Balance comes in many forms. We balance ourselves physically, on tight-ropes of in yoga poses; mentally, when we weigh the pros and cons of a situation, and emotionally, when we decide we need a hug or an hour to ourselves. But where do we look to balance ourselves spiritually?
Some of us attend a synagogue, a temple, a mosque, or a church. Others play music or create art. And some of us meditate.
Meditation is a tradition that dates back more than five thousand years, and the practice appears in almost every religion around the world. There is concentration meditation, where one focuses on a particular phrase or image for a period of time, and mindfulness meditations, which aim to bring the practitioner into full awareness of the present moment. There are also seated and walking meditations, guided, chakra, yoga meditations - the list is endless. But what is meditation exactly?
The practice serves different purposes for different people. For some, meditation is a way of reaching a state of enlightenment and spiritual knowledge. For others, it is a way to connect with their subconscious or inner self. Mindfulness meditation has gained popularity in North America, as it provides a way to clear the mind and achieve balance in one's life. The following includes some suggestions for beginning mindfulness meditation; however there are many, many different techniques, and I invite you to experiment with different traditions to find one with which you are comfortable.
The simplest way to begin mindfulness meditation is to find a quiet place to sit down, either on a chair or on the floor. Settle yourself comfortable, but make sure your spine is straight and that your hands are rising quietly in your lap. Close your eyes to eliminate distractions, and begin focusing on your breathing. Notice the sensation of air entering your lungs as you inhale, and the feeling of breath leaving your nostrils as you exhale. Try and simply notice the air as it flows in and out of your body. When a thought enters your mind (and undoubtedly one will!), simply label it "thinking" without judging the thought as positive or negative, and return your concentration to your breathing. Do this for five minutes, and then continue on with your day.
Meditation can be a useful way to maintain spiritual balance in our lives, and has also proven beneficial in terms of overall health. Whether you have five minutes over lunch break, a quiet moment in the middle of the afternoon, or if you simply have a ten minute metro ride every morning, taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing and calm your thoughts can help you remain balanced and calm throughout the day.
Radix article, originally published in November 2008 by Sarah Mitchell
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