google-site-verification: googleae9556121f128741.html Healing Meditations: Meditation: Mantra Practice

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meditation: Mantra Practice

Meditation has been a source of comfort and inspiration for me for  many years.  It connects me to myself, others, the world and a deep  source of guidance within. I recently decided to teach a meditation class and am looking forward to sharing meditation with those of you who want a deeper connection or to begin a practice. It is my way of sharing what I most value and it brings me great happiness! I am going to blog about different meditation practices over the next few weeks, as I believe that having an overview of  the various therapeutic effects different practices have, is valuable information for the beginning meditation student. This weeks blog is an overview Mantra Practice. But first some meditation basics.......

As we practice meditation over time, in a gentle and easy way, we strengthen our minds and we become better able to focus. As we watch our thoughts come and go, we notice that we think negative thoughts, positive thoughts and many neutral thoughts, and that these thoughts just occur as we quietly sit without any particular external trigger. We learn to be non-reactive to our internal states. In other words, we learn that we are NOT our thoughts. 

Occasionally, deeply buried subconscious material comes forward and as it is made conscious it is healed. This subconscious material does not necessarily need to be some huge, horrifying dark event. It could be something very simple and really not threatening. But the very act of blocking anything from the conscious mind takes enormous energy. The blocking of subconscious material is often much more detrimental than the content of the material itself. Integration of all parts of ourselves leads to more happiness, peace and most definitely greater energy and vitality. 

Over time,as we meditate,we develop the ability to listen.  Freed from the constant bombardment of external stimuli we can hear our thoughts and become aware of our bodies with consciousness and compassion. We develop the ability to hear the small quiet voice of our intuition, our inner knowing. We become receptive, not needing to control and therefore can more fully open to life as it is.

Basically, there are two broad categories of meditation techniques:

1. One Pointed Focus-concentration on a single object, sound or sensation
2. Open Focus-Generalized awareness without analytical thought, all sense perception is equal

Usually, One Pointed Focus is easiest for those of us who are just beginning to meditate. That's because most us have jumpy minds and have difficulty focusing. Most of us need to calm down and relax. Open Focus meditation is very relaxing as well, but often we need to be able to focus the mind before we can let go and relax. Mantra meditation is  a one pointed focus, devotional practice, that is good starting point for many beginning students. 

 A mantra is a word, phrase or name. Traditionally, people of all faiths, for thousands of years, have repeated the names of their gods. It was thought by calling the name of their god, they could evoke the gods help and manifest their qualities.

The repetition of a mantra focuses the mind. A strong mind is a mind that stays where we put it. A lot of dissatisfaction in our lives stems from not being totally present. We think about work lying in bed at night trying to sleep, we think about sleeping while at work because we are tired! We think about cooking dinner while driving. We think about relationship issues while at work. We think about work when we are out to dinner with our loved ones. It's exhausting and ultimately not satisfying.

We are all familiar with the habits of a jumpy mind. The Buddhists call this mind our “monkey mind”. It has been my experience that people (myself included) are much happier and more productive when we are able to stay focused on what it is that we are actually doing.Recently there was a scientific study that proved this!

Just like any skill, we get better at focusing by practicing focusing! Mantra meditation helps us to do that.

Another aspect of mantra meditation is the energy or feeling of the object of our focus. It would be theoretically possible to become very good at focusing on negative aspects of life and ourselves. Some of us are already very adept at this! However, in mantra meditation we are focusing on an uplifting word or phrase or name of a god the represents a positive higher energy. For instance, if we focus and repeat the word “peace” we are accomplishing several things at once:

-we are strengthening the mind by engaging in one pointed focus
-as we repeat the word peace we begin to feel peaceful
-as we repeat the word peace we begin to program the subconscious mind to see and recognize peace wherever we go
-we begin to notice the peace that already exists within us
 -as we repeat the word peace we change our physiology toward a more peaceful state making it easier and easier to feel peaceful

Basically, whatever we focus on internally, whether that be positive, negative or neutral, we tend to manifest externally. This becomes a stronger and stronger effect the more we practice. The more “charge” a word or phrase has the more effective it is. For instance, if we were to repeat the word “toothbrush” over and over we might get good at focusing if we could stand the boredom, but it might not make us a happier person. 

Words are powerful. Words are the symbols of the feeling and energy they represent. Words evoke feeling and feeling creates thoughts, choices and alters our physiology.

We all long for connection with ourselves, others and the world around us. Some of us yearn for a connection to the divine, or unseen,  energetic levels or reality. For me, meditation has been the bridge that connects me inside and out. When I sit in front of my table, light a candle and incense my mind becomes more still and my thoughts softer. Its as if I can turn the volume down on the constant inner dialogue that is usually playing. My breath deepens and slows. The flowers, and candlelight seems to become more clear and vibrant. Meditation is and has been both a comfort and a joy.

I believe that all of us can find a practice that resonates with our unique being.