed if they cause any discomfort while doing this exercise. Try to adjust for maximum pleasure with no discomfort.

Do these for 1 minute at first and over a period of time, build to 3-5 minutes. Afterwards perform a facial and eye massage for a minute and then move into your favourite meditation.

Eyes Up!:
This technique, once mastered, quickly shuts down your internal dialogue and quietens the mind, bringing your full attention into the present moment. It also can generate feelings of mild euphoria.

Open your eyes and gently roll them up to look at the ceiling, then drop your chin an inch as you continue to look at the same spot on the ceiling. Let you eyes slip out of focus and relax the eyes and the face and your whole body. Let the eyes be drawn toward the third-eye, a little above and between the eyebrows.

Notice if there is any strain or unpleasant sensation in the eyes. If there is, immediately lower the eyes just enough so that there is no sensation of straining, but do not quit. The eyes should be positioned as high as possible without causing any strain. Then learn to breath and relax while holding this position. If it starts to feel good, roll up a little further. If it starts to feel unpleasant, immediately back off a little bit.

Eyes Down!:
This technique, once mastered, also shuts down your internal dialogue and quietens the mind, bringing your full attention into the present moment. It often increases students awareness of their own bodies, and especially of their posture.

Open your eyes and gently drop them down to look at the floor, then raise your chin an inch as you continue to look at the same spot on the floor. Let you eyes slip out of focus and relax the eyes and the face and your whole body.

Notice if there is any strain or unpleasant sensation in the eyes. If there is, immediately lift the eyes just enough that there is no sensation of straining, but do not quit. The eyes should be positioned as low as possible, without causing any strain. Then learn to breathe and relax while holding this position. If it starts to feel good, roll down a little further, if it starts to feel unpleasant, immediately back off a little bit.

Counting Back From 10:
This counting exercise is designed to improve your ability to hold the mind steady, without wandering. It is not very elegant or spiritual, but it does strengthen your "concentration muscles." Practicing this exercise is like an athlete who lifts weights to improve his or her golf swing. There are 3 main variations of the counting back exercise. Each one is slightly harder than the previous one. The important point to remember is that the goal is not to reach 1 as many times as possible before losing count. The goal is to learn how to notice the slightest waver of the mind, so that you can bring it back to the exercise again. Every time your mind wanders, and you bring it back to the exercise, it is like doing a push-up - you get a little bit stronger.

The secret to success is to notice the first flicker of attention loss and take immediate steps to bring yourself back to full attention. If you do not notice the first fleeting excursion of the mind, it is less likely you will notice the second or third, and 10 minutes later you will be thinking about work, politics, or something, and you will gain little benefit from the exercise. But if you notice the first flicker and immediately come back to the exercise with full attention you will get stronger with each passing minute.

The best way to notice if your mind has wandered is to listen to the way you say each number. If there is any doubt, no matter how small, as to whether you are at 6 or 5 then you have lost your place and should start over. Listen to the inflection of count... do you say 6!!! or is it more of a 6.....? Remember, if there is any question about what number you are on, you must have wandered or you would know!

Do not judge success by how far you get or how many times you can count back to 1 without losing your place. As you get better, the exercise gets harder, not easier! If you breathe rapidly, say at a 5 second interval, it is easy to stay on track, but as you improve, you breath slower - some people slow down to one breath every 30 seconds or slower - it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain focus./

These exercises can help you see the inner workings of your own mind, and how it can lure you away from your meditation and into daydreaming or worrying.

This exercise gives you the opportunity to catch yourself straying and see the process in yourself, and so come to understand it and to recognize it and eventually to rise above such obvious tricks into a new and more subtle arena of mind-play.

1) The easiest variation involves employing simple breath awareness as you count backwards from 10. Count 10 as you breath in, and 9 as you breathe out, and 8 as you breathe in, and 7 as you breathe out... when you count 1 breathing out, start back at 10 as you breathe in again and repeat until you lose your place. Each time you lose your place, start over again at 10. Do not visualize the number, only sound it in your head silently. Visualizing makes the exercise too easy. You can either stretch it out like "tttt....eeeeeeee.....nnnnnnn" over the length of you breath or else just say it normally.

