Scientists and psychologists in meditation research continue to discover more and more health benefits from regular practice of Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness Meditation is a simple practice that anybody can do.

The following is a quick and easy guide to get started and how to achieve the best results.

Mindfulness meditation has a plethora of health benefits including reduced stress levels, greater levels of focus, attention, concentration and memory. It may also increase creativity, allow better sleep as well as being very relaxing and invigorating.

There are many different ways in which to meditate, this article considers Mindfulness Meditation. It is important, however, to study and practice more than one form and find a type of Meditation that you are comfortable using and from which you get the most benefit.

 Meditation: An ancient art but a modern need

The roots of Mindfulness Meditation can be found in the early preaching of Buddhism in particular the Theravada tradition approximately 2500 years ago in India. The fundamentals of practice were to help the practitioner to gain control of their thoughts and to observe things in their true state.

Regular practice of Mindfulness meditation can strengthen contextual awareness and develop our ability to remain stay in the present moment. This skill can map over into our ‘normal’ daily lives so practitioners find it easier to maintain voluntary attention.

“Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are, but instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.”

Dr. Karen Kissel Wegela – Naropa University

In today’s technological environments with all its distractions and the ever increasing pressure to be able to multitask, it is incredibly difficulty to maintain any level of focus and keep on task. The answer to this mish mash of mind bending hysteria is of course Mindfulness meditation, allowing the practitioner to completely focus on one task at a time until moving onto the next task.

 Getting Started

It is possible to meditate at any point during the day, and as many times as you wish and for however long you want but as an advisory it is generally good practice to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. Beginners may struggle to meditate for long periods initially but meditation session time will increase with time. Discover what works best for you.

During your session, it may be beneficial to use a clock and set a timer, this will allow for complete concentration and negates the need to take a look at the clock and break your focus.

When preparing for your meditation session, you need to ensure that you’re doing it in an appropriate environment with the right ambience, you may benefit from a darkened room or dim light. Ideally, whenever possible, you should meditate in the same place each time. Ensure your environment is distraction free; free from mobile phones, outside disturbances etc., the quieter the environment, the better.

 Correct positioning for meditation

Correct positioning for meditation is incredibly important. Finding the most comfortable position can be most beneficial and enhance the effectiveness of the session. You need to feel stable thus enabling complete focus on the object of meditation.

The Lotus position is a traditional posture for meditation although you need to have a certain degree of flexibility to get into and maintain this posture. Alternatively, use Half Lotus, this is more comfortable and easier to maintain. Some practitioners use the Burmese position which becomes all the more comfortable whilst sitting on a cushion or blanket. Other positions include the Seiza posture, sitting on a chair or laying down on the floor or bed.

Here are some general rules for what you should do with your body, as described by the Vipassana Fellowship:

• It is important to sit with a straight back with your head in line with the spine.
• Remain relaxed with no stiffness or tension in the muscles.
• Try to sit lightly; this will automatically ease the position.
• To find the best position for you, experiment with different positions. It is important to sit without moving for the whole meditation session.
• Sitting with a straight back will feel strange for a start but you will eventually get used to it. If you maintain this position, it will automatically sustain your levels of alertness.

Practice really does make perfect.

Another type is walking meditation and we can be ‘mindful’ during the walking meditation. This can be a challenging form with the possibility of many distractions but again with practice and patience, it can be performed with enough focus from which you will benefit.

For walking meditation, wear comfortable clothing and start by taking some deep breaths, continue taking deep breaths until you feel you are entering a relaxed state.

Placing oneself in the present moment

Mindfulness meditation is often perceived as a meditation where practitioners place themselves into a deepened state of relaxation whilst clearing their mind of all thoughts and thus eradicating the ‘Monkey Mind’. Although some forms of meditation advocate this, Mindfulness meditation advocates the awareness and focus of a single thought.

The whole point of Mindfulness is to concentrate on what is actually happening in the present moment; this may mean concentrating on the breath. Each and every inhalation and exhalation is married with focused attention, concentrating and following the breath in through the nose, down the esophagus, passed the lungs and into the belly and maintaining that focus for the return path.

If the mind and focus wander, which may well happen more as a beginner, it is important to not get frustrated by this distraction, realize that distraction has occurred and calmly return the focus and hence the breath.

There are no hard and fast rules with regard to the speed at which you breathe during your meditation session. A more experienced practitioner may well inhale and exhale a lot slower than a beginner. Generally you should aim to inhale for 4-6 seconds. As mentioned earlier, the breath is not the only thing you can use for focus during meditation. Others things such as a flame, an immobile object, a single word or a mantra may also be used.

