Meditation FAQ

What is meditation?
Have you ever focussed on something long enough until you obtained it? Has anyone done something nice for you that made your whole day brighter because that one act stayed in your mind? What if you could focus on things that make you become more peaceful, confident, focused, and enriched? Meditation is focusing your mind on one concept until you obtain a deeper understanding or skill. You can focus on something physical (like a posture until you feel more balanced), spiritual (like a prayer until you feel more connected), or virtuous (like kindness until you feel more generous).

How is meditation different from relaxation, thinking, concentration or self-hypnosis?
Relaxation is just a passive activity if your awareness is not with you in the process. A relaxing activity like taking a hot bath or having a glass of wine is not meditation unless you are being aware of letting go of tension. Notice the sensations that accompany that process of relaxation. Then you are fully absorbed in how to let go. Then relaxation can become something you can do even when you are not engaged in the above activities. When that happens you can say you have meditated on relaxation and understand the essence of how to relax.
Thinking of random thoughts is not meditation. Being an observer of your thought process without judgement is a meditation. Thinking about becoming more patient until you start to feel more patient is a meditation practice. Focussed thought is meditation.
Thinking about one thing requires concentration. Therefore, meditation requires concentration. However, meditation takes the practitioner beyond that and into a state of deliberately knowing the object of concentration. For example, concentrating on thoughts of clarity until the feeling of clarity is experienced in the body and mind.
The line is very thin between self-hypnosis and meditation. Self-Hypnosis accesses an open state of mind and then offers suggestions to alter a persons mood or change a behavior. Meditation cultivates an open state of mind and also can use suggestions in the form of mantras or affirmations or visualizations to change a behavior. I personally believe self-hypnosis and meditation are one and the same.

What are the different meditation techniques?
Focusing on the breath is very popular. Focusing on one’s posture is another. Prayer is a form of meditation. Chanting is another. Silently observing the present moment is a method used by buddhists and is mostly known in Zen Buddhism. Meditation techniques are endless as long as the meditator is focusing the mind on one thing for a period of time to reach a deeper knowing.

Which meditation is right for me?
There is no “right” meditation technique for everybody. The important thing is to find what works for you through experimentation or the guidance of a meditation teacher.

Are there any religious implications or affiliations with meditation?
Meditation is something that has been used by many religions but is not religious. It is a useful tool for gaining insight into more of who we are and for reaching our fullest potential.

Does meditation have any ethical implications?
Meditation is neutral and can be used for ethical or unethical purposes. It can promote ethical behavior if that is the focus of the meditation.

What is the best time of day to meditate?
Meditation can be practiced at any time, but the best time is usually in the morning before too much activity begins. A morning meditation practice can bring some of the peace from your practice into the day ahead. This does not mean that if you don’t have time in the morning it is pointless to meditate. Meditation can be useful at any time and for any length of time.

Why do some people use music while meditating?
Soothing music can help calm the nerves and bring the mind into a more receptive state to begin the process of meditation. It is not a requirement and can become a hindrance if one relies on it in order to practice meditation.

Should I meditate with my eyes open or closed?
Meditation with open eyes keeps a practitioner awake and connected to the present moment. Eyes closed is good for drawing inward. I recommend closed eyes for meditations on the physical body so you can bring your senses to the body. Eventually, one can do any meditation with the eyes open. The senses are fine tuned to go were ever you wish them to go.

What are the physiological effects of meditation?
It depends on the meditation but studies have shown reduced blood pressure, lower pulse rate, and decreased metabolic rate.

When I meditate I experience physical pain in my body. What should I do?
Let your body teach you. You may be getting a message that your posture is incorrect, so be willing to adjust and find better alignment. Alignment can be your meditation practice. When you have let go of tension and improved how your body holds itself, you will have passed a stage in your meditation practice. Then you can go deeper by meditating on something else, like the flow of your breath.

How long should I meditate?
It depends on the meditation and what your experience level is. If you are new to meditation, 5 to 10 minutes is enough. As you improve, you may want to integrate other meditation topics. For example, you spend 5 minutes on alignment, and then 5 more on the breath, and then five more on acceptance. Each topic will increase your practice time by 5 to 10 minutes per topic.

Do I need a teacher?
A teacher is useful in the learning process. You do not need a teacher but one offers guidance which will help you overcome stumbling blocks such as doubt and misunderstanding.