MEDITATION, A WAY TO HAPPINESS
One alternative therapy, tried and tested...
What Makes us Happy or Unhappy?
What is meditation?
What makes us happy, cheerful and content? What makes us miserable, depressed, irritable or angry?
I live in Thailand, land of smiles and home to the Buddhist tenets of peace and happiness. But it has it drawbacks and one of them is a decent range of good television. However, I stumbled by chance upon a wonderful documentary yesterday about ‘Alternative Therapies’ made by the BBC for the Open University and headed up by Kathy Sykes Professor of Sciences and Society at the University of Bristol (www.open.ac.uk.) The programme was three years old but recent enough to be riveting in its information. This particular part was focused on meditation in its various forms and being a long time practitioner of Transcendental Meditation I was seriously interested.
As Professor Sykes points out there are numerous forms of meditation including:
And many more which can be found on such websites as -
Having been a practitioner since 1975 after a series of personal traumas the method has greatly helped and enhanced my life. I’m not a conscientious practitioner, more a ‘bad weather’ type; in other words, I practice when I’m in trouble and not coping too well.
The course I attended was based on Transcendental Meditation and I must agree with Professor Sykes when she says it is rather secretive and very expensive (not her exact words). But 35 years down the line I cannot fathom why it should be secretive. Or maybe it’s the mantric word you’re given around the second attendance and which you are supposed never to reveal! And I have not! Is it superstition? Being a rational and fairly intelligent person I can only say honestly that it’s the fear of ‘bad luck’ that prevents me from disclosing it. No logic in that! But in fact, the word is purely a Sanskrit word and could be found in any good Sanskrit dictionary. What makes it so special? I’ve no idea. Other forms of meditation use single words and they can be anything you choose. The word in fact, is there to focus your mind and I can instantly go into meditation mode just by thinking mine, rather like flipping a switch.
Method of Meditation (as I remember).
- Try to meditate before a meal. Do not do it on a full stomach, the body is concentrating all its efforts on digestion.
- Try to meditate for at least 20 minutes a day. It is preferable to do it for 30 minutes twice a day, but whatever your lifestyle permits is good.
- Wear comfortable and loose clothing.
- Beginners should start their practice with a quiet, darkened room and a comfortable chair. This removes most distractions. This won’t be necessary as you become more proficient.
- Light a joss stick or incense burner if you wish, although it’s not strictly necessary.
- Sit in a straight chair, (the lotus position on the floor can be tried later), with your legs uncrossed and your hands settled in your lap without touching each other.
- Note the time. Use an alarm for the first few weeks, your body will soon get used to the 20 – 30 minute time span and then you won’t need one.
- Close your eyes and take several deep and even breathes.
- Repeat your special word over and over (use any word you wish or look in a Sanskrit dictionary for a good one. But keep that word, it will be your switch).
- Now, try to empty your mind of all thoughts…………………….*
- Take each worry, problem, difficulty, dilemma, quandary, impasse and wrap it in an imaginary parcel, place it in the basket of a balloon and let it gently drift away into space. Don’t get too hung up on this, just let go a few of the major ones. Your goal is the emptiness of your mind. The state of having no thoughts.
- Allow your breathing to become regular. You will find eventually that your exhaling will be longer than your inhaling.
- You will gradually become relaxed as your meditation goes deeper.
- Don’t be surprised if you feel very emotional, or even begin to cry. This is normal as your mind comes to terms with so much that is going on in your life. Let it flow.
- You will also experience feelings of deep happiness and elation after practicing for a while. Don’t expect these states immediately.
- Try not to go to sleep. This is not the object of meditation, though it will happen sometimes. One session of meditation is the equivalent of 4 - 6 hours of good sleep.
- Although you are using an alarm clock to time your session, do not instantly come out of meditation, it will make you feel disorientated, fatigued and drained with maybe a headache. Rather like waking too quickly from a deep sleep.
- Take a few minutes to come round. Take deep breathes and stretch, then open your eyes.
- How do you feel? You should feel refreshed, relaxed and at peace with the world. Happiness is within your grasp! All of those negative feelings of anger, discontentment, frustration, envy, depression etc, that you felt prior to the meditation should be diminishing.
- Eventually you will find that these feelings will be replaced by happiness, peace and contentment. They will no longer dominate your life. You will be in control and be a renewed person !
This will be your pattern for the rest of your life, take it and enjoy it to the full. Do not expect immediate changes to yourself, but be patient. As Professor Sykes demonstrated in her documentary, there is clear scientific evidence that ‘things’ happen in your brain when you meditate over a period of time. The theory that I trusted without clear evidence all those years ago has now been scientifically assessed and found to be correct.
And don’t worry if you can’t practice meditation every day twice a day. The very fact that you have the remedy to so many psychological and physical ills at your finger tips will make you feel amazingly enlightened.
Eventually your meditative state can be achieved anywhere and at any time and in any place. The time becomes immaterial, you will be able to find that inner peace with your ‘special’ word, just by silently repeating it.
Enjoy the experience and see what happens in your life.