Day 4: The Inward Journey: Getting Started: Postures, Mantras and More Breath Work. If you do what your Irish Mammy says, you will always find your way home
Before I started to meditate I was afraid of my own ineptitude.
Meditation was not something that I experienced as a child and like many of you reading this blog, I was fully grown, mature and a little bit stiff!
I believed that the practice of meditation involved sitting for hours, cross-legged in a lotus position with my feet placed skilfully on my thighs.
I was wrong.
The truth of the matter is this, we do not have to be nimble and fit to meditate. If we can breathe and keep our backs straight, we can meditate.
But here is the thing, stay away from that comfortable soft chair. It just will not work. Before you know it, you will be sound asleep! If you can at all, try and sit at the edge of a hard chair, so that there is no support for your back. If it feels strange at first, take it slowly bit by bit until your body becomes familiar with this life enhancing energizing posture.
If you are very tall you may need a high stool that allows you to keep your two feet firmly placed on the floor. It goes without saying- you never cross your legs, as that is like getting telephone wires crossed, if you follow my drift!
Hands, also play an important role in meditation
Whether we are aware of it or not, hands are a powerful means of communicating the intention to the mind. For example, we point our index finger, when we are forcing our will on someone and we clench fist to show power or anger.
The position of the hands also has a symbolic connotation in Buddhism, Hinduism and Indian dance
Likewise in meditation, when the index finger is placed under the thumb, it is symbolizes the intention to place the mind under the will of God.
And, when the left palm up rests on the right palm with the thumbs touching, it symbolizes the person( the left hand) resting in the palm of God. (right hand).Both God and man are united through the touching of the thumbs.
Getting Started — Breathing and Concentration.
Our inner journey began 3 posts ago with gentle breath work and there is a good reason for this. In truth, breath is the source of life both physical and spiritual, and has been recognized as such since antiquity. In Hebrew the word for breath is Ruach, and in Aramaic it is Ruha, both words are translated as Spirit.
Deep relaxed breathing is the first step towards effective meditation and awakening to something special which lies deep within each one of us.
During inhalation, the earth’s life giving energy is transferred into every cell, tissue and organ of the body, nourishing and healing it. Stagnant energy, accumulated stress and toxins are released from the body with every exhalation.
Often when we are feeling pressurized, our breathing becomes shallow, rapid and irregular. It is no surprise then, that deep breathing is a major stress-reducing technique, especially the regular rhythmical breathing that accompanies meditation.
Concentration on the breath brings the mind back from attention wandering and triggers it into the present moment-to-moment processing of bodily functions. We can also bring our attention into the body by listening to the heartbeat.
It is usual to spend the first minutes of each session focusing on the gentle rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, which, in itself, allows the mind to become peaceful and calm. The breath can be observed through either the rise or fall of the abdomen or the gentle flow of air in and out of the nostrils. The sensations at the nostrils are particularly subtle, requiring a more sensitive awareness and concentration.
The very act of slowing down and deepening the breath helps the body to relax and the mind to center itself.
Many Irish Healers believe that all life vibrates with a breath from God and when you recite prayers or sound a mantra you connect with this primordial oscillation. My mother did not recite a mantra, but I believe she meditated through prayer. She had a battered black book which was packed with holy pictures and photographs of dead relatives. Every morning and evening she would disappear for a half an hour and pray. I never understood what happened during that time of reflection but it was evident that she enjoyed it and was relaxed afterwards.
The idea of reciting devotional incantation is generally associated with Eastern traditions, and yet, Irish Catholics love to recite ‘The Rosary’, which continuously calls on the names of Jesus and Mary.
Others prefer to use a single word such Peace or Love or the name of their favorite Deity for a mantra. Thus, it is safe to say that the mantras you will choose will be influenced by you beliefs and religious orientation.
Many people find the word Om to be an excellent mantra, because it symbolizes unity in all things.
Whatever mantra you choose, pronounce it slowly and with some effort so that your mind can hear the sound. Keep repeating the mantra over and over again, so that it rises above the sound of your own thoughts which will try to resist the practice.
Gradually allow your mind to settle on the repeated sound. When your attention wanders away from the practice, gently bring it back to the sound of the mantra until the time you set aside for the meditation is finished.
Note to self.
When I started to meditate many years ago, I joined a select group who declared themselves to be experts in the field of meditation, wisdom and understanding.
Initially, I studied their philosophy, practiced the recommended breathing techniques and spent years in service before I was given a mantra.
Even though it is not the mantra I use now – more of that later, the importance of recognizing the sacredness of a mantra remains with me to this day.
So, whatever mantra you choose, recite it slowly and with reverence and respect.
Think about the possibility of sharing this post with others and consider looking at these ideas together. Maybe even set up a small meditation support group.
I will return to this idea on the next post in Day 5.
In the meantime
The Homework assignment until next week’s post
- Think about what mantra you would like to use. Discovering a mantra takes time. To begin with listen to your heart and just breath.
- Remember, breathing as it is the cornerstone to discovering the REAL YOU.
- Keep up what you started last week breathing deeply every morning and evening for at least 3 to 5 minuets
- And, if you are exposed to any negativity, decided to eradicate this black noise by breathing into it, inhaling all the goodness of the plants, animals, humans and spirits who inhabit this wonderful world and as you breath out, surrender and release the stress and tension back into the Universe to be soothed and healed.Then, gently pat your chest as a reminder that all is well and all will be well.