2) If this exercise gets too easy (you make it from 10 to 1 fairly often) then try a more difficult variation: breathe in to 10, breathe out to the sound AUM, breathe in to 9, breathe out to the sound Aum, breathe in to 8... and if you get to 1, start over.

3) The hardest variation requires you to breathe in silently, and count 10 as you breathe out, inhale in silence, count 9 as you exhale... again, if you reach 1 or lose your place, start back at 10.

Counting Back from One:
A variation to make it easier for some people who feel like they compete with themselves or others and suffer anxiety when they are supposed to be relaxing. In this case count back from 1 and when you reach 1, or lose your place, start over.... "One...........One.............One........." This adjustment seems to work well . This is a nice exercise because you can read into it what you choose to, and you are free to choose your own word if there is one you are more comfortable with. Be sure that the word or phrase you choose has positive connotations, and a pleasant sound to you, and that with repetition it does not dissolve, but rather grows stronger and more clearly defined. This is the hallmark of a good mantra.

Soft Vision:
This is a wonderful release for the overworked eyes. Moreover, it is a spiritual practice used independently in many widely divergent disciplines spanning the planet. This technique is practiced by Indian Yogi's, certain tribes of American Indians, students of the Russian Gurdjeff Schools, European Gypsies, and it is described in detail in the series of books by Carlos Castenada based upon his friendship with a Mexican Indian named Don Juan. Soft vision is a way of looking at the world without straining the eyes. Equally important, it gives the practitioner a whole new perspective on the universe, turning the ordinary into the magical and giving insight into the mysterious.

Look straight ahead at the most distant object in your field of vision. Now cross your eyes slightly, so that your field of vision is blurred and seen in double vision. Spread your awareness evenly in an ever larger circle until you are aware of the entire field of vision. Soften your eyes with a smile (smiling with your eyes, not grinning with your mouth!). Completely relax the eyes without any attempt to influence what or how they see. Rather than focusing on a specific object and jumping from object to object, the eyes become equally aware of your entire field of vision, and they rest softly without jumping around. As the eyes relax, so the mind becomes calm. Smile with your eyes and allow that smile to soften your face and spread throughout your body. Focusing on nothing, you become aware of everything.

Traditional Meditation

Meditation is the mainstay in the process of de-stressing the mind. Various forms have been prescribed with minor variations by various exponents in the past. The meditation as prescribed by most includes sitting on the floor in a cross legged posture with or without locking both the legs in an intertwining manner (Lotus position) followed by closing the eyes and then focussing or concentrating by imagination in the area of the face between the eyebrows. All this was done with or without chanting some sacred "Mantras", prayer , wishful thoughts etc. Some exponents even ask for mental imaginations instead.

Meditation generally takes several forms: insight, sitting, mindfulness, moving. Regardless of the technique each is intended to deeply relax the body and the mind. After practicing and developing proficiency in a technique, one can clearly sense and feel all of the above every time one meditates: the peace and quiet, the stillness and the silence, the calm and the tranquillity. It is delightful, physiologically restorative and life-enhancing and brings many other benefits.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is an outgrowth of a Buddhist tradition called vipassana, which focuses on the present moment. The meditator focuses his or her attention alertly but non judgmentally on all processes passing through the mind.

Often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation - a method for paying attention in your life, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

Transcendental Meditation

TM was brought to the Western world in the mid-twentieth century by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian spiritual teacher. TM has been taught to hundreds of thousands of people, and is widely credited with being the first form of meditation to be practiced on a mass scale in the West.

Concentration Meditation

This technique enhances your control over the senses and increases your awareness and control of your external environment. It is used almost universally in religions and spiritual practices. The meditator focuses his or her attention on an internal or external object (e.g., sound, word, bodily sensations, etc.) while minimizing distractions and bring the wandering mind back to attention on the chosen object. Repetitive prayer is a commonly used form, as well as the light meditation.

Open your eyes and look at an object that evokes in you a pleasant reaction and hold it in your vision excluding all else. Do not let your eyes or your mind or your other senses wander! Release your eyes before they get tired or dry out and then splash cold water on your eyes to relieve fatigue. With practice you may experience the sense of separation between you and the object you observe melt away and allow yourself to become one with the object of your concentration.

