So, you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation and you’d like to incorporate more mindfulness into your daily life.
But, how do you cut through all the mystical and technical mumbo jumbo and start basic, practical meditation?
Since the 1960s, Western meditation trends have come and gone. We all remember the Beatles meditation phase, the transcendental meditation retreats of the late 60s and 70s, all the way through the yoga trend that began in the 90s. Meditation and mindfulness have fascinated us for decades.
What people in Western countries are learning is something Eastern philosophers, teachers, and theologists have known for thousands of years: meditation and mindfulness offer proven, scientific benefits. Not only does meditation help you connect your mind and body through breathing and awareness, but it can offer profound health benefits. Your blood pressure lowers, anxiety is alleviated, it’s even good for your diet and digestion.
Above all, meditation is about giving your conscious self a break and allowing your higher consciousness to kick in. It helps you relax, clears your thinking, and allows you to tap into more creativity. Ultimately, meditation is part of nourishment and self-care.
So, how do you cut out all the peripheral noise and get started with a pragmatic meditation practice?
One of the big trends these days is to go on a meditation and mindfulness retreat. First, let me say, there’s nothing wrong with these retreats and they’re often great experiences. However, spending ten days in solitude may simply result in a nice memory with very few lasting takeaways.
It’s no secret our lives are busy and filled with “noise.” The option of unplugging and disconnecting from the outside world is very appealing to many of us. Taking a technology and social sabbatical may simply allow you to gain the peace of mind you’re seeking. But, like all experiences, what you put into and prepare for will be what you take away.
Before you sign up for a 10-day retreat, consider incorporating mindfulness and practical meditation into your daily life. Build up your regular practice, so when you do decide to work with a teacher or go on a retreat, you’re fully prepared and able to extract greater meaning from your experience.
In the meantime, if you’re getting started, it’s better to learn to dog-paddle than to throw yourself into the deep end of the pool. Try beginning with a simple mantra meditation for a short time each day.
As someone who’s been studying mindfulness and practicing meditation for 50+ years, I can tell you, starting out simply and then building up, will result in great benefits. There are many different types of meditation: guided, visual, breathing. I personally, prefer mantra meditation, especially for beginners.
With mantra meditation, you simply breathe normally and focus on repeating the mantra. Of course, what happens is that your “monkey mind” kicks in, immediately trying to distract you and steer you off course. As you acknowledge these distractions and then envision yourself letting them go (often imagining them in a balloon floating away), you’ll slowly learn to clear your mind.
This means building up slowly and engaging in training daily, if possible. Repeating a mantra helps you disrupt your typical mental pattern, giving your consciousness a break. This allows you to tap into what many refer to as your higher consciousness.
For me, when I’m really practicing regularly, I find meditating twice a day is most beneficial—once in the morning and once in the evening. When I have a meditation rhythm and habit going, I find I’m much more effective. I can achieve more. My thoughts are clearer and more creative. I’m more productive in my work and more engaged with others.
Meditation doesn’t require sitting in full lotus—something many people are relieved to hear as they get older and flexibility decreases. Simply sit comfortably, close your eyes and repeat a mantra. I suggest people use mantras that correlate to their faith.
For example, there’s a Christian mantra, “Maranatha” (“Ma-Ra-Na-Tha”) which comes from the final word in Corinthians and Revelations. The word means “Come Lord.” This connects the spiritual side of meditation to the practice and ties it to one’s own religion in a relevant way.
Those of other faiths may prefer a Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist mantra if it’s more fitting to your personal philosophy. It’s also fine if you prefer to simply use any sound you find calming and centering. In fact, the less meaning in the mantra, the more you may find it helps you focus.
That said, certain mantras may have more power than others. There’s a debate about the frequently used “Om” in mediation being a call to the infinite and “Ong” being a call for the householder. If the mantra is used, it may trigger the pressure felt by the householder and bring them back into their stressors. So, this could become a problematic meditation mantra for them.
There’s an enormous amount of mysticism and theory about mantra meditation. Meditation is connected to many Eastern religious practices, so similar to prayer, it’s seen as a way to commune with the divine and connect with a deeper spiritual realm. For example, in the Hare Krishna faith, they believe through mantra meditation, you can complete your past karma and remove yourself from the wheel of rebirth.
Similarly, there are certain spiritual teachers who believe meditation is about focusing on your breath and holding your thoughts at bay. It’s very demanding to hold back your thoughts, and some believe If you ever follow through one full breath you’ll become a realized being. I have preferred not to focus on my breath because I find, as a “householder,” it causes me more tension–I prefer to release tension rather than to create it with mental breathing gymnastics.
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax, and softly repeat a mantra to yourself.
For me, meditation is a matter of self-care, creativity, and generativity. I’m seeking to live my life with the greatest consciousness I can and for me, meditation helps raise that consciousness. Although it’s tempting to get lost in the philosophy and caught up in the tension of “breathing” or performing meditation in a way that’s “correct,” you will still reap great benefits by adopting a pragmatic, simple approach.
Make mindfulness and pragmatic meditation a part of your self-care routine. View it as a chance to recharge your batteries, take a break, and release the tension in your life.
For more on self-nourishment and care, please visit the Wright Foundation. We’re offering many of our classes for purchase and download. Don’t miss this special introductory price. We also host fantastic networking events, where you can connect with others and learn more about how to live the life you’ve always dreamed of!
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.