Padded Meditation Bench
A handcrafted natural-finish alderwood bench
with natural cotton padded seat has an
ergonomic slant that reduces back strain,
knee fatigue and pressure on legs.
Its shape and cushioning enhance comfort,
circulation, energy flow and the
benefits of meditation — and its legs
fold flat to go and stow anywhere.
Shown on top of a Zabuton
Meditation has been prevalent since the evolution of the mankind in
different forms. The earliest written text about it comes from the
Indian philosophy as one of the components of the highly enlightened
philosophy of "YOGA", where it has been called as "DHYAN"
or mental concentration. Later on it was exported to China and Japan
when the Buddhist monks reached there to propagate the new religion. It
was then called by the names of Zen etc. Yoga is a complete manual for
the de-stressing of mind as well as the physical body in a very
scientific layout. Its philosophy was considered sacred and was kept
secret for ages.
These little exercises are helpful for beginners or before any
meditation to get you in the mood:
Caution should be exercised when
learning as it can lead to eye strain or headaches if overdone or done
incorrectly. Contacts should be removed if they cause any discomfort
while doing this exercise. Try to adjust for maximum pleasure with no
Do these for 1 minute at first and over a period of time, build to 3-5
minutes. Afterwards perform a facial and eye massage for a minute and
then move into your favourite
This technique, once mastered, quickly shuts down your internal
dialogue and quietens the mind, bringing your full attention into the
present moment. It also can generate feelings of mild euphoria.
Open your eyes and gently roll them up to look at the ceiling, then
drop your chin an inch as you continue to look at the same spot on
the ceiling. Let you eyes slip out of focus and relax the eyes and
the face and your whole body. Let the eyes be drawn toward the
third-eye, a little above and between the eyebrows. Notice if there
is any strain or unpleasant sensation in the eyes. If there is,
immediately lower the eyes just enough so that there is no sensation
of straining, but do not quit. The eyes should be positioned as high
as possible without causing any strain. Then learn to breath and
relax while holding this position. If it starts to feel good, roll
up a little further. If it starts to feel unpleasant, immediately
back off a little bit.
This technique, once mastered, also shuts down your internal
dialogue and quietens the mind, bringing your full attention into the
present moment. It often increases students awareness of their own
bodies, and especially of their posture.
Open your eyes and
gently drop them down to look at the floor, then raise your chin an
inch as you continue to look at the same spot on the floor. Let you
eyes slip out of focus and relax the eyes and the face and your
whole body. Notice if there is any strain or unpleasant sensation in
the eyes. If there is, immediately lift the eyes just enough that
there is no sensation of straining, but do not quit. The eyes should
be positioned as low as possible, without causing any strain. Then
learn to breathe and relax while holding this position. If it starts
to feel good, roll down a little further, if it starts to feel
unpleasant, immediately back off a little bit.
Counting Back From 10: This counting exercise is designed to improve
your ability to hold the mind steady, without wandering. It is not very
elegant or spiritual, but it does strengthen your "concentration
muscles." Practicing this exercise is like an athlete who lifts
weights to improve his or her golf swing. There are 3 main variations of
the counting back exercise. Each one is slightly harder than the
previous one. The important point to remember is that the goal is not to
reach 1 as many times as possible before losing count. The goal is to
learn how to notice the slightest waver of the mind, so that you can
bring it back to the exercise again. Every time your mind wanders, and
you bring it back to the exercise, it is like doing a push-up - you get
a little bit stronger.
The secret to success is to notice the first flicker of attention loss
and take immediate steps to bring yourself back to full attention. If
you do not notice the first fleeting excursion of the mind, it is less
likely you will notice the second or third, and 10 minutes later you
will be thinking about work, politics, or something, and you will gain
little benefit from the exercise. But if you notice the first flicker
and immediately come back to the exercise with full attention you will
get stronger with each passing minute.
The best way to notice if your mind has wandered is to listen to the way
you say each number. If there is any doubt, no matter how small, as to
whether you are at 6 or 5 then you have lost your place and should start
over. Listen to the inflection of count... do you say 6!!! or is it more
of a 6.....? Remember, if there is any question about what number you
are on, you must have wandered or you would know!
