Your Meditation Journey
Over 30 exercises and visualizations to guide you on the path to inner peace and self-discovery
In today’s hectic world we all need a way of countering the stresses and strains of modern living. Meditation holds the answer: it is the process of centring the mind and achieving a calm, balanced state of consciousness. Not only can it provide the clarity needed to cope with everyday challenges, but it can also help improve conditions ranging from anxiety to pain.
This easy-to-follow introductory guide tells you everything you need to know to get started. Covering the basics of posture, breathing and other practical considerations, as well as guided visualizations, single-point meditation and the power of light, sound and silence, the exercises and techniques will help you develop meditation skills and find your own oasis of calm.
Author Charla Devereux sits down with Neil del Strother to talk about her latest book Your Meditation Journey. Charla shares her journey on learning to meditate and how she practices mindfulness just by walking down the street.
An Introduction to
Your Meditation Journey
Meditation is a system of methods aimed at attaining a mental state that is simultaneously calm, alert and focused, sometimes referred to as the ‘centring’ of consciousness. Regular meditation produces a controlled, balanced mind that is good not only for physical and mental well-being and effective functioning in daily life, but also for personal spiritual growth.
A Zen sage once observed that the untrained mind is like a directionless cork bobbing about on a choppy sea. That has never been truer than in today’s hectic modern world where distractions pull the mind remorselessly from one thing to another. Consequently, the mental oasis provided by the practice of meditation has never been more needed. It can help you to better cope with everyday pressures, quieten the usual mental ‘chatter’ and add clarity of thought in decision-making.
The benefits of meditation
Although it should not be used as an alternative to mainstream, allopathic medicine, meditation is increasingly being recognized as a useful tool for helping to ease the many manifestations of stress such as high blood pressure, back pain and other muscular aches and pains, insomnia and headaches, potentially leading to overall better health. Meditation can in some circumstances also help to alleviate psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.
Because it promotes mental equilibrium and tranquillity, meditation enhances the ability to listen and understand more clearly by being really present in the moment. A state of bliss can, on occasion, be reached by a regular meditator – and even if this is attained for only a short period of time, the memory of such an experience stays forever alive in the heart and can be drawn upon, especially during those chaotic periods that life inevitably brings to everyone from time to time.
When conscientiously practised, meditation is inevitably a gateway to deep introspection, and so it can allow for greater self-knowledge and even entry to inner spiritual realms. Although approaches used in the different schools and traditions of meditation may vary, as we shall see, the ultimate aim remains the same – namely, to bring the body and mind to the highest states of sensitivity and understanding of which a person is capable of achieving.
Setting out on the journey
This book provides everything you need to enable you to effectively include the practice of meditation in your daily life. The first three chapters outline, variously, the religious, secular and scientific research backgrounds to meditation, to give a grounding in the subject and to indicate its long association with humanity. All too often in today’s culture there is a tendency to seek instant gratification, with too superficial an understanding of things.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of how meditation was used in ancient religions and traditions, and you are encouraged to become familiar with this rich and important heritage. Included are examples of meditative practices in cultures that include Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen and even such shamanic-based spiritual traditions as Taoism. Meditation can also be part of the mystical side of the great global religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This longevity of meditation in human experience is your guarantee of its profound value.
Chapter 2 looks briefly at the more secular modern western approaches to meditation which tend to regard it more on a level with healing practices, such as psychotherapy, or forms of yoga.
Chapter 3 refers to a few of the growing number of scientific studies exploring both the physical and mental benefits derived from meditation, including improvement in sleep patterns, reduction in the need for medication such as tranquillizers, how meditation has been shown to have a direct effect on the patterns of electrical waves in the brain, and the possibility that different types of meditation have their own unique benefits. Modern monitoring techniques allow us to understand what takes place in the body and how it is positively affected by meditation.
Following this grounding, we learn the practical basics for setting out on your journey into meditation.
Chapter 4 includes tips on how to set up an appropriate place that you can use regularly for the purpose of meditation, information regarding some traditional postures and advice on how to prepare your body and mind for meditation – diet, clothing, time of day and sensory aids. Techniques relating to the fundamental practice of breathing meditation are also given.
The following chapters describe specific meditation techniques, bringing in rarely mentioned environmental factors in nature, such as sound and light.
Chapter 5 provides a number of guided visualization themes. Guided visualization is the best way to start reining in the mind, especially for the beginner, because being image-rich it can more effortlessly begin to train the mind on inner focusing.
Chapter 6 introduces single-point meditation. This more minimalist type of technique paradoxically requires a greater degree of mental skill. Several approaches, using both inner and external focus points, are suggested.
Chapter 7 looks at environmental factors in nature when considering outdoor meditation sessions. It describes how light and, especially, certain types of sound can be useful aids to meditation.
‘ Much of what may be seen as confusion in daily life can be transmuted by meditation into a more harmonious internal reality.’
The final chapter discusses the different types of silence available to the meditator.
Chapter 8 discusses both mundane silence and spiritual ‘Silence’. The former is our everyday understanding of quietness, and where and when it can best be found, but the latter is the most exalted state of consciousness that can be gained in meditation if one is using it as a spiritual path. This chapter introduces koans (Zen Buddhist disrupters of logical thinking) among other techniques that help in the seeking of the Silence.
It is important to remember that although the meditative experience may not be the same for each person, the essential aim of the practice does remain the same. Much of what may be seen as confusion in daily life can be transmuted by meditation into a more harmonious internal reality which in turn leads to a more harmonious way of coping with the world. In a nutshell, the goal of meditation amounts to self-realization.
On a grand scale, we could speculate that if meditation was a normal practice within society as a whole, it would be capable of reducing much human suffering. This may sound like an ambitious claim, but it is not an idle one.
An ancient Chinese saying points out that the longest journey starts with the first step. This book can shorten the journey into meditation, so let’s step out!