Meditation and Visualization Techniques

Meditation Techniques

Mantra Meditation:

To do the mantra meditation, sit with your back straight and your eyes closed.  Use prayer beads to help you concentrate on your mantra. Begin the practice by repeating the mantra you have chosen out loud for a while, followed by a period of whispering and finally ending with mental recitation of the mantra. Giving your mind such variety will prevent boredom and weariness. Saying the mantra aloud will help block the sounds and distractions you might face. The most potent part of the mantra meditation is to repeat the mantra mentally because it calls for a much focused concentration. Feel free to alternate when necessary, especially when you encounter drowsiness.

If the mantra of your choice is a Name of God, invoke His Name with love and adoration. It should never be forced, rushed, or contrived. Rather, it should be invoked gently, slowly, attentively and gracefully (The Divine Art of Meditation, p. 76).

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Metta Meditation:

During the Metta mediation, if your mind begins to wander, lovingly bring it back to the metta phrases. Let the unwanted thoughts and feelings pass by like clouds in the sky and take a few breaths.

Begin by taking a few deep breaths.

Close your eyes and visualize yourself as you are now or when you were a child.

Then, silently and slowly, send the following metta to yourself.

“May I be happy, may I be healthy, may all things go well for me.”

Sending ourselves care may sound selfish and egotistical but in reality, it is not. We can only love others if we first manifest love and self-respect to ourselves.

Next, visualize a person who is important to you. This could be family member, a friend or a colleague. Think of their inner goodness, their kindness to you and their contributions to the world. Smile as you visualize their face and repeat the metta. Then, silently and slowly, send them the same metta phrases you have sent yourself.

“May you be happy, may you be healthy, may all things go well for you.”

Now direct the metta back to yourself. I cannot stress strongly enough the neurological necessity of generating self-love.

Now, picture someone you may or may not know quite as well, perhaps someone you saw in a store or on the street, and send them the same metta you sent to your family member, friend, or colleague. It would be helpful to choose someone you see occasionally. This way, the metta meditation will help you experience a sense of inter-connectedness with them. Over time, you may develop warmth and care toward this other person even if you have never said a word to them. This is a good way of breaking down the barriers between us and others.

Finally, if there are people for whom you have negative feelings, bring them to mind and send them the same metta you sent to the other two groups. If the negative feelings this person evokes are too strong to work with successfully, simply stop. Don’t strain or struggle or try to force the mind to feel something it is not ready for. You can always return to the person you’re angry with at some future time.

Look for one small quality that you like about them—perhaps their smile —and focus your entire attention on that single quality. Try to recall one kind thing he or she once did, and concentrate on that. Hold the positive thought as long as you can, then notice if your feelings have changed. Do you feel less anger? Less hurt? Even the slightest decrease is beneficial to your brain.

Finally, extend your love to the world: “May everyone be happy, may everyone be healthy, and may all things go well for all.” Hold a vision in your mind of all the different people in the world, all cultures, all colors, and all religions. Imagine everyone getting along with each other and living together in peace.

When you are done with your metta for this last group, sit quietly for a few minutes and enjoy the positive feelings you have experienced by being loving and compassionate toward all things. As you leave your meditation place with a smile on your face, have a firm resolve to carry those positive feelings with you in all that you do and say in the course of the day.

There is now scientific evidence that we can use metta meditation to train our brains to suppress feelings of fear and anxiety. Studies by Andrew Newberg and  Mark Waldman  have shown that metta meditation can help us suppress negative feelings that could damage our hippocampus and even help us grow new nerve cells in that region of the brain.

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Mindfulness Practices

Mindful eating

You can begin mindful eating by smiling to yourself and becoming aware of “seeing” the food you are about to eat. Pay close attention to its shape, color and scent. Note the anticipation in your mind of the food you are about to eat.  The next step is to reach for food mindfully. Raise your arm and lift the food into your mouth. As you put the food into your mouth, be mindful of the touch of the food on your tongue and how it tastes in your mouth as you are chewing it. Then, be mindful of the act of swallowing.

Eat slowly and mindfully, taking the time to enjoy every bite. Chew at least twenty times before you swallow. During mindful eating meditation, when other thoughts come to your mind, gently bring your mind back to the food. Throughout your practice, continue to be mindful of seeing, smelling, reaching, touching, tasting, chewing, swallowing, and enjoying.