Quieting the ‘Monkey Mind’

Without doubt, generally the first few minutes of your meditation will be the most difficult, trying to get comfortable, finding the breath, attempting to switch off from the day’s stresses and strains, you will find that initially, your mind is still completely wired and active. This is what is known as the ‘Monkey Mind’.

During your meditation, you will find that you have drifted away from your initial focus, whether that is the breath, an object, mantra etc. and you won’t have even realized that you have done it. Automatically you find yourself thinking about the day’s events, family, work etc., you may even find that you are thinking about things that you haven’t thought about in months or even years. As mentioned, do not get annoyed by this but simply allow those disappear in their own time and return your focus to the meditation.

Bhante Gunaratana, in Vipassana meditation explains:

“What a bother but this is what it is all about. These distractions are actually the whole point. The key is to learn to deal with these things. Learning to notice them without being trapped in them. That’s what we are here for. The mental wandering is unpleasant, to be sure. But it is the normal mode of operation of your mind. Don’t think of it as the enemy. It is just the simple reality. And if you want to change something, the first thing you have to do is see it the way it is.
When you first sit down to concentrate on the breath, you will be struck by how incredibly busy the mind actually is. It jumps and jibbers. It veers and bucks. It chases itself around in constant circles. It chatters. It thinks. It fantasizes and daydreams. Don’t be upset about that, it’s natural. When your mind wanders from the subject of meditation, just observe the distraction mindfully.”

Progression in Mindfulness meditation is realized when you discover that the amount of time you spend in thoughtful awareness is greater than that spent in the wandering mind. Over time and with consistent practice, the ability to remain focused for greater amounts of time will increase.

Set short time goals for a start, even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes and as this becomes easier, increase the time until you can remain focused for at least 20 minutes. With 20 minutes of complete focus on a daily basis, you will benefit massively from your practice.

Understanding the concept of the ‘Monkey Mind’ and realizing the transition from this state and development of our focused concentration, you can begin to understand the power of meditation. We live our lives with a ‘Monkey Mind’ and it is not until we quiet our minds that we understand what a torrid time we put our minds and body’s through.

Dealing with issues during Meditation

During your Meditation session, you may experience issues, niggles, pain, little annoyances, even something as simple as an itch, all of which can be distracting and throw your concentration, it is important that you learn to deal with these.

If any of these do occur, you should move your focus away from your breath and onto the issue. If for example, you feel pain, begin to exhale in and out of the pain, become increasingly aware of the pain and gradually accept the pain. Do not react emotionally to the pain; certainly do not feel any negativity towards the pain. Continue to focus on the pain whilst inhaling and exhaling.

This technique is not guaranteed to work, in which case, it may be necessary to adjust your seated position, change position altogether or take a short break. Remember that there are no hard or fast rules with Meditation. Make your Meditation fit around you and now and again trying something different so you are also pushing boundaries, this is the way forward for progression.

Ambient noise may also be an annoyance that could easily disrupt your session. A loud television, traffic driving by or general chatter can be quite off putting. As mentioned previously, do not get frustrated, simply focus your attention on the distraction and learn to deal, accept it and continue with your session.

Final thought…..

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Zen proverb

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The 8 Limbs of Yoga

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

Step 1: Yama: non-violent, non-covetousness, non-theft, truth seeking, continence

Step 2: Niyama: cleanliness, contentment, austerities, surrender to God, scripture study

Step 3: Asana: poses and physical exercises

Step 4: Pranayama: extending our life force energy

Step 5: Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses

Step 6: Dharana: concentration of the mind on the Self

Step 7: Dhyana: concentration and subsequent energy on an object

Step 8: Samadhi: Superconcious state achieved via meditation



The 8 Limbs of Yoga are split into 2 groups.Group 1 contains the first 5 steps and is referred to as the external group because it deals with mind and matter.Group 2 contains the last 3 steps and is referred to as the internal group because it deals with the mind and the soul.Steps 3, 4 and 5 allow the student to develop concentration through the practice of posture (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and the withdrawal of senses (Pratyahara).
Asanas and Pranayama are physical elements and thus allow our minds to maybe wander away from the true perspective of Yoga. Step 5, Pratyahara acts as a stepping stone to Dharana, first allowing a student to observe oneself before developing concentration in step 6.

Yama and Niyama

Steps 1 and 2, Yama and Niyama are considered to be moral training and practiced or inherent within us before the physical act of Yoga has even begun. If the student is absent of these first 2 steps, then no amount of Yoga will be beneficial.

