September 6, 2005

Meditation Requires Relaxing

By Stephen D. Kaplan, LAc, LMT

Do not confuse "relaxing" with doing an action. When you are not doing anything during the process of meditation, it is considered a process of "doing and not doing." The best way to understand the practice of meditating is to consider to idea of "letting go." Repeat this phrase to yourself several times and reflect on it.

It is an ideal thought with which to help your mind relax, thus allowing you to relax into a meditative state. Ideal thoughts such as this one are sometimes referred to as "mantras." A mantra is something you think about when you meditate. Be careful not to obsess about it, though; meditation is about relaxing. Some people say they have their own mantra that works well for them and they use that exclusively.

What works for you? Some masterful yogis have been known to give people a mantra of their own because the yogi has such insight into who they are.

Suggestions About Meditation

Relax honestly. Be honest with yourself about your state of relaxation. Are you tense anywhere? If you feel tension, focus gently to that area and relax it by breathing gently in a relaxed manner, imagining that what you want is to relax the region. Visualize your inhaled breath going into the area and expanding it and loosening it, and the exhaled breath taking out the tension. Do this several times until you are satisfied. Be patient.

Let the breathing relax. Let the air come in and out, smoothly and slowly. Go slowly, patiently, and pleasantly. This slow breathing has its own way of slowing you down.

How is your energy? Ask yourself this question. Be honest. Do not hide from yourself in meditation. It is a state of being natural and totally truthful that can reveal great things about you and can help you to become who you are meant to become. Be respectful of your energetic state, and that you are doing this in order to improve yourself.

You have what you have. You have the energy that you have at this moment - no more, no less. Your meditation practice is intended to cultivate your energy and build upon it. Do not try to force energy to be there. It does not work that way. Can you sense that this is true? Now, let everything go, relax and breathe normally, sitting quietly for a period of time that allows you to feel comfortable.

It always changes. The process of meditation always changes. One day it feels easy; the next, it might be more difficult. Sometimes emotions come up and we feel happy, sad, or worried afterwards. Be flexible and embrace the feelings; they are there for a reason. They are your feelings coming out. Isn't that better than repressing them? Nothing repressed ever goes away or gets dealt with. This is the process of meditation that allows us to be in touch with ourselves, and to freely deal with our everyday lives.

Congratulate yourself. You have done something for yourself. Be grateful to yourself for allowing this to happen. Say thank you to yourself and remind yourself that you will do this again very soon.

Meditation Journaling

Meditation journaling can be a useful concept. In the beginning, one's mind can seem quite active and difficult to make quiet. It is common, although not always the same with every individual. Keeping a blank notebook or pad next to you during meditation practice can allow you to jot down ideas or thoughts that you feel are necessary to hold on to or elaborate on later. You don't have to write about them fully in the moment of practice, but by jotting them down in key words that will help you to recall the idea later, you allow yourself to stay in the moment of meditative practice.

Meditation will enable the individual to feel more relaxed in body, mind and spirit. It will help one be more able to think clearly, and simply be less attached to the myriad of thoughts and ideas that overindulge themselves on us on a regular basis, like parasites of the spirit. And if you are the type that needs to use the practice as a source of clarity in the thought processes of daily living, meditation journaling can be helpful.


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