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Meditation

If mental clarity, stress relief, heightened senses, and improved health are topics that interest you, you might want to take up meditation.

In popular culture meditation is often viewed as something "gurus" do on mountains or a fringe pastime for health nuts. Rarely are its concrete purposes and benefits discussed, and when they are, it's often in very tame terms, which undermines the awesome power of the practice.

Meditation, in its various forms, has been integral as a means of reflection, relaxation, and connection with the deeper aspects of nature and the Self.
Meditation Mudra
It's noticeable benefits, including pervasive calm, improved psychological balance, buffer against illnesses, and a means of enhancing overall vitality, are well known to those who practice it. The resources we have on meditation prove that it is invaluable for taking control of one's thought patterns, balancing emotion, heightening mental acuity, and increasing spatial awareness. Indeed, meditation is known to bring about a mindfulness in its practitioners that encompasses a whole range of mental and emotional benefits that are hard to categorize.

Despite its air of intrigue, the scientific research pans out. As opposed to years ago, when we could only go off of the word of those who practiced it, we now have plenty of evidence that meditation can dramatically affect the nervous system , the immune system, emotional states, and even such obscure realms as memory and respiratory issues.

The ancients regarded meditation as both a medicine and a lifestyle, not merely the fad it seems to be in parts of popular culture. As with the practice of yoga, which is closely related, meditation as a whole has been capitalized upon by numerous businesses and charlatans trying to turn a quick buck. Don't get me wrong, even uncoordinated or poorly taught meditation has its benefits, but you're much better off learning the whole picture from sources that treat it properly.

So, How Does Meditation Work?

First it's important to know a bit about our minds. We've been conditioned to accept the constant intake of sensory data and deliberation of thought as "normal." Our minds are in a constant state of low-grade stress, dealing with the torrent of data that we are constantly taking in and mulling over.
We also have over-developed egos, which is a symptom of our ego-driven society. This is also a great strain on our bodies, as we are constantly at war with ourselves. Our inflated and chaotic egos are responsible for much of our mental vices, territorial and narcissistic tendencies, as well as our world-building. This is a related problem: because we place such little importance on validity or objective truth in this society, our minds have become something of a construct or storage unit for the world we have created.
This last point is especially important, and plays into one of the reasons meditation was developed in the first place: to free us of our own illusions. Many of us, due to the conditioning of society, culture, the education system, and propaganda, believes various falsehoods. It's nothing to be ashamed of, but it definitely needs to be addressed. Anything that is false and needs to be believed for the sake of a personal worldview is something the mind must continuously internalize. It's like a shackle. Our minds are under great amount of shackles and stressors at any given time: the totality of all of our wrong beliefs, attachments, vices, pointless collections of data, and emotional convictions.
It is this complex mental soup that keeps us in chains. Limitation is borne of mental subjugation. I'm sure you have heard much of the "wellness" or "success" mentality. Part of growing into your potential is releasing all of the dross mental crap that has accumulated since you were brought into the world. Doing so has numerous benefits on the mind and our ability to solve problems, which is a primary skill of any successful businessman or entrepreneur.
Quieting the mind loosens the hold these thoughts and views have on the mind. By actively refusing to internalize your inner monologue, you allow thoughts and emotions to pass on healthily. It also teaches you mental control. Just like anything, the mind can be trained. An untrained mind is messy, unproductive, and works against you. A mind you control is one that serves you: clear, concise, able to process important information faster while discarding unecessary data, not given to attachment or fits of emotion.
There are other facets to how meditation works, though, including calculable effects on our neurological system, and on the movement of energy in our bodies. It should be mentioned that it is also a return to our natural state, as the thought constructs that are typical of modern minds are wholly unnatural. By removing them, a natural peace settles on us that is more indicative of our natural docile animal state.

Behind the Scenes

Our physical bodies have subatomic counterparts described by the ancient Hindus as a network of energy centers (chakras) and rivers (nadi) that form a network that directly corresponds to our nervous system and major organs.
Which brings us to an important point: everything is energy. This is a scientifically proven fact, as we now know through the research in Quatum Physics, that all matter is just concentrated energy, or light vibration. In many ancient cultures, the movement of this energy is of great importance, and is often the center of which their belief systems and understandings of the world are based. Many practices developed that allowed us to tap into and control the flow of this energy, including yoga, reiki, and tai chi.
We like to think of matter as solid, because it's the simple relity we interpret with our limited view of the world filtered through our ego-driven minds. But in fact atoms are 99.9% empty space. The physical world around us is electrical signals that fall on certain a spectrum of vibration, and even it is only a miniscule sliver of objective reality that exists around us.
electromagnetic-spectrum
The energy that forms our bodies and the world around us is anything but solid. It's important to understand this if you are to grasp the nature of the world around us. Everything is connected via magnetic energy. Independent bodies of matter are an illusion. All matter is held together via electromagnetic bonds that manifest in differing densities, which we know as atoms. Remember, the only thing that differentiates all matter are the atomic composition of atoms, which is only a matter of combinations of electrons, protons, and neutrons.
The movement of this energy is integral to how reality functions. When we walk, use our eyes to see the world around us, think thoughts, feel emotions, or even rest, electrical energy is flowing through our bodies via our neurons and neural pathways. The position of the major chakras correspond to the major nerve centeres. All of our physical activity first begins on the subatomic level, and on this primal level, everything is merely vibration.
There is a wealth of things to know in this regard, books worth, so it's not fruitful to divulge it all here. The two major points to digest from all of this are that we are made entirely of energy, and that this energy exists in a giant sea of energy, or vibration, and is connected with everything around us.
Part of the point of meditation is to naturally bring about this revelation, by opening the mind and learning how to "feel" from the point of one's energy, which enables you to tap into that "oneness" that is often spoken of in health and wellness circles. It is simply the ability to feel from the standpoint of our base state.

