And yet, with our busy, stressed-out everyday lives — and our addiction to technology, our computers and cell phones — it has become so common for us to lose our connection to our breath.
We get lost in our minds, and we forget that we are breathing. We’re still breathing during these long lapses of time where we forget, don’t get me wrong — otherwise, we would die very quickly — but our breath becomes very tense and shallow, which triggers our sympathetic nervous system. Yuck.
Deep, slow, conscious breathing, on the other hand, activates our parasympathetic nervous system. Muy Bueno.
Most people experience thoughts all day long and rarely discover a moment without thoughts.
So naturally, thoughts are one of the biggest distractions during meditation practice.
When we sit down for meditation, we can quickly become overwhelmed as soon as we notice just how many thoughts are whizzing through our minds.
The Buddhists call this “Monkey Mind,” which has been taken to mean any one of the following terms: Unsettled, restless, capricious, whimsical, fanciful, inconstant, confused, indecisive, and uncontrollable.
Yet quieting the mind is the great aim of meditation practice.
So the question is this: How do we manage our thoughts such that we quiet our minds?
I want to propose two approaches to managing our thoughts, and you must perform both approaches in tandem, as if each approach occupies a separate end of a scale…
Meditation is a tremendous challenge for most people.
So if you’re having trouble reaching 7 minutes in your practice before your brain almost literally EXPLODES, you’re not alone.
While each person is at a unique stage in their meditation practice and each person is undergoing a different set of challenges, we can pinpoint at least a few common obstacles that most people experience at one point or another.
I want to outline nine obstacles in particular that can interrupt our practice of meditation and inhibit our progress.
They start as mere distractions and eventually become obstacles, unless you remedy them.
Meditation and mindfulness are practices that have been cultivated by people over thousands of years in many places, among various traditions, so naturally many different names have arisen for the various nuances of each of these fundamental practices.
However, we can distill all the different nuances of each practice into two simple explanations.
I want to give you some suggestions that will help you better understand the mantra and how to use it.
A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase, often having no meaning whatsoever. Your mantra might be "Om," "I am," "So hum," "Om namah shivaya," or any number of different mantras that correspond to various teachers or traditions. For a detailed explanation of four useful mantras, visit my article here.
Your mantra is a tool, so let’s make sure it’s as sharp as possible.
The first important thing to understand is that mantras fall into two general categories, and one of the categories leads to the next. In other words, the two general categories of mantra present two distinct ways of using them. These are the two ways:
Posture is perhaps the first aspect of your meditation practice that demands consideration, as learning to sit properly is one of the most essential skills of meditation.
A good posture is one that provides a balance between being comfortable and alert, and one that you could easily maintain over an extended period of time. The essence of good posture is the ability to sit upright, not too hunched over.
There exist a variety of poses that enable good posture for the meditator. Here are the four most basic poses:
The way in which someone meditate depends much less on the two different styles —concentration and awareness — and much more on the object upon which someone meditates.
Therefore, I want to outline the six basic objects of meditation.
Keep in mind that when practicing awareness meditation, you expand your attention to include all six objects at once — or as many of them as you possibly can. When practicing concentration meditation, you isolate your attention to include only one of the six basic objects.
Breathing is such an important and fundamental aspect of what it means to be alive.
Yet so many people are unaware of their breathing.
Why should you be aware of your breathing? Because breath is the bridge between the body and the mind, and in order to maintain good health and transition into higher stages of spiritual development you must maintain harmony between your body and mind.