Mandala Meditation (Yantra)

A mandala is a universal symbol, and a yantra is a cosmically inspired geometric design. By spending time gazing upon them we are drawn within to greater realizations of esoteric qualities - beauty, truth, peace, joy.

Pictures of blooming flowers can be inspiring, but use the mandala or yantra that attracts you.

To begin your meditation select a quiet time and sit with a straight back on a cushion on the floor in front of a low table, with a lighted candle and incense if you desire.

Alternately, sit in a chair and place your candle and incense on a regular table. Either way, have your mandala or yantra in front of you at eye level - on the table or behind it on the wall.

Fold your hands in your lap or place them palms up on your thighs. Begin with a prayer, uplifting verse or chant. Next, for the reflective portion of your meditation just sit quietly, eyes open, gazing at the mandala or yantra. Maintain this quiet time for as long as you like; allow yourself to enjoy the experience.

Now, close your eyes and conclude your meditation with thoughts, affirmations or prayers.

Light Meditation (Trakata)

Light Meditation (Trakata) also called candle gazing, is a method of concentrating on a point of light; serving as a visual reminder to use light hearted attitudes in living.

To begin:
In your meditation place, sit up straight facing a low table and light a candle. Fold your hands in your lap.

Take some moments to just look at the flame, letting your eyes almost shut. Begin to feel the warmth of light emanating from the candle flame. It can be a reminder that even a little kindness, from light-hearted actions, makes another's day warmer and brighter.

If you do close your eyes you will probably see the reverse colour of the candle flame in your vision. Focus on that for a minute or as long as you can.

Now, begin to breathe evenly:

breathe in counts 1, 2;

breathe out counts 3, 4;

breathe in counts 5, 6, and go on for another minute.

Let go of counting but continue to breathe evenly.

Reflect on how you could add one form of light-hearted activity to your life, such as: showing patience; being kind; allowing another to express themselves without interruption; adopting an attitude of seeing a glass half full rather than half empty; doing a volunteer activity; helping a person in need.

Finish your meditation with a prayer or affirmations. Take a deep breath, stand and stretch.

Kundalini Meditation

Kundalini - energy that sustains efforts of our free will; aroused for use by holding positive attitudes; used when loving thoughts take form as caring actions. The free-flowing energy sustaining and maintaining every cell and self in creation; the Self in creation.

Meditation arouses kundalini, because when we sit still our automatic bodily functions find a minimal rhythm, and our mind is energized more fully to dwell on loving thoughts. Loving thoughts, in turn, generate even more energy.

An important point is that positive attitudes and their subsequent positive thoughts naturally draw in an increase of kundalini which provides joyful energy for their offspring of caring actions. Kundalini develops our capacity to love by giving us more energy for caring actions. And, it is in the process of our caring and kind actions that we come to align with and know God more fully. Our experience of life multiplies in joy the more we are kind and caring. As a snowball expands in breadth by rolling along, we expand in our capacity to hold and experience joy by rolling harmoniously along through life being kind and caring.

Preparation: Sit on floor on a cushion with legs crossed, or sit on a chair, spine straight, head erect, eyes closed, hands folded in lap.

Breathe evenly in and out like this:

breathe in counts 1,2

breathe out counts 3,4

breathe in counts 1,2

breathe out counts 3,4

Continue this pattern for at least a minute to begin; do not use any breath retention.

While breathing evenly in and out think lovingly about at least one person. Loving thoughts balance and harmonize body-mind, allowing the most kundalini to flow to us from the unseen Source by the unseen Force.

Kundalini aroused by loving thoughts and the body energized from the stillness of meditation is available to be used when active again.

Tantric Meditation

Tantra is balance of the vibrant male and female energy. When we feel these complementary energies balanced within, we feel like a whole and complete person, without the compulsory idea that we need another person to make us feel complete. Following is a meditation that fosters feeling whole, complete, joyful!

To begin sit on a cushion in your special place facing a small table - Light a candle and burn some incense if that feels right. Place some fresh flowers on your meditation table. Have an uplifting book at your side to read from briefly, to help you unwind before you begin.

Now is the time to say a short verse or prayer such as:

"Light of Love Enlighten my heart Encircle my being in Your radiance

Warm my soul with the flame of Truth.

Light of Love In Your radiance May I remember all are One

One in Love and Light."

