Imagine gazing into your flat screen television. The late night infomercial stops your thumb from dancing like a jackhammer on the remote control. The slick announcer, with his white teeth and radiant tan, pitches bigger than-life promises! He rattles off a string of irresistible hooks:
“Do you want to optimize your BRAIN FUNCTION, have better ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE, deep SLEEP, lowered BLOOD PRESSURE, less ANXIETY, reduced STRESS, better HEALTH and reverse THE AGING PROCESS...?”
"All this can be achieved by DOING NOTHING", he brags. No Thigh Master to squeeze, Ginsu Knives to dice with or sparkling cans of delicious chalky shakes to force down! "All you need," he announces through his rehearsed grin, "is a quiet place to park your rear-end, and my exclusive method.”
At this point, the average person would likely emit a cynical “Yeah, right!” His or her thumb would lift ready to begin another expedition for entertainment on the remote. The advertiser's slick offer, guaranteed after three easy payments on the credit card, would sound as probable as striking oil in Wilmington. BUT WAIT! In reality, if the method advertised involves meditation, his claims are not only right, but proven with scientific research!
Meditation has been practiced for over 5000 years, and it has been a part many of the world’s religions and psychological techniques. Believed to originate in India, many different forms exist with varied objectives. This article will focus on a form of meditation found in the yoga practices.
The goal of meditation is to maintain a prolonged focus of the thinking mind. This is accomplished by sustaining one's mental attention on a single object. Quieting the distractions created by the barrage of thoughts experienced regularly becomes the single focus. One form of mediation in yoga uses the words “So” and “Hum” as the objects of focus.
The word “So” is silently stated in the mind during the inhalation, followed by “Hum” on the exhalation. Besides being associated with the sounds of the flowing breath, they translate into the words "I am that.” This means: I am part of all creation. This method is easy to perform and effective for both the beginner and advanced meditator.
- Sit in a comfortable upright position on a blanket, pillow or chair.
- Place your hands on the lap either palms up to open awareness or palms down to calm the mind. Traditionally, Jnana mudra (sanskrit) is used by touching the first finger to the thumb like the “OK” sign with palms facing upward. A mudra means “seal” and Jnana translates to “knowledge or wisdom.” This ancient hand position enhances the practice as a gesture of knowledge.
- Soften your face and body while maintaining an erect posture.
- Bring your awareness to the touch of breath as it enters and exits the nose. The breath is natural, flowing in and out of the nose without intentional sound. Inhalation gently leads to exhalation and effortlessly returns to inhalation.
- Silently repeat the word “So” on each inhalation and “Hum” during the exhalation. The words, like the breath, glide smoothly into each other. You may see the words in your mind’s eye and/or hear the words spoken within.
- Practice as long as you feel comfortable and unforced. Work up to 20 to 30 minutes once or twice daily.
- Upon completion, cup the hands gently over closed eyes. Bring your awareness outward by opening your eyes beneath your cupped palms. Observe slowly as you remove your hands, and allow your awareness to move outward again.
- When thoughts come, and they will, without judgment or analysis, bring your attention back to the words “So-Hum.” It is as if you are sitting next to a stream of flowing water. A thought is like a leaf floating by in the current. You may notice the leaf, but allow it to pass by while your focus remains on the words and movement of the breath.
- A timer may be helpful.
- Meditating at the same time each day and in the same location makes the practice flow more easily.
- Wait at least two hours after a meal to meditate.
- Practicing just before going to bed may cause an energy surge that could hinder the sleeping process.
Kindness and self-acceptance are important when practicing meditation. Perfection is not necessary. Benefits come with any effort great or small. You will find that with practice, many aspects of your life and health will begin to transform. Meditation may be the single most effective tool for self-improvement and achievement of greater happiness. It removes the blankets of distraction and reveals the extraordinary that lies beneath the surface of everyone’s life. And… who knows? The gifts brought by meditation may even cause us to forget why we wanted that new flat screen TV in the first place!