Do not judge success by how far you get or how many times you can count
back to 1 without losing your place. As you get better, the exercise
gets harder, not easier! If you breathe rapidly, say at a 5 second
interval, it is easy to stay on track, but as you improve, you breath
slower - some people slow down to one breath every 30 seconds or slower
- it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain focus.
exercises can help you see the inner workings of your own mind, and
how it can lure you away from your meditation and into daydreaming
This exercise gives you the opportunity to catch yourself straying and
see the process in yourself, and so come to understand it and to
recognize it and eventually to rise above such obvious tricks into a new
and more subtle arena of mind-play.
1) The easiest variation involves employing simple breath awareness as
you count backwards from 10. Count 10 as you breath in, and 9 as you
breathe out, and 8 as you breathe in, and 7 as you breathe out... when
you count 1 breathing out, start back at 10 as you breathe in again and
repeat until you lose your place. Each time you lose your place, start
over again at 10. Do not visualize the number, only sound it in your
head silently. Visualizing makes the exercise too easy. You can either
stretch it out like "tttt....eeeeeeee.....nnnnnnn" over the length of
you breath or else just say it normally.
2) If this exercise gets too easy (you make it from 10 to 1 fairly
often) then try a more difficult variation: breathe in to 10, breathe
out to the sound AUM, breathe in to 9, breathe out to the sound Aum,
breathe in to 8... and if you get to 1, start over.
3) The hardest variation requires you to breathe in silently, and count
10 as you breathe out, inhale in silence, count 9 as you exhale...
again, if you reach 1 or lose your place, start back at 10.
Counting Back from One: A variation to make it
easier for some people who feel like they compete with themselves or others and
suffer anxiety when they are supposed to be relaxing. In this case count back from 1 and when
you reach 1, or lose your
place, start over.... "One...........One.............One........."
This adjustment seems to work well . This is a nice exercise because you can read into it what you choose
to, and you are free to choose your own word if there is one
you are more comfortable with. Be sure that the word or phrase you
choose has positive connotations, and a pleasant sound to you, and that
with repetition it does not dissolve, but rather grows stronger and more
clearly defined. This is the hallmark of a good mantra.
Soft Vision: This is a wonderful release for the overworked eyes.
Moreover, it is a spiritual practice used independently in many widely
divergent disciplines spanning the planet. This technique is practiced
by Indian Yogi's, certain tribes of American Indians, students of the
Russian Gurdjeff Schools, European Gypsies, and it is described in
detail in the series of books by Carlos Castenada based upon his
friendship with a Mexican Indian named Don Juan. Soft vision is a
way of looking at the world without straining the eyes. Equally
important, it gives the practitioner a whole new perspective on the
universe, turning the ordinary into the magical and giving insight
into the mysterious.
Look straight ahead at the most distant object in your field of vision.
Now cross your eyes slightly, so that your field of vision is blurred
and seen in double vision. Spread your awareness evenly in an ever
larger circle until you are aware of the entire field of vision. Soften
your eyes with a smile (smiling with your eyes, not grinning with your
mouth!). Completely relax the eyes without any attempt to influence what
or how they see. Rather than focusing on a specific object and jumping
from object to object, the eyes become equally aware of your entire
field of vision, and they rest softly without jumping around. As the
eyes relax, so the mind becomes calm. Smile with your eyes and allow
that smile to soften your face and spread throughout your body. Focusing
on nothing, you become aware of everything.
Meditation is the mainstay in the process of de-stressing the mind. Various
forms have been prescribed with minor variations by various exponents in the past. The meditation as prescribed by most includes
sitting on the floor in a cross legged posture with or without locking
both the legs in an intertwining manner (Lotus position) followed by
closing the eyes and then focussing or concentrating by imagination in
the area of the face between the eyebrows. All this was done with or
without chanting some sacred "Mantras", prayer , wishful thoughts etc.
Some exponents even ask for mental imaginations instead.
Meditation generally takes several forms: insight, sitting,
mindfulness, moving. Regardless of the technique each is intended to
deeply relax the body and the mind. After practicing and developing
proficiency in a technique, one can clearly sense and feel all of the
above every time one meditates: the peace and quiet, the stillness and
the silence, the calm and the tranquillity. It is delightful,
physiologically restorative and life-enhancing and brings
many other benefits.
