The English word of meditation comes from the Latin maditaltio.
The Chinese word of meditation is composed of two words, universe and think. To Chinese, meditation means contemplating and communicating with the universe.
In Christianity, meditation is contemplating the sufferings of Christ. You speak to God when you pray. You listen to God when you contemplate.
Taoism and Buddhism are the mainstream philosophies whereby the ultimate goal of meditation is enlightenment.
Meditation is an exploration of one’s inner self. Whatever meditation practices we follow, all of us contemplate in one way or the other in our lifetime.
The objective of meditation is to achieve harmony and peacefulness of the mind. The consensus is that if you reach that state of mind you will be able to achieve your goal and solve problems to which you have not been able. Meditation cannot make a tangible problem go away but it opens up your mind to alternative solutions. If it is an intangible problem created by yourself meditation may help you to remove this self-infliction.
Meditation enhances your sense of wellbeing. It should make you feel good and wish to embrace life. Any meditation practice that makes you feel bad should be stopped immediately.
If you have a difficult problem that you feel unable to solve, do not dwell on it. Remove yourself from the situation. Get away for a while. Workout or meditate. Then come back with a fresh mind. Try to look at the problem objectively from the outside. You may find a solution, which you previously have not. You may now also see the problem as strength instead of a weakness.
To get away from a problem or any intense situation is to divert your attention to something nice and pleasant, and none better than the environment. The nature is a mystery of beauty. In the modern day society, we are not utilizing our senses to the fullest. Meditation will make you more aware of your surroundings.
Theoretically one can meditate anywhere with open eyes. Unless you wish to test your senses by identifying the sights and sounds in a busy area, such as a shopping centre, you should find a quiet place.
Ideally you meditate in an open-environment. After all, contemplating the universe as in the Chinese tradition starts with studying the nature and appreciating the surroundings. Nonetheless, the Tibetans practise meditation differently, by chanting and with open eyes. There are all forms of practices. I prefer the Chinese tradition — study the nature and contemplate — suitable for all, with or without any religious belief.
You may meditate indoor by either sitting or lying down flat on your back. Keep your body trunk straight. Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. Close your eyes and try to recall each of your senses.
Placebo effect or not — you will get what you wish for. Think Positive, you feel great and full of energy. Think Negative, you promise yourself as miserable as you can imagine. The slogans of Think Positive and Think out of the Square, so commonly used in business speeches, are cliché developed from the concept of meditation. Given enough practice in meditation, you may create your own slogan that every public speaker loves to quote!
Some people need anchors in their meditation. If an anchor, such as a crystal ball or incense, helps you to focus during a difficult time, use it. However, do not over rely on an object as a media. I am not negating the possibility of the mysterious help from nature, but I caution anyone against misguidance.
I look at any meditation practice that induces physical or/and psychological distress with scepticism. If you wish to practise this form of meditation, make sure you are under the direct guidance of a qualified grand master. You should also obtain independent advices from your physician and psychologist before you practise.
Below are simple meditation exercises that are suitable for most of us. If you have any doubt, consult your doctor.
Set your posture, relax and be comfortable
Whether you are sitting or lying down, make sure you keep your spine straight. Then, flex your muscles without changing your posture.
While there are no rules on how to arrange your arms and legs you are more comfortable by spreading them slightly and symmetrically. You will maintain your posture for a longer time by doing so. If you sit, you may put your hands on your thighs or knees. Remember that you are contemplating with your mind, not exercising acrobatics.
To stay focus in mind you should avoid any physical discomfort.
Some experts suggest stretching the body before meditation. If you are not striking up a difficult form a warm-up exercise is not necessary. However, stay warm during the exercise by wearing comfortable and warm clothes. We lose heat through our heads fast. If you are those who feel the chill easily, cover your heads.
Breathe in and out deeply but naturally.
Proper breathing enhances blood circulation and flowing toxins out of the bloodstream.
Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling fresh air.
