6. Is there any religious implication or affiliation with meditation?
Meditation has been and still is a central practice in eastern religions, for contacting “God” or one’s higher Self. Christianity also has the semblance of meditation, such as the biblical statement “The kingdom of heaven is within you”. Churches have a meditative atmosphere. Meditation deals with contacting something within us that is peaceful, calm, rejuvenating, and meaningful. Whether one calls this something “God” or “soul” or ” the inner child” or “theta-wave activity” or “peace” or “silence” is not important. It is there and anyone can benefit from it regardless of what they believe. Most people in the world have already meditated. If you have relaxed looking at a beautiful sunset, allowing your thoughts to quiet down, this is close to meditation. If you have been reading a book for awhile, then put it down to take a break and just sat there quietly and peacefully for a few minutes without thinking, this is close to meditation.
7. Does meditation have any ethical implications?
In many traditions, meditation practice is a means for reinforcing ethical qualities. In these traditions, calmness of mind, peacefulness, and happiness are possible in meditation and in life only if the observance of ethical norms of behavior accompanied them.
8. What is the best time of day to meditate?
While meditation is beneficial, most people who meditate agree that early morning is the best time to meditate. Part of the reason is that it is said that in early morning the hustle-and-bustle of the world has not yet begun and so it is easier to establish a meditative atmosphere. Having an early morning meditation also lets us carry some of the energy and peace of the meditation into our daily activities. Many people also meditate either before dinner or later in the evening. Others also meditate at noon. A short meditation at these times allows one to throw off some of the accumulated stress of the work-day and become rejuvenated for further activity. An important consideration is when your schedule will allow you to meditate. Having a time of the day set aside for meditation helps in maintaining regularity.
9. Why do some people use music while meditating?
Meditative music (not rock-n-roll!) can help in establishing a meditative atmosphere. Also, some people find meditation relatively easy, but find that the hard thing is to actually get them to sit down and start their meditation. Music can help make this easier. Some people use music quite often while others prefer silent meditation and never use it.
10. Should I meditate with my eyes open or with my eyes closed?
Different traditions give different answers. Closing your eyes may contribute to drowsiness and sleepiness–if that’s the case for you then try opening them a little. Opening your eyes may be distracting. If that’s the case, try closing your eyes or direct your gaze on a blank wall (Zen-style). Or try with the eyes open half way or a bit more, the gaze unfocussed and directed downward, but keeping the head erect with the chin slightly tucked in. Sometimes meditators experience headaches from focussing on a spot too close to the eyes (perhaps closer than three feet). Whether focussed or unfocussed, the gaze should be relaxed in order to prevent eyestrain or headache. Experiment and see what works for you and then stick with your choice of technique. If you are using a candle, flower, or other visual object in your meditation then here the technique itself requires your eyes to be at least partly open.
11. What are the physiological effects of meditation?
The most common physiological effects of meditation are reduced blood pressure, lower pulse rate, decreased metabolic rate, and changes in the concentration of serum levels of various substances.
12. When I meditate, I experience physical pain in my body. What should I do?
Sensations (itching/aches/pains/etc.) can arise in the body when meditating for several reasons. Sometimes the cause is just an uncomfortable posture–make sure that your posture is comfortable under normal circumstances. Other times the cause is that sensations in the body are more noticeable in meditation. The body and mind are calmer and you are able to notice more details in your bodily experience. It is often interesting to simply observe these sensations in your body : to use them as the objects of meditation. Sometimes these sensations just go away without your having to move or change your posture. Remember that a quiet body contributes to a quiet mind.
13. How long should I meditate?
When first learning meditation it is usually not possible to meditate for over 10-15 minutes. After regular practice for a while, one becomes able to meditate for longer periods of time. Many people meditate twice daily for 20-30 minutes each time, but the right duration and frequency is for each individual to decide.
14. Do I need a teacher?
It is theoretically possible to learn meditation from a book. However, most people who teach and practice meditation agree that a teacher can be an invaluable aid in learning a meditation technique and making sure it is practiced correctly. The beginner will usually have several questions, which a teacher will be able to answer. Also, learning with a group of people, eg a meditation class, allows you to experience the benefit of meditating with a group of people. Most people find that they have some of their best meditations while meditating in a group, because there is a collective energy and focus present. Various individuals and groups teach meditation. Some charge and some do not. Many different techniques are taught, some more spirituals in nature and others mainly concerned with stress-reduction and gaining a little peace of mind. As always, the important thing is finding what works for you.