Mindfulness is an outgrowth of a Buddhist
tradition called vipassana, which focuses on the present moment. The
meditator focuses his or her attention alertly but non judgmentally on
all processes passing through the mind.
Often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation - a method for
paying attention in your life, on purpose, in the present moment, and
TM was brought to the Western world in the mid-twentieth
century by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian spiritual teacher. TM has
been taught to hundreds of thousands of people, and is widely credited
with being the first form of meditation to be practiced on a mass scale
in the West.
This technique enhances your control over the senses and
increases your awareness and control of your external environment. It is used almost universally in religions and spiritual
practices. The meditator focuses his or her attention on an internal or
external object (e.g., sound, word, bodily sensations, etc.) while
minimizing distractions and bring the wandering mind back to attention
on the chosen object. Repetitive prayer is a commonly used form, as well
as the light meditation
your eyes and look at an object that evokes in you a pleasant reaction
and hold it in your vision excluding all else. Do not let your eyes or
your mind or your other senses wander! Release your eyes before they get
tired or dry out and then splash cold water on your eyes to relieve
fatigue. With practice you may experience the sense of separation
between you and the object you observe melt away and allow yourself to
become one with the object of your concentration.
Mandala Meditation (Yantra)
A mandala is a universal symbol, and a yantra is a cosmically inspired
geometric design. By spending time gazing upon them we are drawn within
to greater realizations of esoteric qualities - beauty, truth, peace,
Pictures of blooming flowers can be inspiring, but use the mandala or yantra that attracts you.
To begin your meditation select a quiet time and sit with a straight
back on a cushion on the floor in front of a low table, with a lighted
candle and incense if you desire.
Alternately, sit in a chair and place your candle and incense on a
regular table. Either way, have your mandala or yantra in front of you
at eye level - on the table or behind it on the wall.
Fold your hands in your lap or place them palms up on your thighs. Begin
with a prayer, uplifting verse or chant. Next, for the reflective
portion of your meditation just sit quietly, eyes open, gazing at the
mandala or yantra. Maintain this quiet time for as long as you like;
allow yourself to enjoy the experience.
Now, close your eyes and conclude your meditation with thoughts,
affirmations or prayers.
Light Meditation (Trakata)
also called candle gazing, is a method of concentrating on a
point of light; serving as a visual reminder to use light hearted
attitudes in living.
In your meditation place, sit up straight facing a low table and light a
candle. Fold your hands in your lap.
Take some moments to just look at the flame, letting your eyes almost
shut. Begin to feel the warmth of light emanating from the candle flame.
It can be a reminder that even a little kindness, from light-hearted
actions, makes another's day warmer and brighter.
If you do close your eyes you will probably see the reverse colour of the
candle flame in your vision. Focus on that for a minute or as long as
Now, begin to breathe evenly: breathe in counts 1, 2; breathe out counts
3, 4; breathe in counts 5, 6, and go on for another minute.
Let go of counting but continue to breathe evenly.
Reflect on how you
could add one form of light-hearted activity to your life, such as:
showing patience; being kind; allowing another to express themselves
without interruption; adopting an attitude of seeing a glass half full
rather than half empty; doing a volunteer activity; helping a person in
Finish your meditation with a prayer or affirmations.
Take a deep breath, stand and stretch.
Kundalini - energy that sustains efforts of our free will; aroused for
use by holding positive attitudes; used when loving thoughts take form
as caring actions. The free-flowing energy sustaining and maintaining
every cell and self in creation; the Self in creation.
Meditation arouses kundalini, because when we sit still our automatic
bodily functions find a minimal rhythm, and our mind is energized more
fully to dwell on loving thoughts.
Loving thoughts, in turn, generate even more energy.
An important point is that positive attitudes and their subsequent
positive thoughts naturally draw in an increase of kundalini which
provides joyful energy for their offspring of caring actions.
Kundalini develops our capacity to love by giving us more energy for
caring actions. And, it is in the process of our caring and kind actions
that we come to align with and know God more fully.
Our experience of life multiplies in joy the more we are kind and
caring. As a snowball expands in breadth by rolling along, we expand in
our capacity to hold and experience joy by rolling harmoniously along
through life being kind and caring.
