Through reading about great world leaders, I found that the majority of them had one thing in common; they practiced meditation regularly. In 2001, I started meditating ten minutes a day. Now every day, both morning and evening, I sit to meditate for a total of ninety minutes. I also started practicing Hatha Yoga in 2001, which is generally just known as Yoga. Among many things, Yoga has been found to help individuals sit still and focus for longer periods of time.
Meditation is good for all people regardless of race, religion, gender, age and health condition. Some of us take time to take care of our body through physical exercise. Very few of us take time to take care of our mind. Meditation helps us in many ways. Our mind jumps from one thought to the other, much like a monkey. Meditation helps us to observe our thoughts and also improve concentration. Mastering our mind can lead us to happiness.
Meditation has helped me to lower stress, become more self aware, think creatively and minimize reacting before thinking things through. It helps people to lower their blood pressure. It helps one to breathe more slowly which helps one live longer. It also helps one to live in the present.
Lama Willa, who is doing a PhD program at Harvard, specializing in meditation, said, “Our body doesn’t lie. It is our mind that plays games. The body is a good barometer of how we are feeling.” Meditation helps us to observe subtle reactions in our body. If we can catch our reactions quickly and tell ourselves that this too will change, we won’t react negatively.
Meditation helps us to understand our emotions, reactions and feelings. Meditation helps us to pause before responding impulsively. During this pause, if we check in with our heart, we can choose more loving responses.
Lama Willa realized in her three-year silent meditation, that most problems are created by our minds. She said, “We are perfectly fine at this moment with what we have. However, our mind creates stories and we suffer as a result. When we remember that there are many others around the world who are suffering from being in similar situations, we can lessen our pain.”
Our natural state is to be as blissful as a newborn child. Over time, we are conditioned to lose this state of tranquility. Authentic connection to our deeper innate nature is a life time practice. Meditation is one of the tools we can use to experience the divine nature which is present in everyone.
Beginners can start meditating for just five minutes a day, anytime and anywhere. The ideal time to meditate is during the transition times of sunset and sunrise. There are many techniques to meditate.
Some methods are based on visualizations, such as imagining a candle flame, and some use verbalization such as a mantra or chanting. These methods of meditation work to calm our mind; however, they also make our mind actively focus on external objects or words.
Vipassana meditation, on the other hand, helps us explore within ourselves. You can find information on Vipassana at www.dhamma.org. Experiment with different methods and follow the ones that work for you.
A simple technique that Buddha taught was to observe the breath while inhaling and exhaling, focusing at the place below the nose and above the upper lip. By closing the eyes, one can sit in any posture keeping the spine straight and clasping hands. One can sit comfortably on a cushion or in a chair and be relaxed. Thoughts may keep coming and going. Instead of judging or getting mad that you can’t focus, just remember to go back to your breath. Eventually, we get better at meditating. Have a purpose or intention for meditation. Find out the benefits that you want to obtain from meditation.
It has been said that the ideal duration of meditation is directly proportional to one’s age. Therefore, for a thirty-year old, thirty minutes of daily meditation is suggested.
Thus, as we practice meditation each day, we become more aware of our feelings and actions. This will help prevent us from reacting and help us maintain equanimity. Many have said that “the kingdom of heaven is within us.” Let us practice meditation and live more happily.
(Editors note: Lama Willa Miller is the author of Every Day Dharma — Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You, published by Quest Books, 2009. You can find more about her at this website: www.naturaldharma.org)