To begin the silent portion of your meditation close your eyes and begin breathing evenly, such as counts 1, 2, breathe in; counts 3, 4 breathe out; counts 1, 2, breathe in and continue for a full minute.

Continue breathing evenly but let go of the counting. This is time to think of ways you are connected to others in your life. Include family, friends, co-workers and others. Think about how your actions affect each other.

Plan one way to improve your relationships. An example is practicing kindness in interactions with each person that you come into contact with during the day.

Now spend a minute mentally making affirmations for harmony and peace for all.

"Personal peace promotes world peace."

"I choose to be peaceful."

"Harmony is my choice."

Enjoy feelings that arise of being connected with all as an integral part of the big world family. That is the radiant state of tantra.

To finish your meditation stand and stretch, rejuvenated!

Breathing Meditations

All forms of meditation are built on a solid foundation of good breathing techniques and are centered around breath awareness. This is so fundamental that it is often taken for granted by teachers and authors. Just as I would not think to remind you to use a cup to drink tea from instead of the teapot, a teacher might neglect to mention breath awareness. It is important for your continuing success with meditation to remember to first become fully aware of your breathing before proceeding with any meditation, regardless of whether or not the instructions mention breathing.

Simple Breath Awareness
This is one of the simplest of all meditations, yet also one of the most powerful, and rewarding. Initially it is best practiced while lying flat on your back on the floor with knees either straight or bent. As you improve it can also be practiced while sitting, standing or walking, as long as you can maintain good posture. Poor posture impedes the breath and distracts from the meditation.

The secret of this meditation is to observe the breath without consciously trying to change it. Your observations of the breath filter down to the subconscious levels of your brain, which will begin subtly to shift and refine the breathing to lead you gradually along the perfect path towards perfect breathing. Conscious attempts to alter the breath will only interfere and create anxiety and tension.

When you get the hang of Simple Breath Awareness, the character of the breathing may improve dramatically in a short space of time. Gradually, over a period of a few days or months, you will approach a plateau of improvement where you are utilizing the full capacity of your lungs. At this point, your lung capacity itself will begin to expand, but this is a slower process, involving the growth of new lung tissue which can continue over a period of years and should not be rushed.

Ujjayi Breath
The Ujjayi Breath is practiced by half closing the epiglottis at the back of the throat. This partially restricts the flow of air, and causes a rasping or hissing sound in the back of the throat as you breath in and out. Often people breath like this when they fall asleep. Do not try to make the sound loud enough for others to hear. Instead your breath should sound like a gentle, soft whisper.

With practice you will be able to breathe easily in this manner. Ujjayi Breath allows you to listen to the sound of your breathing, and thus helps to focus the mind on the breath. It can be used to enhance most meditations that are described in the following pages. Ujjayi Breath can be used with diaphragmatic breathing, complete breathing, and alternate nostril breathing exercises. In fact, it can be used with almost any breathing technique with the possible exception of Breath of Fire, bellows breath, cleansing breath, or other similar techniques involving forceful and sharp contractions of the diaphragm. This technique is often used in yoga practices.

Tension in Tanden
This is one of the harder breathing exercises to actualize, but once experienced it is really very easy to do, like riding a bike. The Tanden Center is the name used in Zen Meditation to describe the seat of spiritual power, said to reside in the diaphragm. Creating tension in the Tanden Center is accomplished by putting the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles in isometric opposition. Normally the diaphragm contracts to pull air into the lungs and rests while you breathe out using the abdominal muscles to empty air out of the lungs. When you practice maintaining tension in the Tanden, you do so on the inhalation by making the diaphragm work a little harder while resisting with the abdominals and on the exhalation by making the abdominal muscles work harder while resisting with the diaphragm. Thus the diaphragm and abdominals never completely relax, but instead trap tension between them as they are in an ongoing game of give and take.

Once you learn how to create and hold tension in the Tanden Center, you can experiment by holding more or less tension as you meditate to see for yourself what works best for you. This technique helps to still the racing or wandering mind, by maintaining your focus on the Tanden Center and on the breath. It may also well conceal deeper secrets known only to those who perfect and practice this technique.