Preparation: Sit on floor on a cushion with legs crossed, or sit on a
chair, spine straight, head erect, eyes closed, hands folded in lap.
Breathe evenly in and out like this:
breathe in counts 1,2
breathe out counts 3,4
breathe in counts 1,2
breathe out counts 3,4
Continue this pattern for at least a minute to begin; do not use any
While breathing evenly in and out think lovingly about at least one
person. Loving thoughts balance and harmonize body-mind, allowing the
most kundalini to flow to us from the unseen Source by the unseen Force.
Kundalini aroused by loving thoughts and the body energized from the
stillness of meditation is available to be used when active again.
Tantra is balance of the vibrant male and female energy. When we feel
these complementary energies balanced within, we feel like a whole and
complete person, without the compulsory idea that we need another person
to make us feel complete. Following is a meditation that fosters feeling
whole, complete, joyful!
To begin sit on a cushion in your special place facing a small table -
Light a candle and burn some incense if that feels right. Place some
fresh flowers on your meditation table. Have an uplifting book at your
side to read from briefly, to help you unwind before you begin.
Now is the time to say a short verse or prayer such as:
"Light of Love
Enlighten my heart
Encircle my being in Your radiance
Warm my soul with the flame of Truth.
Light of Love
In Your radiance
May I remember all are One
One in Love and Light."
To begin the silent portion of your meditation close your eyes and begin
breathing evenly, such as counts 1, 2, breathe in; counts 3, 4 breathe
out; counts 1, 2, breathe in and continue for a full minute.
Continue breathing evenly but let go of the counting. This is time to
think of ways you are connected to others in your life. Include family,
friends, co-workers and others. Think about how your actions affect each
Plan one way to improve your relationships. An example is practicing
kindness in interactions with each person that you come into contact
with during the day.
Now spend a minute mentally making affirmations for harmony and peace
"Personal peace promotes world peace."
"I choose to be peaceful."
"Harmony is my choice."
Enjoy feelings that arise of being connected with all as an integral
part of the big world family. That is the radiant state of tantra.
To finish your meditation stand and stretch, rejuvenated!
All forms of meditation are built on a solid foundation of good
breathing techniques and are centered around breath awareness. This is
so fundamental that it is often taken for granted by teachers and
authors. Just as I would not think to remind you to use a cup to drink
tea from instead of the teapot, a teacher might neglect to mention
breath awareness. It is important for your continuing success with
meditation to remember to first become fully aware of your breathing
before proceeding with any meditation, regardless of whether or not the
instructions mention breathing.
Simple Breath Awareness
This is one of the simplest of all meditations, yet also one of the most
powerful, and rewarding. Initially it is best practiced while lying flat
on your back on the floor with knees either straight or bent. As you
improve it can also be practiced while sitting, standing or walking, as
long as you can maintain good posture. Poor posture impedes the breath
and distracts from the meditation.
The secret of this meditation is to observe the breath without
consciously trying to change it. Your observations of the breath filter
down to the subconscious levels of your brain, which will begin subtly
to shift and refine the breathing to lead you gradually along the
perfect path towards perfect breathing. Conscious attempts to alter the
breath will only interfere and create anxiety and tension.
When you get the hang of Simple Breath Awareness, the character of the
breathing may improve dramatically in a short space of time. Gradually,
over a period of a few days or months, you will approach a plateau of
improvement where you are utilizing the full capacity of your lungs. At
this point, your lung capacity itself will begin to expand, but this is
a slower process, involving the growth of new lung tissue which can
continue over a period of years and should not be rushed.
The Ujjayi Breath is practiced by half closing the epiglottis at the
back of the throat. This partially restricts the flow of air, and causes
a rasping or hissing sound in the back of the throat as you breath in
and out. Often people breath like this when they fall asleep. Do not try
to make the sound loud enough for others to hear. Instead your breath
should sound like a gentle, soft whisper.