The more Yoga that is practiced, the more benefits will be experienced by the student. A development of moral and core physical strength will enhance the student’s life in general. It is advised that if possible, physical and mental practice should be done every day to strengthen the mind and body and also the union between mind and body.


It is important that the student should find a posture in which he/she can remain in for a long time in preparation for meditation. Again, through regular practice, the student will achieve whatever position they choose and also be suitably ready for the practice of meditation.

During meditation the neck, head and chest should stay in a straight line, thus opening the body and the body should be supported by the spine and the ribcage. If the body remains open and straight, the process of meditation will become easier allowing for greater focus and concentration and a better meditative experience.

One form of Yoga that concentrates on the many physical and mental exercises, breathing exercises (pranayama) and breath control is Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga prepares the body for meditation.

That type of Yoga that concentrates on chants and the repetition of mantras (japa) is called Mantra Yoga.

Yoga that focuses on the transfer and movement of energy is Laya Yoga. This is ancient method of meditation that’s focuses primarily on the chakras and the awakening of the Kundalini. The practice of Laya Yoga locates and works on the individual chakras.

The principles of Raja Yoga also referred to as Royal Yoga lay in the idea that the world that we see and feel are created from within our own minds (Self) and we see ourselves (Self) in every object.


Many people consider the term ‘pranayama’ to mean breathing exercises, although this is partly true, the full meaning of the word is in its Sanskrit translation. ‘Prana’ translated is ‘life force’ or ‘vital energy’ and ‘Yama’ translated is ‘to extend’. From this translation, pranayama means to extend our life force or extend our vital energy.


Pratyahara translated means withdrawal of the senses. During practice a conscious effort is made to lessen the awareness of the external environment and any external distractions and concentrate on the internal. Pratyahara allows the student to step out of Self and observe specific elements of their lives that may hinder inner development. The practice of Pratyahara prepares the student for the next stage, Dharana.


Dharana translated means concentration. After completing Pratyahara and eradicating external distractions it is time to contemplate distractions occurring in the mind. During Dharana the student will concentrate on a specific item in the mind, japa or silent repetition of a mantra, or focusing the attention on a chakra.



Dhyana translated means meditation. The meanings of Dhyana (meditation) and Dharana (concentration) seem to overlap in their meanings. The important difference being that Dharana is focused on a single object or mantra whereas Dhyana requires the student simply to be aware with no specific focus. During Dhyana there exists a stillness and clarity of mind. Because of our ‘monkey minds’, this stillness of mind, initially may be difficult to achieve but with regular practice of this and the other steps, Dhyana will be realised.


The ultimate goal is to reach Samadhi, a level of meditation where the mind is completely still and concentrated. It is a state of intense concentration and is considered to be the final stage in Yoga where union with the divine is finally achieved.

The term Samadhi is used in many different Eastern traditions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Jainism and variations of meaning exist

Savikalpa Samadhi

In the state of Savikalpa Samadhi the student is absent of human consciousness and there is a natural peace and tranquillity of the mind meaning there is no thought. All the materialistic desires, worries, etc. are non-existent and the student will experience a sense of fulfilment and last for several minutes to several hours.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

In the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi there is no mind. It is said that there is an infinite consciousness of bliss and peace and that the student becomes at one with the divine.

There exists a state of nonduality (see below for explanation of nonduality) and no relationship or experience of any object either internal or external. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the student would not be able to function in the world.

“Nonduality is a philosophy, which states that there is only One Eternal Spirit in existence, and everything in the Universe was created by it and is an inseparable part of it. At the same time, nonduality also says that the world isn’t real, but is an illusion perceived by the mind.”

Sahaja Samadhi

In the state of Sahaja Samadhi, the student can retain the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi but also be able to function in the world and remain at one with the divine.

This is the highest form of Samadhi and very rare and experienced only by gurus of the highest order.


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There have been many scientific studies into the benefits of regular meditation practice to improve the mind, body and general well-being.  Some of the benefits include lower levels of stress and anxiety leading to improved health, clearer thinking and thought processes and greater creativity. When we meditate, our brains initially  function between 9-14 cycles per second, this is Alpha state. To achieve this state we must first transition from Beta state.

The frequency of beta waves is 15-30 waves/cycles per second and occur when you are alert and awake, thus our brains are in Beta most of the time. Increasing the brains beta waves may lead to higher levels of concentration, increase motivation, increased energy and increased focus but too many beta waves may result in stress, this type of brainwave is more prevalent in adults as opposed to children who generally function at Alpha level.

Some of the benefits of increased Beta waves include:

Increased Focus: A lack of focus leading to lack of clarity can be incredibly frustrating. Increasing your beta brainwaves will re-establish your focus and may subsequently increase your focus leading to more clarity and greater productivity.

