Beginners Guide to Meditation
What is Meditation?
Meditation is not the preserve of any single doctrine, belief system or teacher but rather is born from a fundamental human inquisitiveness and yearning. Contemplative traditions can be found in all the major religions of the world and indeed outside them and throughout the ages. Meditation, then, does not require any particular faith or belief system.
More and more people of all ages and backgrounds in the West are becoming aware of the benefits of meditation. This may be as an antidote to the stress and hurry of everyday life or in order to reach deeper states of tranquillity or insight. Many people are introduced to meditation through yoga practice of which meditation has historically been an intrinsic part.
There is evidence to suggest that meditation promotes physical and mental well-being and that it helps the healing process by enhancing the immune system and reducing the effects of stress-related damage. Many people are attracted to meditation for these reasons alone. However, by the use of various techniques, meditation can also be used to empower different aspects of the mind with profound effects on our thinking and emotional processes, leading to personal growth and development. Finally, meditation can incline the practitioner to the spiritual dimension. This can be described in many ways, depending on one's background, tradition or beliefs - for example, as a state of wisdom, a state of knowing, a quality of insightfulness.
How to Meditate
There is no single 'right' way to meditate. There are many many approaches and techniques. It could, however, be said that there are two main techniques . The first involves focussing the mind on a single object, sound or mental state - for example, one's own breathing, the tone of a Tibetan singing bowl or an intonation, a state of loving-kindness. The second main technique, often called insight meditation or the cultivation of awareness, involves observing the process of the mind itself.
We do not advocate any particular approach, technique or teacher. We have carefully chosen a range of books and audio tapes for their clarity and accessibility to those new to meditation practice. These reflect a range of approaches from a number of authoritative writers, some more clearly aligned with specific Buddhist traditions. However, the emphasis in all the books and tapes we have chosen to stock is on the practicalities of meditation and the ways in which the perspectives it opens up can be incorporated into everyday life.
Sitting in Meditation
Most people think of meditation as something that you do sitting cross-legged on the floor and for those who practise meditation some form of sitting still and quietly will probably feature in their practice though this is by no means the only way to meditate. Posture and comfort are the two major things to consider in sitting meditation. It is preferable to adopt a balanced upright posture, the pelvis tilted slightly forwards to facilitate a correct alignment of the spine and avoid pressure on the sacrum (base of the spine). This helps to create a posture which is relaxed without being slouched and which avoids holding too much tension in the body. The posture that you choose should be conducive to alertness. Comfort is imortant in that you will be wanting to maintain the posture for some time (perhaps between 15 minutes and an hour). You will want to avoid constricting unduly the blood-flow or nerves in your limbs or compressing your internal organs.
Many people meditate sitting or kneeling on the floor, normally using a special cushion and perhaps a mat designed to help maintenance of a safe and comfortable posture. Others meditate sitting in an upright chair or wheelchair; even those who are bed-bound can meditate successfully and to great benefit. Meditation is for all.
We aim to offer a complete range of products to assist those who wish to meditate, whatever their individual needs. Our products are all designed and made by us with the above principles in mind. The Blue Banyan Guide to Choosing Meditation Products will help you make the right selection for you.