Active Meditation

Given our hectic, stress-filled lives, the idea of meditation is enticing. However, it is our very lifestyle that makes meditation so difficult for the beginner. You juggle so much in your everyday life just to keep up. Your head is probably constantly filled with unfinished tasked, appointments to be kept and keeping track of the kids and their busy social and sporting lives. All of this intrudes into your meditation time making the art of having a quiet mind seem almost impossible.

You do not have to be sitting still to meditate. Anything that you do and give your full attention can be a form of meditation. If you have a run away mind, an active form of meditation will probably be easier for you at least to start with. Doing an active form of meditation means that your mind does not have to be completely still. Instead you give it something to concentrate on. This helps your powers of focus and concentration, you keep your mind totally on one thing. This is much easier than thinking about nothing.

The important thing is to enjoy your meditation, so start out slowly. On your first attempt only meditate for 2-5 minutes, build this up over time.

One of the most common forms of active meditation is walking meditation.

You can do a walking meditation anywhere. Keep your attention on the step you are taking. Feel the ground under your feet as you place each foot down and the muscles in your legs as you move them forward. Co-ordinate your step with your breath, so each step takes the time of one breath. During your time of walking meditation there is only one thing in your life and that is the step you are taking in that moment. Make that step as smooth, calm and beautiful as you can. Keep your focus totally on the step you are taking, one step at a time. You will find that your mind wanders, particularly in the beginning, but when you notice that it has simply bring your attention back to the step you are taking. Once you get the hang of it you will be in a beautiful, calm and blissful state.

Writing Meditation

Record your thoughts without editing, filtering, or judging. Keep the pen moving, if only to write about how you have nothing to write about. This exercise eventually slows the mind down to the rhythm of the pen and from this slower rhythm our unconscious mind is able to occasionally break through to the surface, surprising and delighting us.

This is a wonderful exercise in letting go of control. When you are finished you have a written record of your meditation, that can be revisited at a later date.

Life as Meditation

Anything can be elevated to the level of meditation when the goal is not the finished product, but instead to be fully immersed in the process. You can meditate upon washing dishes, walking, chanting, or the flow of thoughts through your mind.

There are several criteria to consider when choosing an activity to practice life as Meditation with. First is the length of time. Choose a task that takes between 2-30 minutes to complete. Choose an activity that you have to do anyway, but that usually you might consider as wasted time. Choose an activity that you do not usually enjoy. Some suggestions are: driving to work, washing the dishes, brushing/flossing your teeth, watering plants or doing yard work. Avoid the temptation to try to do long drawn out jobs as a meditation. Concern yourself with the quality of the meditation, not the quantity. It is much better to do a 5 minute Meditation perfectly, than 2 hours fairly well. Only when you find that lengthening the duration of your Meditation actually improves the quality of the meditation should you choose a longer job to practice with.

Although you can do a Meditation anywhere, or any time, it is best when learning to choose an activity that is performed privately or independently.

The attitude with which you approach the job you have chosen is very important. Consider the following story, as told by Joseph Campbell - Three men are working together on the same job. An observer asks... "What are you doing?" The first answers, "I am working." The second answers, "I am laying bricks." The third answers, "I AM BUILDING A CATHEDRAL."

Keep your attention totally on what you are doing. Use all your senses to keep you focused in the moment. Really notice the colours on the box of breakfast cereal, what does the box feel like when you pick it up? Is it smooth or textured? Is it heavy or light? What sounds do you hear as you push your trolley? Do your footsteps make a sound?

Keep your attention on your brow chakra, located at the centre of your forehead, as you go about your daily life. Also try to keep your focus soft, instead of looking at one thing that is straight in front, use your periphery vision to see 180 degrees. Try it now, when you are doing it correctly you will find that your mind is immediately calm.

Whatever your Meditation is, determine to set about the activity with as much awareness and joy as possible. Incorporate as much yoga into the work as possible. As you work, breathe diaphragmatically. Make a game out of creating the most efficient, fun and flowing movements. Make each gesture a dance, moving as though you were practicing Tai Chi. Do not let the mind wander, keep bringing it back to the job at hand. Do not let any tension accumulate, either mental or physical. Take frequent breaks if necessary, for 15-30 seconds to stretch and enjoy your surroundings. Smile from the inside out, and put away all thoughts of trying to Finish by a certain deadline. Make this one chore the highlight of your entire day, and resolve to do it PERFECTLY. Make washing the dishes an act of worship.

