By Swami Karasananda (Kathryn Romani)
“It is MUCH BETTER to meditate for 2 minutes a day and do it consistently,
than it is to meditate for 16 minutes three times a week.” – Sw. Karasananda
When meditation is mentioned, it can conjure up a vision of a person sitting on the floor with their legs crossed, back straight, palms up and eyes closed – for hours. This is the traditional meditation pose that was taught by Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952) – a popular Indian guru – to millions of Americans throughout the 32 years that he lived in the USA.
However, meditation can also be effectively done in a straight-back chair, for those who find chair-sitting more suitable. The key to success is finding a comfortable chair for yourself with a straight back, with or without arms. Often, modern chairs slant backwards. However, by inserting a pillow between your back and the back of the chair, this will enable you to maintain an erect spine. It is important to sit up straight so that the energy in your body will flow easily up your spine during meditation. If your feet do not reach the floor, rest your feet on a pillow.
WHAT IS MEDITATION? Meditation is effortless concentration. It is a pure feeling state of non-thinking, inner peace and contentment. It requires that you remain totally still, mentally and physically. Allow yourself to just “be” — to just experience the present moment without interference from your logical mind.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION Physical benefits – Meditation leads to deep relaxation. Medically, deep relaxation is defined as a decrease in: heart rate, respiration rate, muscular tension, and analytical thinking. It is proven that meditation is the most effective antidote to stress. It relaxes the body muscles, reduces anxiety and tension, lowers blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat, increases energy and productivity and enhances healing and good health.
Mental benefits – Meditation is conducive in bringing about: peace of mind, a sense of well-being, improves concentration and memory, enhances intuition and creates greater balance in your thinking.
Emotional benefits – Meditation techniques will: improve your moods, calm you when you’re frustrated or nervous, reduce and balance emotionality, help you to detach from negative thinking and negative self-talk and increase self-esteem.
GOAL OF MEDITATION
The goal of sustained meditation is to think a new thought.
We are trapped within the confines of our own minds and the thought patterns that occur there. These thought patterns are very repetitive, which is why we find ourselves thinking the same thoughts – with new people and new scenarios inserted – but basically the same thoughts. However, having even one new thought can change your whole life. Such a new thought is called an “Ah Ha” moment, when you suddenly receive deep insight and see something in a new and fascinatingly refreshing way. This is what the Japanese refer to as having a "Satori" — a clear realization that has a profoundly positive effect upon you and your future.
Posture - Sit up straight in your chair. Keep both feet placed firmly flat on the floor, head forward and rest your hands on your upper thighs or on the arms of the chair. On both hands, touch the tip of each pointer finger to the tip of your thumb to create a "circle of energy." Below is a picture/example. Hold that position with your palms up.
Duration – Start by meditating just 2 minutes a day. Aim for consistency: once a day, every day, for 2 minutes. Everyone has at least that much time to spare. Gradually increase the duration, keeping it comfortable and pleasant, slowly working up to 10 or 15 minutes. You will find that the more you meditate, the more you will enjoy it, so listen to your body to determine how long to meditate. One day you may only want do it for 2 minutes and the next day you may get lost in meditation for 15 minutes! Meditation has nothing to do with endurance - frequent practice is the key to success. It’s much better to meditate for 2 minutes a day, every day, than it is to meditate for 15 minutes three times a week.
BEGINNING TO MEDITATE - PRELIMINARY INFORMATION
• When you begin to meditate, thoughts will naturally come in even though you are focusing on your breath. This happens because your mind does not know how to be quiet yet. Most students don't even know that it is possible to quiet down the mind, until they begin to meditate.
• When thoughts interrupt, pay no attention to them. For example: your mind will think, “I have to pay the phone bill.” Ignore the thought and return to watching your breath. If the thought returns, firmly tell yourself, “I will think about that later. Now I am meditating.” Each time you meditate, your thoughts become less intrusive. Another way to deal with this is to mentally say “Neti (net-tee), Neti, Neti” every time a thought interrupts your meditation. Then go back to watching your breath. “Neti”is a Sanskrit word that means “I am not this thought; I am not that thought; I am not thought.” It is always repeated 3 times.
• Eventually you will notice that each thought has a beginning and an end and there is a millisecond of quiet space between your thoughts. As your mind learns to quiet down in meditation, the frequency of thoughts lessen and the space between the thoughts, called the "sacred void" increases.
• Within this void there exists a subtle feeling state. This feeling state is different from emotions. Emotions are feelings that cause you to take action, mentally or physically. But you can enjoy a “feeling state” such as happiness without having to “say” or “do” anything. In the sacred void, you are just “being.”
