So what is meditation? Does it sound esoteric? That it might involve sitting in full lotus with your eyes closed mumbling a mantra?
Well you may already have come across the term Mindfulness. This has become well known as it is widely recommended by the health professionals as a way of managing health and improving well being. Mindfulness uses the basic techniques of Meditation: awareness of your body, slow, deep breathing and quietening of the mind (not being caught up by thoughts).
Regular practice of just these 3 principles can have a profound effect. Relaxing the body, the mind and breath can help you become aware of your own stress and where it is located in your body. This can mean that the pain in your left shoulder is, for the moment, more obvious but it also provides a means for letting it go – these slow outbreaths and the gentle light of your attention.
There is now much research and publicity on how meditation/mindfulness can benefit mental and physical health. This article outlines 12 benefits of meditating – I particularly like ‘Can Generate Kindness’. Or how it can help mental well-being.
There are many ways of meditating from simply counting your breaths to seeking the space between sleeping and waking to expanding beyond your physical self. The goal for many practitioners is to find a sense of emptiness, of peace and, for a few, spiritual enlightenment. None of this can happen without the basic practice of minding your posture, relaxing your breath and quietening the mind. I well recognise the obstacles to meditating that are described in this u-tube video.
I practice something called Wuxi Meditation. This starts with the body – with your feet on the ground, your spine long with the head aligned – then the breath can slow and deepen and thoughts can be allowed to drift away like swiftly moving clouds on a blue summers day. There are many layers, methods and possibilities to be explored within this basic framework.
The state of quietness this creates is one of the key elements of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Both are described as internal martial arts. Not a muscular, external art but one moving from quiet to action and back to quiet with the mind, body and breath combined.
I teach meditation as part of my regular Qi Gong lessons and also as half day sessions at a weekend.
The statue is in the Thousand Buddha Temple of Lama Fahai. He was the teacher of Dr Shen, seen here meditating.