Probably the best way to become self-empowered and cultivate the mental plane is through picking up a meditation practice. It can be done on a daily basis that would give immediate positive feedback in anything we do.
There are so many benefits to this starting from increased mindfulness and ending with decreased stress. This is the result of our consciousness rising. We become more in tune with our thoughts and emotions, in addition to our body. By becoming aware of our inner currents of energy we have the possibility to take control of them. Not to assert dominance but to simply recognize ourselves in the midst of chaos that our mind sometimes is.
Having a meditation practice will also benefit our cognition because it requires a lot of concentration to reach this state. This attentive presence will enable us to be more focused on anything else as well.
My own meditation practice serves as a tool to gathering my forces and energy before taking action. That is the key point to remember. We can become an enlightened zen master in a cave, one with the Universe, and do nothing about it. But what’s the use of that? In order for the benefits to take effect we need to actually participate in the world. Our inner contemplations ought to manifest themselves in some way. Residing into our head is but an option we can use to become centered and not a sanctuary to escape reality when things get tough. Our obstacles can’t be meditated away per se. During my sessions I’ve managed to find solutions to my problems but, in order for change to happen, steadfast action has to be taken as well.
To begin our meditation practice we need to be in the right environment where we will not be disturbed. This will benefit our concentration and yield better results. However, later we will be able to become centered even the midst of chaos.
The foundation to any meditation practice is mindful breathing. This will make us present to the moment and enable us to reach the desired state. By bringing our attention to the respiratory process we’re able to take control of it which, in return, will give us confidence in doing so with anything else that concerns us as well.
Our consciousness rises and rather than seeing our thoughts and emotions as ourself we can see our true self as the awareness behind them. In that moment we become the observer, rather than the participant of our body. We don’t leave reality but we simply are there. No pain, no pleasure, no troubles, no excitement – it’s like a neutral state. That’s the best way I can describe it.
Mindful breathing exercises for our meditation practice.
- Breathing to a count. – The easiest way to become more mindful is to simply count numbers while inhaling and exhaling. It doesn’t matter how high you go as long as you’re breathing as deeply as possible. Pick a number which is enough for you to go through one cycle without rushing yourself. For instance inhale to the count of 7, hold for a second and exhale for the same duration. While doing it you can use your fingers to keep track or simply go through the numbers in your head. Eventually after enough repetition you should be able to unconsciously follow this pattern without thinking about it.
- Rhythmic box breathing. – This technique is somewhat similar to the previous one but with an additional point. Instead of simply inhaling and exhaling we will add a longer pause in between the two. This creates a box shaped pattern out of our breathing with 4 facets or stages. Pick a number, like 5, then inhale while counting to it. Hold your breath for the same amount. Now exhale to the count of 5. Hold your breath for the same duration. If you feel like you’re running out of oxygen don’t panic. The purpose is to stay in control. Trust yourself and your mind will calm down knowing that it will soon get its short burst of air.
- Use the full range of breathing. – Inhale and exhale as deeply as possible. Start from the bottom of your stomach right under the naval where the diaphragm is. Take in as much air as you can while simultaneously moving upwards. Eventually you should reach the top of your lungs. Reverse the same pattern in the opposite direction. By breathing with the full range you clear your system from old oxygen and make room for the new which is a lot more rejuvenating. This clears our body from the accumulated waste that gathers there over some time.
- Cleansing breath. – This is a technique used in Yoga and in any other similar meditation practice. It’s very simple yet extremely effective. Cover one of your nostrils by putting your thumb on it and inhale through the one that’s open. Now hold your breath for a second switch places with your finger putting it on the nostril from which the air came in and exhale from the one that was previously closed. Do this for several repetitions and alternate the sides in the process. This will clear your system from the waste of oxygen and rejuvenate your mind in the process.
- Use your imagination. – While inhaling envision a cloud of light entering your body which rejuvenates you completely. Before you exhale gather all of the negative energy within you into your lungs creating a dark cloud. Force it out of your system with the power of your breath and let go of it. As it fades away right in front of you grab hold of another one of those with positive energy attached to them and repeat the process. Doing this will make you feel fresh and free from any burdens.
These exercises can be used at any other time aswell. They will immediately make us present and we’re able to meditate without actually sitting down to do so (read more about this).
However, we ought to have a meditation practice that involves actually taking the time to sit down, become aware of and alone with ourself. Being able to focus might be difficult for someone new to this. To prevent us from drifting we need to narrow down our attention and actually experience the present moment for what it is.
Ways to increase concentration during a meditation practice.
- Concentrate on something. – Whether that be the ground we’re sitting on, our heartbeat, pain of some sort or our posture – it doesn’t matter. The object of our focus doesn’t have to be inside our body but can be something external aswell. For instance being in a cold room immediately forces us to become present and aware of the effect the temperature is having on us (how to adapt to the cold). The same can be achieved with the blowing of the wind or the sun gleaming down on us. Additionally putting our hands on our stomach is a great way to bring our attention to the respiratory process. Simply feeling our belly expanding and deflating allows us to concentrate on our breathing.
- View yourself from another point of view. – This requires some imagination and the use of creative visualization. Simply create a mental image in your head that pictures yourself meditating. Like the screen of a hidden camera you should be able to see the inside of the room which you’re in but most importantly yourself sitting there. Look at the way you’re sitting and breathing. Lie down on your back and see if the same thing happens on the screen.
- Imagine that something is scanning you. – Think of a laser or a metal detector is inspecting you. A beam of light starting from the bottom of your feet and ending with the top of your head. If you’re doing it vividly enough then you should start to feel the rays moving across your body. Following it will become a pattern which will transition over to becoming more present.
- Focus on your third eye. – This has improved my concentration a lot during my own meditation practice. What it basically means is imagining there being a third eye located right on our forehead where the pineal gland is. The trick is to not actually paint a picture of us having an additional oculus but to see it internally. Go inside your head and bring your attention to that spot. Conceive an image of a locust of power. Mine is the circle of an eclipse emanating blue light. With enough focus I actually begin to feel something being there.
- Incorporate some audio. – Hearing a sound is a great way to improve our concentration. Listening to your favourite band might seem like an appealing option but using specific songs that support our meditation practice will yield better results. There are a lot of bineural beats or alpha wave tracks to be found on the Internet. Just play them in the background while you sit down. Natural noises like the rainfall and waves are extremely soothing and help us focus more on the present. Also, there are some guided meditation tracks aswell where someone is speaking to you, giving you guidelines to follow, with a soothing voice.
- Incorporate movement. – Who said that a meditation practice has to be done motionless? There are a lot of ways we can achieve this state, by following the same principles, while getting the same benefits, even more. Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga are all bodily practices which involve mindful breathing, concentration and are meditative. In my opinion they’re actually better, as in it’s always better to be dynamic rather than static, with both our thoughts and movement. Our motions ought to follow the patterns of our breathing guiding our inner currents of energy either away, during exhalation, or towards us, while inhaling. This type of meditation practice will also benefit our body, in addition to the mind.
These are the best advice I can give to anyone in search of their own meditation practice. After picking up this habit I’ve improved every area of my life. A part of it was writing my first book. Mindful breathing helped me to stay more focused and also during the actual drafting process. It’s something I’m very proud to share with the world. Have a read by following this link.