As a teacher of meditation, I often hear the same kinds of complaints and questions from students. It is hard for experienced meditators like me to remember what it is like to just be starting on the path. Beginning takes a truly epic amount of discipline. Even the most rudimentary meditation techniques can be excruciating after 5 or 10 minutes. For many people, it is hard to just close the eyes and keep the mind alert at the same time.
I used to teach very complex meditation techniques involving lots of difficult and intricate imagery, but as I have progressed as a teacher, I have simplified them. I find that all but the most dedicated students tend to give up when a meditation technique is too hard. It can be almost painful for them to continue to sit there and focus on their breath while keeping an image of the Buddha in their minds. Experimenting on my own, however, I have found that there are a variety of simple meditation techniques that work every bit as well as the more difficult and advanced ones.
A lot of people out there will tell you that you have to use their meditation technique. Many of these so-called experts believe that there is only one way to do things: their way. Although most of them really do have valid meditation techniques, they fail to grasp the larger picture. Anything that puts your mind in a peaceful state, and helps to sustain that state throughout the day, is a good meditation technique. Different schools have different meditation techniques, but they are only as good as the peace they give to the practitioner. Ultimately, the only guide to whether a technique in meditation is worthwhile is you.
Of course, that is not to say that there aren’t some basic meditation techniques that everyone should learn. I have never seen a meditation method, for example, that does not involve focusing on the breath. If you do not learn to keep the mind clear while focusing on your breath, you will never get the maximum benefit from your meditation. The meditation techniques that you use to achieve these results are up to you. You can simply listen to your breath, or you can picture it as a wave of energy flowing in and out of you. Make it as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you.
The psychological benefits of meditation are many; researchers and doctors all over the world are realizing just how powerful the psychological and physical benefits can be. With stressful jobs, family responsibilities, and a never ending list of things that need to be done. According to Psychology Today, at www.psychologytoday.com, neuroscientists have found that brain waves of meditators show they are healthier than their non-meditating counterparts both physically and mentally. Meditation can help people feel less anxious and more in control of their lives, which all of us could use a bit of, I’m sure. Numerous sources state that when practiced routinely, the meditative state can lead to supreme bliss or enlightenment, which is the desired natural spiritual outcome of the practice of yoga and meditation.