With practice you will be able to breathe easily in this manner. Ujjayi
Breath allows you to listen to the sound of your breathing, and thus
helps to focus the mind on the breath. It can be used to enhance most
meditations that are described in the following pages. Ujjayi Breath can
be used with diaphragmatic breathing, complete breathing, and alternate
nostril breathing exercises. In fact, it can be used with almost any
breathing technique with the possible exception of Breath of Fire,
bellows breath, cleansing breath, or other similar techniques involving
forceful and sharp contractions of the diaphragm. This technique is
often used in yoga
Tension in Tanden
This is one of the harder breathing exercises to actualize, but once
experienced it is really very easy to do, like riding a bike. The Tanden
Center is the name used in Zen Meditation to describe the seat of
spiritual power, said to reside in the diaphragm. Creating tension in
the Tanden Center is accomplished by putting the diaphragm and the
abdominal muscles in isometric opposition. Normally the diaphragm
contracts to pull air into the lungs and rests while you breathe out
using the abdominal muscles to empty air out of the lungs. When you
practice maintaining tension in the Tanden, you do so on the inhalation
by making the diaphragm work a little harder while resisting with the
abdominals and on the exhalation by making the abdominal muscles work
harder while resisting with the diaphragm. Thus the diaphragm and
abdominals never completely relax, but instead trap tension between them
as they are in an ongoing game of give and take.
Once you learn how to create and hold tension in the Tanden Center, you
can experiment by holding more or less tension as you meditate to see
for yourself what works best for you. This technique helps to still the
racing or wandering mind, by maintaining your focus on the Tanden Center
and on the breath. It may also well conceal deeper secrets known
only to those who perfect and practice this technique
Given our hectic, stress-filled lives, the idea of meditation is
enticing. However, it is our very lifestyle that makes meditation so
difficult for the beginner. You juggle so much in your everyday life
just to keep up. Your head is probably constantly filled with unfinished
tasked, appointments to be kept and keeping track of the kids and their
busy social and sporting lives. All of this intrudes into your
meditation time making the art of having a quiet mind seem almost
You do not have to be sitting still to meditate. Anything that you do
and give your full attention can be a form of meditation. If you have a
run away mind, an active form of meditation will probably be easier for
you at least to start with. Doing an active form of meditation means
that your mind does not have to be completely still. Instead you give it
something to concentrate on. This helps your powers of focus and
concentration, you keep your mind totally on one thing. This is much
easier than thinking about nothing.
The important thing is to enjoy your meditation, so start out slowly. On
your first attempt only meditate for 2-5 minutes, build this up over
One of the most common forms of active meditation is walking meditation.
You can do a walking meditation anywhere. Keep your attention on the
step you are taking. Feel the ground under your feet as you place each
foot down and the muscles in your legs as you move them forward.
Co-ordinate your step with your breath, so each step takes the time of
one breath. During your time of walking meditation there is only one
thing in your life and that is the step you are taking in that moment.
Make that step as smooth, calm and beautiful as you can. Keep your focus
totally on the step you are taking, one step at a time. You will find
that your mind wanders, particularly in the beginning, but when you
notice that it has simply bring your attention back to the step you are
taking. Once you get the hang of it you will be in a beautiful, calm and
Record your thoughts
without editing, filtering, or judging. Keep the pen moving, if only to
write about how you have nothing to write about. This exercise
eventually slows the mind down to the rhythm of the pen and from this
slower rhythm our unconscious mind is able to occasionally break
through to the surface, surprising and delighting us.
This is a wonderful exercise in letting go of control. When you are
finished you have a written record of your meditation, that can be
revisited at a later date.
Life as meditation
Anything can be elevated to the level of meditation when the goal is not
the finished product, but instead to be fully immersed in the process.
You can meditate upon washing dishes, walking, chanting, or the flow of
thoughts through your mind.
There are several criteria to consider when choosing an activity to
practice life as Meditation with. First is the length of time. Choose a
task that takes between 2-30 minutes to complete. Choose an activity
that you have to do anyway, but that usually you might consider as
wasted time. Choose an activity that you do not usually enjoy. Some
suggestions are: driving to work, washing the dishes, brushing/flossing
your teeth, watering plants or doing yard work. Avoid the temptation to
try to do long drawn out jobs as a meditation. Concern yourself
with the quality of the meditation, not the quantity. It is much better
to do a 5 minute Meditation perfectly, than 2 hours fairly well.
Only when you find that lengthening the duration of your
Meditation actually improves the quality of the meditation should you
choose a longer job to practice with.