Mindful shower

To take a mindful bath, pay attention to every part of your body while bathing. Also, be mindful of the water as it touches your body. The litmus test for mindful bathing is this: by the time your bath is over, your mind should feel as peaceful and relaxed as your body!

Mindful communication 

One of the major causes of family tension is poor communication skills. If you want to live a mindful life and enjoy the peace and serenity it brings you, pay attention to the words you utter and observe silence when needed. What you communicate to others should be clear, considerate and compassionate.

Here are more suggestions for mindful communication:

  • Pay close attention to what the other person is communicating.
  • As you listen, bring yourself to the present moment by taking some mindful breaths now and then.
  • Notice how the tendency to come up with an answer, to agree or disagree can take your attention away from what the other person is trying to say.
  • Just let go of the mental chatter and listen wholeheartedly. When it is time for you to respond, give careful attention to your own words, addressing what the other person has communicated to you. Allow your words to come from deep within you (Divine Art of Meditation, pp. 51-53).

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Single Object Meditation

Be still, and know that I am God. [1]

The single object meditation is one of the most favorite methods of meditation. It is easy and enjoyable and can lead to concentration, increase in memory skills and one-pointedness of the mind. This meditation technique requires the use of a single object such as a picture, a candle, a pebble, a shell, a flower, or a leaf.  To do this meditation, place the object of meditation at a distance which allows you to see the details without straining. You can set it at a height which allows you to look straight ahead. You can darken the room, if the background is distracting. Then sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back straight; your hands resting either on your sides or on your lap. The palms could face up or down, as you desire. Take a few deep breaths to quiet your mind.  Then relax and breathe easily and normally. Begin your practice by quietly focusing on the object   with open eyes. Treat the object as if you have never seen one like it before—that is, with much interest and curiosity, exploring its various parts. Pay attention to its color, shape, and texture.

For instance, if you are looking gazing at a flower, you can direct your attention at only one spot or let your eyes examine the whole flower i.e.  the stem, the leaves, the petals, and the center. You can focus on the colors, the shapes- the rounded areas as well as the edges, the texture- the smooth and rough areas. During this meditation you need to make sure that you are not straining and that there is no tension in your eyelids. So the practice needs to be done calmly, slowly and enjoyably.

Next, close your eyes and, in a relaxed manner, try to see the object in your mind. You may have to repeat this process a few times before you can see the image clearly in your mind’s eye. [2]

Remember, if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your object of meditation. The guiding principle in this and all other meditation practices is to be kind and gentle to yourselves and avoid criticizing and judging your ability.  You can start your practice for five minutes daily and gradually increase it to 20 minutes.

Candle Gazing Meditation practice

One approach to the single object meditation is the Candle Gazing Meditation.  To do this meditation, place a lighted candle at a distance which allows you to see the details of the flame without straining. Take a few breaths to calm your mind.  Begin to gaze at the candle flame for a few minutes.  Then close your eyes and try to see the candle flame in your mind.  Repeat this process again by gazing at the candle, followed by recreating the image of the candle flame in your mind. When unwelcomed thoughts arise, just let them fly away like birds across the sky of your mind.  Breathe naturally in and out as you do this meditation (The Divine Art of Meditation, pp. 43-44).

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Visualization Techniques

An Example of Visualization for Relaxation

The House of Tranquility

You are walking on a path. You are relaxed, peaceful, and content. You are dressed comfortably and the temperature is just right, not too cold or too warm. You are enjoying being in nature. You can feel the warmth of the sun and a gentle breeze. You can hear the sweet chirping of birds. The fresh air tastes and smells clean and refreshing. As you walk along the path you begin to see a house on the path. You decide to go to this house, and you understand somehow that this house has been waiting just for you. As you approach, notice the details of the outside of the house….

Walk now to the front door. The door swings open just as you are ready to turn the knob. You are filled with the certainty that this house is for you, just for you. Step inside now and notice all the details of the interior…Now that you are well acquainted with your house, decide what you might like to do next…listen to music…make a cup of tea…Gently now, you realize that it is time to return to your path…Understand that this house…will always be waiting for you anytime you wish, and it will always contain…what you need (Divine Art of Meditation, pp. 150-151).

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Short Video Clips

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[1] Psalms 46:10. 

[2] Shapiro & Shapiro, The Meditation Book, p. 27.

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