The more energy and awareness you put into your work, the better the results, the less tiring the work is, and the more satisfaction you receive from your work. Working is an opportunity to practice and enhance your powers of concentration and meditation, and a chance to celebrate life. At first do this once a day, with a small project, and as you see the difference in the enjoyment of the chore, not to mention the quality of the work, and the satisfaction that accompanies a job well done, you will want to practice this Working Meditation more often throughout the day, every day, with joy and awareness.

Your life can become a living meditation and every moment becomes special and joyful. It takes a lot of effort to start with but just keep trying, the rewards are well worth it.

Eating Meditation

Try practicing one of the following two Eating Meditations before your next meal. Take a small portion of food, like a single strawberry, raisin or a slice of apple or orange, or a cracker.

Amnesia:
Imagine you have never seen a strawberry (or any piece of food) in your life, and examine it the way a baby would examine something newly discovered. Look at the strawberry and try to notice something about it that you have never noticed before. This should be easy, as no two strawberries are ever identical. Now close your eyes and see if you can smell the strawberry. Lick your lips and rub the strawberry over your lips, massaging your lips gently. How does it feel? Now lick your lips. Can you taste the trace flavor of the strawberry? Hold the strawberry in your mouth, and roll it around. How does it feel in your mouth? As you chew, notice the immediate change in the intensity of the flavor. Slowly chew the strawberry while resisting the urge to swallow. Sit a little taller and notice if posture affects your appreciation for the strawberry. Breathe in deeply and let your breath go with long soft sighs. Does breathing help you enjoy the strawberry? Relax your face and smile. Notice how smiling improves the taste of a strawberry.

Sincere Appreciation:
Eat a second raisin practicing Sincere Appreciation. Eating just as slowly and following the same instructions from the first raisin, but this time contemplate the many miracles that brought this raisin to your lips. The farmer who grew the grapes, the truck driver, the architect who designed the store where you bought the grapes, all of the people whose lives helped make this moment possible, including your parents for raising you, the rain and sun and the miracle of life present in a single raisin. Give thanks for the wonderful gift of taste. People who practice this eating meditation are often amazed at how much better food tastes when they take the time to notice and appreciate the food as they eat it. You will notice that a single raisin, eaten with sincere appreciation brings more joy and happiness than a whole box of raisins swallowed unconsciously.

Kids take to this exercise readily, and when they realize that they can get more enjoyment out of a piece of candy by practicing mindfulness they are sold on the idea. Even animals can learn mindfulness!

Meditation Chants or Mantras

A mantra is a syllable or group of syllables - sound vibrations - that clear the mind of debris; much as sound vibrations clean jewelry. When first practicing, the mantra can be spoken, and as we concentrate we can begin mental repetition.

As with all types of meditation practices the practice itself is not the goal; the goal is a calm mind and relaxed body, so that harmonious thoughts more easily come to mind followed by their product of kind and caring actions.

Mantra chanting is easily practiced anywhere, as when repeated mentally, no one can see what we are doing. It is one method for regaining and maintaining peace during stressful times. When we are feeling stress, a few moments of mantra meditation can clear away the dust obstructing the view of a good resolution. And, upon lying down for sleep, mantra repetition can calm the mind, letting the body relax.

When our mind is calm and clear we make the best decisions for all concerned. Peace and harmony in our own life influences others' feelings of peace and harmony. Our positive and kind words and actions bless ourselves, because we feel good in the process of positive thought and action, and the recipients of our goodness benefit by our actions and examples.

True Mantras

The meditation business is flourishing these days. Modern-day "messiahs," "gurus," and "incarnations," with all varieties of mantras, are a dime a dozen, as eager customers flock to the feet of self-styled saviors. One so-called guru instructs his disciples in supercharged techniques for becoming a financial success. Another tells his followers that meditation will make their intelligence sharper and the body more fit to enjoy sensual pleasures. Still other "gurus" claim that sex is the ultimate goal of life and that unlimited sex will free one from all material desires. Some chic spiritual seekers pay a lot of money for secret mantras that they believe will allow them to perform mystic feats. But the Vedic literatures issue stern warnings about charlatan gurus and bogus mantras.

If a person is actually serious about spiritual life, he or she must come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master and learn from him the science of God consciousness. The Mundaka Upanisad states that "In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth."