Issue Resolution: Issues can be resolved rationally and logically. ‘Thinking’ processes are accelerated allowing quicker conclusions and resolutions.

Quicker Thinking: Increased beta wave activity will increase your concentration levels and focus which will lead to quicker thinking.

Increase in Energy Levels: People that have low beta activity generally have low energy levels. Increase your energy levels by listening to Beta music and thus increasing your Beta brainwaves.

Higher IQ: Studies have proved that people with increased levels of beta activity tend to have higher IQ. With increased focus, it is easier to  learn and retain information.

Extremely high levels of activity will manifest in high intense levels of energy and excitement. The brainwave activity of athletes will naturally be at a higher levels enabling increased performance, the competition leads to high levels of anxiety, increased adrenaline determination.

Modern technology has allowed us as practitioners to experience the different brainwaves and thus benefit from regular practice. One modern technique is brainwave entrainment and uses the stimulus of sound to entrain your brain. With regular practice you will be access the brainwaves at will.


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Alpha WaveBrainwave entrainment is an increasingly popular method that allows you to reach a particular brainwave state via the use of audio technology. The technology used in the practice of meditation for the purpose of brainwave entrainment is binaural beats. A different sound wave is played in each ear through one piece of music; your brain will recognize that there are differences and create a third wave. It is third wave that we try to achieve. For the purpose of this discussion, there are 4 brainwave states, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. In this article we discuss the Alpha Brainwave State.

The frequencies of the brain vary depending on what a person is doing at a specific time whether that is being creative, exercising, sleeping or general day to day activities.

Alpha waves frequency range from 7 to 14 hertz or cycles per second and typically occur when we are asleep but the transition from Beta waves starts when we are totally relaxed (typically 14 cycles per second), almost in a dreamlike phase. Meditation starts at this level ultimately creating a sense of inner calm and peace and opening up the ability to heal.  When we meditate for a period of time, the effects are similar to that of a good night’s sleep in that the body and mind feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Have you ever been a situation whereby overthinking or over analysing leads to less or zero creativity and ends up creating a negative feel to the point where it is necessary to walk away and forget about it for a while, and coming back later on helps to think from a different perspective. Imagine the thought and creativity that could be achieved after a mediation session.

The benefits of the brain being in alpha state include improved concentration, clearer thought and mental processes, a release of tension, stress and anxiety which allows better decision making abilities, stimulation in imagination and creativity.

With regular practice and allowing the brain to reach deeper levels, the ability for your brain to reach Alpha state will become habitual and a lot easier, allowing you to fall asleep easier thus achieving consistently good nights of sleep which in itself has many health benefits such as an improvement in your immune system and a decrease in the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) produced ultimately slowing down the aging process.

Depending on the environment in which you meditate will determine the effectiveness of your meditation session. It is important to find a quiet environment in which distractions are minimal. Reaching Alpha state will become easier the more you practice.

  • Begin by taking deep, slow breaths until you are in a more relaxed state and your brain starts to feel clearer and less cluttered.
  • Whilst you are breathing deeply and slowly, focus on your breathing, all the time being aware of the Alpha music playing in the background.
  • Once relaxed, visualize the number 10 slowly and gradually being transformed into the number 9, then being transformed into the number 8 and so on until you reach the number 1. Visualizing these numbers will trigger the part of your mind responsible for the alpha frequency.
  • Reciprocate this exercise by starting from 1 and again transforming each number into the next until reaching the number 10.
  • At the end, open your eyes and become aware of your environment allowing your body and mind to readjust to reality.

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Meditation on Insomnia

Many people suffer from insomnia and the numbers continue to grow. Insomnia may be caused by different factors including work, family, generally the stresses and strains of everyday life. Insomnia is said to be a common cause of several different diseases and health issues such as heart attacks, strokes, hypertension and other vascular diseases.

If insomnia is not treated immediately, it may lead to one of the above mentioned health issues. People that suffer with insomnia try many different methods to combat this issue such as consultations with physicians, self medication (not advisable) but one of the best ways is through the practice of meditation, especially guided meditation. Regular meditation sessions will relieve the negative effects of insomnia, as well as reduce the unnecessary worries and anxieties of daily life.


Guided Meditation for Insomnia


A person will experience sleepless or unsettled nights when the brain continues to work even if they are in the ‘state’ of going to sleep (alpha brainwaves). Some people still have and active state of mind (beta brainwaves) even though they are in the course of going to sleep. Stress causes this scenario and thus meditation is one of the best ways to combat this. Meditation will help relax your mind and allow you to fall into a deeper sleep more quickly.


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