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Meditation is a way to boost your mental health, reduce stress, help with chronic pain, and build a new perception of the world around us.
But even with all these well-known benefits, there are still a lot misunderstandings going around about what this ancient practice can do for human health and wellbeing.
This isn’t true. Even though there are some meditations that involve sitting quietly with your legs crossed, others don’t. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are examples of meditation that concentrates on movement, for example. This type of meditation combines a relaxed, but alert state of mind with gentle breathing and slow movements.
On the other hand, you do have Tibetan Buddhist meditation, which involves mantras or visualizations. Don’t forget about the thinking meditation! It’s where one reflects on topics such as impermanence while staying reflective and relaxed yet focused.
While a lot of meditation practices demand you be still and quiet, that’s not the actual essence of meditation. It’s about “non-reactive” attention or trying to concentrate inward and focus on qualities like generosity, compassion, or forgiveness.
Deconstructive meditation, for example, specifically develops thoughtful insights into the practices, which stabilize attention to promoting compassion. For this type of meditation, you actually have to do certain actions in order to cement ideas and emotions into your daily life.
The meditator reflects on their intentions and motivations for the practice which affect the outcomes. While some may meditate to reduce back pain or anxiety, others look for spiritual awakening.
Meditating often involves quieting of the mind, but it doesn’t mean that it should go blank. It consists in developing the ability to observe one’s emotions, thoughts, and sensations and being able to notice and pause rather than react. It helps establish a broader compassionate perspective.
This idea probably comes from misunderstandings about some advanced meditation types such as awareness of awareness practices, meditative absorptions, or some Dzogchen meditations.
These are characterized by very few familiar sensations, thoughts, and emotions. But even with faulty thinking, these meditative states have qualities of clarity, ease, alertness, reflective awareness, and compassion. Vigorously trying to limit thinking would be unhealthy at any stage of your meditation training.
In short, too many people think that the only meditation that’s worth your time is the one you see in movies or images of monks sitting in a temple for hours and hours without end. That’s not true.
Although meditation isn’t a roller coaster ride, it isn’t a smooth one to a quiet mind either. Increased awareness of unhealthy mental habits and behavior is universal at the start of practice, and during shifts towards more advanced stages of meditation.
These challenging experiences can reach some adverse effects – such as increased disorientation or anxiety.
This reason is why it is essential to practice under the guidance of a qualified and experienced meditation teacher who can provide advice on how to work with such experiences.
The purpose of meditation in its traditional context—including and beyond Buddhism—has been the search of purpose and meaning in life and attaching with deeper existential consciousness.
This core aspect is often overlooked in the current teaching. Some research focuses on the immediate health benefits of meditation, rather than the existential well-being of a person over an extended period of time.
With motivation and intentions, the existential awareness dimension of meditation practice is intimately tangled in your meditation practice.
With a relaxed body, you can bring your awareness to the physical sensations throughout your body. You’ll notice these sensations in your shoulders, neck, back and your entire body. If there’s tightness or tension, you can relax and let your body to settle into a posture of comfort and ease.
Some people find it useful to take three long, slow, deep breaths, identifying not only to relax deeply with each exhale but also to let go of any feelings or distracting thoughts. You can notice the entire course of each in and out a sigh, keeping as physically still as you can while letting your respiration to flow effortlessly as if you were fast asleep.
Now, pay particular attention to your breathing as you experience it around your abdomen. You’ll notice the sensation of the breath as the stomach expands and contracts. Perhaps you feel a slight stretching feeling as the air expands your belly. You should pay close attention to these sensations.
Learning more about the true meaning of meditation would help address some current concerns about the use of techniques outside traditional contexts as a means to increase your productivity and reduce stress. You can relax and let a massage expert help you overcome any pain and stress.