• Scientific trials have shown that when you meditate for at least 2 minutes, you automatically receive the benefits from meditation. I know it is hard to understand how meditating for such a short time could possible have so many positive benefits for you, but it is true. People have been quieting their minds and reaping the benefits of meditation for over thousands of years. Changes like becoming more patient, more understanding, more creative and intuitive occur automatically when you make it a habit to meditate.
Before beginning each meditation session, with your head forward, take a deep breath through the nose, turn your face over your left shoulder and do a double-exhalation forcefully through the mouth. It will sound like “HA-HA.” This is a way of using energy to create a barrier between what came before and your meditation time. The body will become entrained and recognize this as a signal indicating: “Now it is time to forget the outside world and turn inward.” It’s called the Resurrection Breath because, on a deeper level, it means that whatever happened in your life up to this moment is gone and forgotten; with this breath, you are starting out fresh with a clean slate.
Clothing - Wear loose, comfortable clothing that is not binding. Your body temperature decreases during meditation, so you may want to throw a shawl or blanket over your shoulders. Bare foot is best but if you prefer shoes, so be it. Your body should be free of fragrances because fragrances will distract the mind.
Where - Choose a place where you can be alone, without disturbances. It should be a quiet, clean place where you can relax. Ideally, it is good to get into the habit of meditating in the same place every day, if possible. Meditating outdoors is always advised. Do not meditate with your pet around because their presence may distract you from the act of meditating. If you have children, meditate while they are asleep.
When - Sunrise or sunset are ideally the best times to meditate. Other excellent times are when you're in the "twilight zone": in the morning when you are still between sleeping and being fully awake or in the evening right before you go to sleep. Try meditating at different times of the day until you determine what works best for you; then stick with that whenever possible
Direction - You should meditate facing EAST in the daytime and facing NORTH between sunset and dawn.
Sound - It is helpful to clang a gong or ring a bell before meditation to train your mind to associate that sound with meditation. Then, whenever you hear that sound, your mind thinks, "Oh, it's time to meditate" – time to stop thinking of the mundane and get ready to be quiet down and be calm. Music is not recommended during meditation.
Eating/Drinking Rules - Do not eat anything or drink alcohol, coffee or caffeine products right before meditating – best to wait 2 hours after eating, so your body's energy will be focused on meditation rather than digestion.
Rule of Thumb - Meditation is a personal experience. It is much better to meditate in less-than-ideal conditions than it is to not meditate at all! As I always say: "Just meditate - wherever and whenever you can - don't get hung up on the details."
"WATCHING YOUR BREATH" MEDITATION TECHNIQUE
This is the basic beginning meditation technique. You simply sit and concentrate your attention on your breathing. You might think: “Now I am breathing in, now I am breathing out” as you breathe. Don’t deliberately change anything about your breathing – just allow yourself to breathe as you normally would. Don’t try to even out the inhalations and exhalations. Just observe your breathing. Focus on the breath. Experience it. Think only about your breath. When your mind wanders to something else, never get upset. Gently bring it back by thinking, “Now I am breathing in, now I am breathing out”, until you are refocused on the breath. Or you can use “Neti, Neti, Neti.” Some people imagine seeing the breath coming in and out of their nostrils. Others experience it more as “feeling” the breath. They feel the coolness of the air coming into their nostrils and the warmth of the air leaving their nostrils. Others focus on “hearing” the breath move in and out. Shift your awareness to each of these three sensations: hearing, visualizing and feeling. Choose the one that is most comfortable to you and watch your breath for the duration of the meditation.
The Sanskrit word for the Universe is “Om” (Ohm). The Sanskrit word for "peace" is "Shanti" (shawn-tee). It is a greeting when people meet, and also a "sound meditation" which is called a mantra. In meditation, the English word "peace" is not chanted because people have too many emotional connotations attached to that word. Each meditation session is closed by chanting, at any tone of your choice, “Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” The first Shanti is for you and your loved ones. The second Shanti is for all those in your environment (town, state, country). The third Shanti sends “Peace” to the entire world. Your intention directs where the peace will flow.
STEPS TO DO YOUR CHAIR-SITTING MEDITATION
Now that you are equipped with the important information/knowledge above, you are ready to perform the steps for your chair-sitting meditation:
1. Assume the meditative posture in your chair. 2. Do the Resurrection Breath. 3. Bring your head forward, close your eyes, palms up and fingers touching. Breathe through your nose. 4. Focus your attention on the spot between your eyebrows (called the Sun Center) or the tip of your nose. 5. Become aware of each breath you take - in and out. Do this for the duration of the meditation. 6. Close by chanting “Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”
HAVE QUESTIONS? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at: email@example.com