Not just any guru will do. This verse informs us that the spiritual master must be in disciplic succession from the supreme spiritual master (GOD). Such a genuine spiritual master receives Gods teachings through the disciplic chain and distributes them exactly as he has heard them from his spiritual master, without watering them down or altering them to suit his whims. A bona fide guru is not an impersonalist or voidist. He aspires to be a servant of God and His devotees. Such a guru is called acarya, or one who teaches by example. His life is free from all material desires and sinful behavior, his character is exemplary, and he must be qualified to deliver his disciples from the path of repeated birth and death. The God conscious guru is absorbed in service to or meditation on the Supreme Lord at every moment.

A mantra must be received from a pure representative or servant of God, who acts as a transparent via medium between God and the sincere spiritual seeker. Mantras received from any other type of "guru" simply will not work.

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes in the Srimad Bhagavatam: "Unless one follows the disciplic succession, the mantra one receives will be chanted for no purpose. Nowadays there are so many rascal gurus who manufacture their mantras as a process for material advancement, not for spiritual advancement. Still, the mantra cannot be successful if it is manufactured. Mantras and the process of devotional service have special power, provided they are received from the authorized person."

The Power of Mantra Meditation

The Vedas, scriptures containing the timeless spiritual knowledge of ancient India, state that an awakening process is desperately needed because everyone in this material world is in a sleeping, dreamlike condition. We have forgotten our original, spiritual identity, accepting instead a temporary material body composed of physical elements as our real self. The Vedas compare the material body to the subtle forms we experience in dreams. While sleeping, we forget our normal waking identity and may find ourselves enjoying or suffering in different types of bodies. But when we hear the ringing of the alarm clock, we awaken and return to normal consciousness. We remember who we are and what we should be doing. Similarly, by hearing the powerful transcendental sound vibrations of the Hare Krishna mantra, we can gradually wake up to our original self, the soul, which is characterized by eternality and is full of knowledge and ever-increasing pleasure.

The sages of ancient India therefore tell us that the goal of human life should not be to try to enjoy our temporary dreamlike situation in the material world. Rather, we are advised to awaken to our original, spiritual nature and ultimately return to our true home in the spiritual world, where we may enjoy an eternal relationship with the Supreme God.

The transcendental potency necessary for developing complete psychological and spiritual fulfillment is already present within everyone. It must, however, be uncovered by a genuine spiritual process.

How to Chant

There are no hard-and-fast rules for chanting. The most wonderful thing about mantra meditation is that one may chant anywhere -- at home, at work, driving in the car, or riding on the bus or subway. And one may chant at any time.

In order to chant one need not equip oneself with expensive props and paraphernalia, learn to stand on one's head, or perform other difficult postures or breathing exercises. The only equipment one needs is a tongue and ears. Everyone already has these. The tongue simply has to vibrate the words, and the ears must hear it. By this simple process alone, one can achieve all perfection.

There are two basic types of chanting. Personal meditation, where one chants alone on beads, is called japa. When one chants in responsive fashion with others, this is called kirtana. Kirtana is usually accompanied by musical instruments and clapping. Both forms of chanting are recommended and beneficial.

To perform the first type of meditation, one needs only a set of japa beads. To meditate with the beads, hold them in your right hand. Hold the first bead with your thumb and middle finger and chant the complete mantra. Then go to the next bead, holding it with the same two fingers, again chanting the entire mantra. Then go on to the next bead and then the next, continuing in this way until you have chanted on all 108 beads and have come to the main or krishna bead. You have now completed "one round" of chanting. Do not chant on the Krishna bead, but turn the beads around and chant on them in the opposite direction, one after another. Chanting on beads is especially helpful, for it engages the sense of touch in the meditative process and helps you concentrate even more on the sound of the mantra.

You may want to chant japa indoors, but you can chant just as comfortably walking along the beach or hiking in the mountains. Just bring your beads along with you. If you chant sitting down, you should assume a comfortable position (preferably not Iying down or slouching, for there's always the tendency to fall asleep). You can chant as loudly or as softly as you like, but it's important to pronounce the mantra clearly and loudly enough to hear yourself. The mind may have a tendency to wander off to other matters when you chant, for the mind is flickering and unsteady, always looking for something new and pleasurable to absorb itself in. If your mind wanders (to anything except God and things related to Him), gently bring it back to the transcendental sound vibration. It won't be difficult, because the mind is easily satisfied when absorbed in the divine sound of the mantra (unlike other meditationa practices, where one may be asked to fix his mind on "nothing" or "the void").

