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Meditation

Intro

Meditation has been used for centuries has been a way to relax the mind and body, relieve stress, and allow the mind to work at it optimum. It is still popular and is recommended by numerous medical authorities to relieve stress and the physical and mental illnesses caused by stress.

Goals

The three main goals of meditation are to:
  • Clear the mind of conscious thinking. 
  • Investigate the inner workings of the mind. 
  • Use visualization to cause the mind to think about something in particular. 
These three goals have led to the development of three main types of meditation. Each type concentrates on way to eliminate hindrances to achieving a particular goal, and on ways to achieve that goal.

Types of meditation

  • Centering meditation. This is the samatha or "tranquility" type of meditation where one tries to calm and clear the mind by stopping it from thinking and emptying it of all thoughts. This calming, centering, and emptying of the mind is a characteristic of Japanese Zen meditation. 
  • Investigating meditation. This is like vipassana "insight" meditation where you are monitoring the flow of awareness and realizations as they move through your observing mind. It allows one to learn how to prevent the mind from preconceived beliefs when dealing with reality and to learn ways to overcome the comfort of simple thinking. This watching of the mind in action and gaining insight into its functions is characteristic of Theravada "school of the sages" meditation, which is strong in countries of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand or Burma, but it does not have any historical presence in Japan. This method is said to be closest to the original meditations taught in India by Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha. 
  • Visualizing meditation. This type of meditation uses "eidetic visualization" to program one's mind willfully to alter its conditioned perceptions of the world. One learns to overcome delusion and fear, to gain greater insight of the world, and to increase one's power within the world. From what we know, this is close to the type of meditation employed in Mikkyo, or "esoteric doctrine" meditation. Since the methods of Mikkyo are secret, we do not know much about its inner workings. To learn Mikkyo, you must be in a specific kind of environment and "psycho-emotional atmosphere" and have a teacher. 

How to meditate

The basics of meditation are easy:
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes. 
  • Sit cross-legged on a firm pillow (sit in a full or half lotus position if able), with buttocks about six to nine inches higher than ankles. 
  • Keep back naturally straight, but not stiff, while leaning slightly forward. 
  • Let wrists rest on the thighs. Classically, your hands are folded together with palms up, the fingers of one hand lying on top of the insides of the fingers of the other hand, with thumb tips barely touching. 
  • Rock slightly in all four directions to settle yourself in preparation for the meditation session. 
  • Keep eyes lightly closed with some light leaking in between the lids while gazing down at the hands. Meditation with closed eyes often causes you to start thinking about and visualizing things in your everyday life, so avoid it. 
  • Rest tongue lightly against the back of your front teeth and against the roof of your mouth. 
  • Relax and concentrate on nothing, but do not force it. Stray thoughts are bound to arise. When a thought arises, acknowledge it calmly, and then watch it go. Observe it in an unattached and unconcerned fashion and then return to your meditation. 
  • Use the breath as a centering device to channel the workings of the mind. Sit lightly and observe your breath. Breath deep slow breaths through the nose using the diaphragm and exhale slowly through the mouth using the diaphragm. On the exhale, use to breath to faintly hum some meaningless word (such as "Ohmmm"). If you find yourself enmeshed in a thought, do not be annoyed or dismayed, just think "not now," and effortlessly let the thought go, returning to following the breath without any self-criticism or judgments. 

Conclusions

The benefits of "the relaxation response" and the use of meditation are well documented. The use of meditative states may appear magical to those unfamiliar with the science of the mind, but it is actually a simple process used by many sports disciplines and medical doctors to control such things as blood pressure and heart rate. Despite all the claims, the only scientifically proved useful benefits from meditation are to help reduce stress and depression.

If you feel a need to get deeper into the meditation arts, be careful in selecting a teacher. Since you are in a relaxed state, you are susceptible to subliminal suggestions. Unscrupulous teachers may try to take advantage of you.

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