What's In It For Me?

It's easy to zone out at the sound of scientific jargon. The first time I ran into this information, I had already been meditating for years, so nothing surprised me. It was more of a "duh" moment, because it answers so many questions about the nature of reality and our place in it, as well as the power of meditation.
You might just be looking for results: ways to de-stress and get an edge in your business pursuits. Nothing wrong with any of that. Understanding the technical side of things, however, can lend some perspective. There's a reason why meditation is so effective, and not just because it is a "relaxation technique" or whatever.
Meditation By River at Sunset
The benefits of meditation can be far-reaching. In fact, more people than you think are already delving into it these days, including pro sports athletes and Fortune 500 CEOs, because it's hard to ignore the results. You can expect sharper awareness, an ability to overcome stress much more easily, better memory, an improved immune system, and more. It's hard to say specifically what benefits you may reap, because meditation first and foremost is an holistic practice. It helps the entire body, mind, and emotional whole.
It may seem daunting to get into at first, though, because the pratice of meditation runs counter to everything we do in this society. Rather than multitask 100 different things and dwell on past mistakes, your upcoming job interview, your diet plan, and a bunch of other miscellaneous excess, meditation teaches that you should let all of it go, live in the moment, shut the mind's stream-of-thought off and just allow yourself to be.
Truthfully, it is quite liberating. Once you really break out of those shackles of the mind and start associating with who you are rather than the myriad opinions, thoughts, vices, and beliefs that are always spiraling in your head, you'd be amazed at what it can do for your psyche. Confidence, awareness, and mental acuity skyrocket, because you are no longer hindered by false constructs. To put it simply, you are allowed to be you.

Meditation Basics

In order to perform productive meditation, you will want to find a place that's relatively quiet, where you are unlikely to be interrupted. This is important. It's not just about what is currently going on, but what may happen. You want your subconsious at ease. If you are expecting an important call or some other pressing matter that could crop up immenently, it is probably a good idea to wait until you have better peace of mind.
Once you have a comfortable location picked out, be it indoors or in nature, sit in the classic lotus pose. If you cannot manage this, no worries. The easy pose (basic cross-legged sitting) is fine when starting out. You may have to pay closer attention to your back to keep it straight however. You may also sit in a chair or lie flat on your back in Corpse Pose if you wish. As long as you are comfortable and your spine is relatively straight, you are good to go.
1. To begin, relax your entire body. Take several deep breaths, always inhaling and exhaling evenly and through your nose. Stretch your back, neck, shoulders and arms if that helps loosen you up. Relax the muscles in your face by making a half-smile and taking a few deep breaths. Allow any accumulated tension in your body fade away.
2. Make sure your posture is straight. Keep your back straight, your shoulders squared, and if you are sitting, the top of your head should be pointing directly up. Poor posture can limit the effects of meditation, and increase discomfort.
3. Look straight a couple of feet in front of you and then let your eyelids drop naturally. Don't focus on seeing anything or thinking anything at this time, just relax and allow your body to fall into a relaxed state.
4. Begin to bring your awareness to your breath. Don't force your attention, but gently let it come into focus. Breathe slowly and evenly through the nose, always filling your diaphram.
5. Once you feel relaxed, slow your breath further. A beneficial technique known as the 4-fold-breath is often used here. To perform it, inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, and again hold for four. Continue in this fashion, breathing deeply and evenly.
6. If errant thoughts enter your mind unbidden, let them go on their way. Don't focus on them or let them distract you, but likewise, don't try to push them away forcefully. They are attempts by your ego to maintain relevance. Your brain is constantly active, and it takes several sessions of deep meditation to completely silence the dross. Be patient, you will be able to achieve this with time.
7. You will reach a state of pervasive calm, and may even feel warmth in your solar plexus or over your entire body. If you feel any peculiar sensations, observe what is happening peacefully, but do not allow yourself to waver. These are natural, and you will grow accustomed to feeling the ebb and flow of your energy the more you meditate.
8. You will reach a state of pervasive calm, and may even feel warmth in your solar plexus or over your entire body. If you feel any peculiar sensations, observe what is happening peacefully, but do not allow yourself to waver. These are natural, and you will grow accustomed to feeling the ebb and flow of your energy the more you meditate.
9. For now, spend ten to twenty minutes simply practicing the four-fold breath and quieting the mind. There are many levels of meditative practice you will learn later, including various breathwork techniques, body locks, mudras (hand gestures), and visualization exercises, but the core of meditation is breath regulation and stillness of the mind. Think of this exercise as your core, you will always return to it, and future techniques will build off of it.

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