Research Paper By Stacey Cripps
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
- What is meditation and is it for everyone?
- Is the practice of meditation for relaxation or can we achieve something more such as transformation?
In today’s society, people think of meditation, they often think of Eastern tradition, Buddhist monasteries, Yogi’s, Guru’s or people sitting Indian style for long periods of time. In this thought, one may judge, “that is not for me,” or “is it?” It is possible to actually meditate without being aware, some people may not realize they are experiencing meditative minutes. This form of
meditation is simply a state of being in which the active mind slows down
(Holland, 2003, p. 226).
For example, just stopping at a red light while in the car driving, one may hit the pause button on the mind and are in the space between thought; they have no thought and are fully present in the stillness of the mind. This is a brief moment of meditation, a moment of journeying into a deeper self awareness.
This paper will address all of the questions above and explain how meditation is more than just relaxation. It has a transformational effect which allows people to fully experience their truth within. This truth can be referred to what Abraham Maslow described as self actualization-
desire…to become actualized in what he is potentially
(Maslow, 1943, p.370).
Maslow explicitly defines self-actualization in his article, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” to be
the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.
Maslow used the term self-actualization to describe a desire that could lead to realizing one’s true capabilities. The realization is the transformation as described above.
What is Meditation?
The following quotes are extracted from renowned spiritual teachers of meditation.
According to Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, who has been a teacher of meditation for thirty years answers:
Straightforward and simple (but not easy), meditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more aware-not only of our own inner workings but also of what’s happening around us in the here and now. Once we see clearly what’s going on in the moment, we can then choose whether and how to act on what we’re seeing (Salzberg, 2011, p. 7).
Dr. Deepak Chopra of the Chopra Center of Well Being has been a prominent leader and speaker on the meditation movement:
The real purpose of meditation is to tune in, not to get away from it all-to tune in to find that peace within that is the peace that spiritual traditions talk about that surpasses all understanding. It is a feel of infinite possibility, pure potentiality where everything is connected to everything else. Meditation is a place of infinite intention when brought to this space it orchestrates fulfillment and the law of attraction
(Harpo, Inc., 2012).
According to James Van Praagh, spiritual teacher and author of, Meditations with James Van Praagh,
Meditation is a way to move into consciousness of real knowing , as we sit silently and focus our attention inwardly, we start to become aware of our true self
(Van Praagh, 2003, p. 5).
Sarah McLean, a 20 year meditation teacher at the Chopra Center and author of, Soul Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation, states,
Meditation is the perfect companion on your path to self discovery and healing
(McLean, 2012, p. 1).
What is the practice of meditation and is it for everyone?
If you can breathe, you can meditate,
(Salzberg, 2011, p. 7).
Is it for everyone? The answer is a simple yes; anyone can do it. Everyone can benefit from a meditation practice as the documented scientific, clinical and psychological benefits will attest to later in this paper.
Salzberg describes the practice of meditation as training ones’ attention which has an effect of transforming the mind:
People have been transforming their minds through meditation for thousands of years. Every major world religion includes some form of contemplative exercise, though today mediation is often practiced apart from any belief system. Depending on the type, meditation may be done in silence and stillness, by using voice and sound, or by engaging in the body in movement. All forms emphasize the training of attention (Salzberg, 2011, p. 8).
The following illustrates a brief meditation exercise where it only takes beginning and practice to experience the here and now and to feel the transformational effects. Meditation is a discipline, where one has to
make an effort to devote time to this practice
(Holland, 2003, p. 226).
To begin, set aside a 5 minute window, sit upright comfortably on a chair with your feet on the floor uncrossed or sit upright on the floor. Begin meditation by closing the eyes and becoming aware of the breath and body. The focus is on feeling the breath on the inhale and exhale while mentally counting to 3 or 4 on both the inhale and exhale. Breathe into the stomach slowly, and let the air move up to the lower lungs and then into the chest area.
This is known as the complete breath…Each breath in will bring more and more relaxation, and each exhalation will let go of all stress and tension
(Holland, 2003, p. 227).
If done on a regular basis such as a physical exercise regimen, results happen. As the breath slows down to a rhythmic breath, quiet and clear the mind and move one’s attention to the heart space. Experience the stillness, the present moment, and relax the body slowly from head to toe starting from the top of the head. If attention drifts from breath to thought just let the thought come and go without judgment and return focus to breath. When you are practicing “breath awareness” you cannot be thinking thoughts and still “be aware of your breathing.” Attention is on one or the other.
Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment-the key to all inner transformation
(Tolle, 2005, pp. 245-246).
Once fully relaxed, one may begin to feel a release throughout the entire body. The release can be described as a surrendering or letting go of the outside world which has an effect of freeing the body of any low negative energy or “old conditioned definition of self” connecting to the truth within (Salzberg, 2011, p.5).
In the mind’s eye, located in the space between the eyebrows also known as the third eye visualize a place that brings peace and calm such as a quiet ocean beach, sitting under an oak tree, on a bench next to a beautiful garden, in a forest next to a flowing stream, or on top of a mountain. If it feels right or one with self, that is the place. Be in and one with this beautiful peaceful place and once this occurs turn inward, connect to the true nature of self and, feel a sense of wholeness. After the 5 minutes, shift your attention to the fingers and begin to move them, then become aware of the body and slowly open the eyes returning back to a state of full consciousness. Keep a journal nearby and write everything down received and felt during meditation.
Meditation takes practice and it is suggested to start with 5 minutes a day and work up to a length of 20 minutes or more a day. There are many ways to begin a meditation practice such as: attend a meditation class, meditate by one self in silence, in nature, to a guided meditation CD, to music or to body movement; it is one’s own unique preference. If done on a regular basis such as a physical exercise regimen, results happen.