In order to maximize the many beneficial effects that can be obtained through meditation, it is important to first prepare the mind, body and environment. Preparation is a fundamental part of any ritual or process.
A PLACE TO MEDITATE
Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. If you are able, find a place that you can use regularly for the purpose of meditation. Over time, a pleasant, calming atmosphere will build within your chosen space, as the atmosphere will reflect the positive energy produced by your meditation.
Subdued soft lighting is most conducive to meditation. Candle light is the best kind of lighting for a dark room. (‘Spirit’ is/are unable to ‘see’ artificial lights, but are attracted to the flame of a candle) If a candle is not available or appropriate, a low-wattage bulb or low setting on a dimmer-switch recommended. If you are meditating during the day, draw the blinds and/or curtains accordingly.
TEMPERATURE AND CLOTHING
During meditation, ensure that you are in a warm, moderate temperature, as the body’s temperature usually falls slightly during meditation.
Ensure that you choose to wear loose-fitting clothing so that you are as comfortable and unrestricted as possible.
It is also recommended that you NOT wear shoes, as barefoot is more conducive. Barefoot is best, although socks are fine if the environment is cool.
You physiological state will play a part in the quality of your meditation. It is best not to meditate too soon after eating a meal. It is not essential to ‘fast’ prior to meditating, although fasting can act as a physiological aid, producing a state conducive to the focusing of attention. (Fasting is often practiced by Yogis prior to meditation)
A sensible diet with the emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits, rather than heavy protein and fats, are most conducive to meditation. Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cocoa and carbonated soft drinks containing sugar and/or caffeine. Sugary foods should also be avoided. What you eat can affect how your function mentally.
When the stomach and digestive system are at ease and functioning well, the bodily environment is conducive to optimum functioning of the brain and nervous system.
There is no particular ‘best’ time of the day to meditate. For most people time is determined by events such as work schedules and family commitments. It will be up to the individual and their lifestyle that will determine the best time to meditate.
Some people may prefer to choose to set time aside in the evenings, as this may help them to relax and overcome the stresses of the day and encourage a good nights’ sleep. Others may prefer an early morning meditation in order to feel energized for the day. Yet others may feel most comfortable meditating in the middle of the day. It is entirely up to the individual.
Meditating at the same time every day can be beneficial as the mind, body and spirit become accustomed to the routine, as you are programming yourself to meditate at that particular time.
Regardless of the time of day or evening you choose to set aside to meditate, it is best not to have any pressing commitments directly afterwards.
HOW LONG TO MEDITATE
The amount of time spent on daily meditation is determined by the type of meditation technique you choose. Generally, meditation can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, or even longer. It all depends upon the individual and the technique/s used. You will need to establish what is best and most suitable for your own personal needs and requirements.
When preparing to meditate, a straight-backed chair is ideal. If you use an armchair or lounge, prop yourself up with some firm pillows so that your back is straight. Ensure that you are able to place your feet flat on the floor.
Rest your hands comfortable so as to not be a distraction. Rest them on your knees or thighs, palms facing upwards, or you can also hold your hands cupped in your lap, with one hand resting on the other.
Remember to keep your spine as erect as possible in order to achieve a good balance of relaxation and alertness.
Once you have found a position that suits you, it is recommended that you use it every time you meditate. Your body will become used to that particular posture, and your mind will associate it with meditation.
You may prefer to sit on the floor, but if you are a novice you may initially find this uncomfortable. The most important thing to remember is that you will experience a better, more fulfilling meditation if you are comfortable.
It is important to fully relax the body before beginning any form of meditation. Breathing techniques are designed to assist the body to relax.
Breathing is a powerful tool for meditation, and many traditional meditational systems use breathing techniques in order to regulate breathing, which in turn helps to calm and still the mind.
An essential lesson to remember is to always breathe through the nose, as the nose serves to warm the air that is inhaled to a suitable temperature prior to it entering the body. Nasal breathing also filters out many of the dangerous elements and impurities in the air, serving as a protective filter.
When we breathe through the mouth we allow impurities to enter our body freely. Also, inflammation of the respiratory organs often results from breathing in cold air through the mouth.
When we inhale and exhale, a combination of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. We also inhale ‘prana’. ‘Prana’ is a Sanskrit term which means ‘absolute energy’. Prana is found in all living things and is considered to be the active principle or vitality of life itself. Proper breathing provides a constant supply of prana.
In meditation, deep breathing floods the body with the extra energy and oxygen, which helps to calm and still the mind.
It is important to keep an even rhythm between inhalation and exhalation in order to maintain balance.
Practice a basic breathing technique by inhaling slowly and fully. Visualize the air as it enters you nose and fills your lungs and entire body. Exhale slowly and smoothly, gently releasing all of the air.
Meditation is like any other activity, and to do it well takes practice. By persevering you will be able to expand your meditative state. The more you meditate, the more in tune with yourself you will become. Allowing yourself the space and time for practice is a rewarding experience on many levels.