Although you can do a Meditation anywhere, or any time, it is
best when learning to choose an activity that is performed privately or
The attitude with which you approach the job you have chosen is very
important. Consider the following story, as told by Joseph Campbell -
Three men are working together on the same job. An observer asks...
"What are you doing?" The first answers, "I am working." The second
answers, "I am laying bricks." The third answers, "I AM BUILDING A
Keep your attention
totally on what you are doing. Use all your senses to keep you focused
in the moment. Really notice the colours on the box of breakfast cereal,
what does the box feel like when you pick it up? Is it smooth or
textured? Is it heavy or light? What sounds do you hear as you push your
trolley? Do your footsteps make a sound?
Keep your attention on your brow chakra, located at the centre of your
forehead, as you go about your daily life. Also try to keep your focus
soft, instead of looking at one thing that is straight in front, use
your periphery vision to see 180 degrees. Try it now, when you are doing
it correctly you will find that your mind is immediately calm.
Whatever your Meditation is, determine to set about the activity
with as much awareness and joy as possible. Incorporate as much yoga
into the work as possible. As you work, breathe diaphragmatically. Make
a game out of creating the most efficient, fun and flowing movements.
Make each gesture a dance, moving as though you were practicing Tai Chi.
Do not let the mind wander, keep bringing it back to the job at hand. Do
not let any tension accumulate, either mental or physical. Take frequent
breaks if necessary, for 15-30 seconds to stretch and enjoy your
surroundings. Smile from the inside out, and put away all thoughts of
trying to Finish by a certain deadline. Make this one chore the
highlight of your entire day, and resolve to do it PERFECTLY. Make
washing the dishes an act of worship.
The more energy and awareness you put into your work, the better the
results, the less tiring the work is, and the more satisfaction you
receive from your work. Working is an opportunity to practice and
enhance your powers of concentration and meditation, and a chance to
celebrate life. At first do this once a day, with a small project, and
as you see the difference in the enjoyment of the chore, not to mention
the quality of the work, and the satisfaction that accompanies a job
well done, you will want to practice this Working Meditation more often
throughout the day, every day, with joy and awareness.
Your life can become a living meditation and every moment becomes
special and joyful. It takes a lot of effort to start with but just keep
trying, the rewards are well worth it.
Try practicing one of the following two Eating Meditations before your
next meal. Take a small portion of food, like a single strawberry,
raisin or a slice of apple or orange, or a cracker.
Amnesia: Imagine you have never seen a strawberry (or any piece of food)
in your life, and examine it the way a baby would examine something
newly discovered. Look at the strawberry and try to notice something
about it that you have never noticed before. This should be easy, as no
two strawberries are ever identical. Now close your eyes and see if you
can smell the strawberry. Lick your lips and rub the strawberry over
your lips, massaging your lips gently. How does it feel? Now lick your
lips. Can you taste the trace flavor of the strawberry? Hold the
strawberry in your mouth, and roll it around. How does it feel in your
mouth? As you chew, notice the immediate change in the intensity of the
flavor. Slowly chew the strawberry while resisting the urge to swallow.
Sit a little taller and notice if posture affects your appreciation for
the strawberry. Breathe in deeply and let your breath go with long soft
sighs. Does breathing help you enjoy the strawberry? Relax your face and
smile. Notice how smiling improves the taste of a strawberry.
Sincere Appreciation: Eat a second raisin practicing Sincere
Appreciation. Eating just as slowly and following the same instructions
from the first raisin, but this time contemplate the many miracles that
brought this raisin to your lips. The farmer who grew the grapes, the
truck driver, the architect who designed the store where you bought the
grapes, all of the people whose lives helped make this moment possible,
including your parents for raising you, the rain and sun and the miracle
of life present in a single raisin. Give thanks for the wonderful gift
of taste. People who practice this eating meditation are often amazed
at how much better food tastes when they take the time to notice and
appreciate the food as they eat it. You will notice that a single
raisin, eaten with sincere appreciation brings more joy and happiness
than a whole box of raisins swallowed unconsciously.
Kids take to this exercise readily, and when they realize that they can
get more enjoyment out of a piece of candy by practicing mindfulness
they are sold on the idea. Even animals can learn mindfulness!
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