One may chant japa at any time, but the Vedic literatures note that certain hours of the day are most auspicious for performing spiritual activities. The early morning hours just before and after sunrise are generally a time of stillness and quietude, excellently suited to contemplative chanting. Many people find it especially helpful to set aside a certain amount of time at the same time each day for chanting. Start with one or two "rounds" a day, and gradually increase the number until you reach sixteen, the recommended minimum for serious chanters.

While japa is a form of meditation involving you, your beads, and the Supreme Lord, kirtana, on the other hand, is a form of group meditation, where one sings the mantra, sometimes accompanied by musical instruments.

One may hold a kirtana at home with family or friends, with one person leading the chanting and the others responding. Kirtana is more of a supercharged meditational process, where in addition to hearing oneself chant, one also benefits by hearing the chanting of others. Musical instruments are nice, but not necessary. One may sing the mantra to any melody and clap his hands. If you have children, they can sing along as well and make spiritual advancement. You can get the whole family together every evening for chanting.

The sounds of the material world are boring, hackneyed and monotonous, but chanting is an ever-increasingly refreshing experience. Make a test yourself. Try chanting some word or phrase for even five minutes. If you chant "Coca-Cola" over and over again, even for a few minutes, it becomes practically unbearable. There's no pleasure in it. But the sound of God's names is transcendental, and as one chants he wants to chant more and more.

The Hare Krishna Mantra

The Vedas tell us that meditation on the Hare Krishna mantra is the most powerful.

The initial result of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is summarized by Srila Prabhupada in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita: "We have practical experience that any person who is chanting the holy names of Krishna n course of time feels some transcendental pleasure and very quickly becomes purified of all material contamination."

Receiving the Hare Krishna mantra from a bona fide guru who is in complete harmony with Krishna's teachings in Bhagavad-gita is the single most important aspect of chanting Hare Krishna.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare

Hare Rama, Hare Rama,

Rama Rama, Hare Hare

The OM Chant

If there is no religious preference than the sound vibration 'OM' is a universally recognized mantra.

If using 'OM' draw the sound out like this - oooooommmmmmmmmmm - emphasis being on the last part. To use in conjunction with breathing take an in breath, and then on the out breath repeat 'OM' remembering to draw out the ending.

Therefore chanting OM (AUM) will bring us to a state of purity in body mind and soul.

AUM

The Purity Chant

The Om is composed of three letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.

All Buddhas are cases of beings who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states arid their being transformed into the pure.

The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method-the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfils the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfils the wishes of sentient beings.

The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing that persons are empty, of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality-that is to say, of difference of entity between subject an object-and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realizing emptiness.

Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom. In the mantra, it refers to one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one un-differentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five Conqueror Buddhas, hum is the seed syllable of Akshobhya - the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.

Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is said that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One, that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.

om mani padme hum

The Gayatri Mantra

The meaning of the Gayatri mantra is as follows

We contemplate the glory of Light illuminating the three worlds: gross, subtle, and causal. I am that vivifying power, love, radiant illumination, and divine grace of universal intelligence. We pray for the divine light to illumine our minds.

Om: The primeval sound

Bhur: the physical world

Bhuvah: the mental world

Suvah: the celestial, spiritual world

Thath: That; God; transcendental Paramatma

Savithur: the Sun, Creator, Preserver

Varenyam: most adorable, enchanting

Bhargo: luster, effulgence

Devasya: resplendent,supreme Lord

Dheemahi: we meditate upon

Dhiyo: the intellect,understanding

Yo: May this light

Nah: our

Prachodayath: enlighten,guide,inspire

Om Bhur Buvaha Suvaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath

The HU Chant

Chanting HU (pronounced "hue") aloud or to yourself can open your heart to God's love and transform your life. This daily practice can help you experience more love, joy and spiritual freedom. You can also try chanting this inwardly when faced with challenging situations. HU is a ancient name for God and is a very uplifting chant when singing it with a group of people.

HU (hue)