Chinese metaphysics deals with positive and negative energies in the universe. While the western society can explain some of the theories in today's science many theories remain a mystery. Unless you practise communication with nature through a media and trying to absorb energies from the universe you do not need an anchor.
However, you study original objects from nature, such as stones, to sharpen your senses. Studying a natural object is one kind of meditation exercises.
Feel your senses
A sense is a system of sensory cells that responds to a specific kind of physical energy and sends signals to a corresponding region within the brain, which receives and interprets the signals.
We used to say human beings had five senses — sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Now we have categorised more senses and they are :
Special senses :
Somatic senses :
- Sight or vision through the eyes
- Hearing or sound through the ears
- Smell through the nostrils
- Taste through the tongue
Other (perception) senses :
- Touch or contact generally on the skin
- Thermo energy, heat or cold, felt through the skin
- Pain that sometimes intertwined with touch
- Perception of balance related to cavities containing fluid in the inner ears
- Perception of body awareness
- Extra-sensory perception, also called ESP and the sixth sense. The sense that picks up information, which cannot be obtained through the other senses, and is generally associated with gut feeling or fortune telling.
Recall each of your old senses and give yourself a go to new ones. Feeling your senses is a common practice of meditation.
Enjoy the vision
Contemplate images on earth — a running stream, a calm sea, a snowy mountain, a charming cottage or even a grand mansion. Pay attention to details. Imagine yourself going through snapshots of pictures as you approach or leave a scene.
If you cannot conjure up a pleasant vision, note this as a warning sign of overwork or going on the verge of depression, which you should consult your doctor immediately. Give yourself a break. Go to the countryside. Look out to the mountain or sea. Observe the changes and relate them. You will bring back pleasant images to your next indoor meditation.
Feel the colour
Let each colour come into your mind. Let the colour change from one into the other or blend with each other to form a new colour.
Some people see numbers associated with colours and some see numbers arranged in a specific pattern. They are people with exceptional senses of colour and number.
Feel if you can associate colour with anything such as a shape, touch, thermal energy, or wellbeing. Go through each colour in your mind. We do not have the same reaction on colours. A colour that gives warmth and joy to one person may cause distress to another.
Feel each colour and find the colours that make you feel good. Use your favourite colours to improve your mood.
Not everyone is born with a high sense of colour. If you do not have a colour sense, move on to other senses that you feel strongly.
Feel the touch
Study natural objects that are pleasing or calming to you such as pearl, wood or stone, etc. Learn the shape, colour and texture of the object.
Hold the object and feel its vibration. Many people feel a strong connection with stones, especially crystal.
Find the stone that makes you feel good, not a stone that someone says so.
Touching your stone can be very therapeutic.
Listen to the sound
Contemplate the sounds of running water or singing birds, etc. Again, if you have a limited recall, go to the countryside and re-acquaint yourself with the sound of nature.
Meditate with your body.
Start from the tips of your toes and fingers and move up to the centre of your body — your heart and head. Feel each of the senses as you go through a body journey.
Never assume that a vision is restricted to the eyes, or a touch is a contact on the skin. Each body-part has a perceived-function and sense; it may have more senses than the scientists have discovered. While I find it hard to believe that someone has a third eye on his thumb, in other words, extraordinary visionary sense on his thumb, I can easily accept that one may tell the colour of an object by touching. Colour is a reflection of light on an object. The density, the shape, the weight, the texture or composition, and the energy of an object will determine the reflection of light. If one has a strong sense of touch and with an educated guess, one may tell the colour by touching.
Do not set a boundary to your talents. Never limit your ability to the basic senses. Test your body-parts for new senses. You may be onto a new sense that a scientist would like to learn and categorize!
Contemplation makes you think out of the ordinary.
Be open-minded. Whenever in doubt, seek independent opinions from professionals in different fields.
Call it a Me-Time. Give yourself a twenty to thirty minutes of meditation a day, twice a week. See how it goes and send us an email on whether meditation improves your well-being.