This information is for the Beginning Meditations: Expanding Peace guided Meditation CD by Jeff Craft.
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Techniques Used in this CD
"Meditation One: Presence and Peace" (Tracks 2-5) introduces three important practices:
1) Full, deep yogic breathing
This technique is fundamental to most meditation and yogic practices. It helps to create a relaxation response in the body and mind by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. Its opposite, the sympathetic nervous system, or the so called "fight or flight" condition, is how most people function in their daily lives. This involves going through our daily lives with various levels of stress and tension, because the nervous system is always looking out for its next task to perform or activity to engage in.
Therefore, one of the first things to do for our meditation practice is to begin to soften the stress, and begin to engage conscious awareness of deep slow breathing in order to learn and experience a relaxation response in the body.
This technique also helps to oxygenate the blood and brain, and remove toxins such as carbon dioxide which are a natural waste product of the breathing process.
2) Observing the Thoughts with detatchment
The normal state of mind for most people, is that the thoughts or thinking process "run the show". It is not uncommon for people to have "monkey mind" in general, and to experience it even exaggerated when they begin a meditation practice.
It does not help to fight the mind or try to "shut up" the thoughts. Most people will actually find that doing this will make the mind more active. The solution is to shift our relationship with the thoughts themselves.
In a typical "stress" type of experience, we are giving a lot of importance to the mind. We will likely find that we are reacting to the thoughts, and even allowing them to direct our outer experience and actions. In short, they add to the stress we experience. By learning to watch the thoughts with detatchment, we begin to break the conditioning of reacting to the thoughts and allowing them to create stress for us. Over time, we will be able to selectively choose which thoughts are worthy of our attention, and thus be more focused and peaceful as we go about our daily activities.
Learning to witness the thoughts in this way is an important and powerful practice for reducing stress at all levels, and creating greater clarity and focus. It is also a powerful bridge to deeper experience of meditation.
3) Observing the Silence beyond thought
The deeper stages of meditation take us "beyond the mind". While this is truly an advanced state, it is beneficial even for beginners to understand and begin to touch into that goal. The deep peace of deeper meditation comes from a state in which the awareness has moved beyond the thinking mind, and into a deeper experience of its own nature.
The short opportunity included in this meditation to enter the silence is a chance to taste this deeper experience, and it is also an opportunity to observe how you and your mind react to the attempt. What happens when silence happens in your environment? Does the awareness follow into it, or does the mind begin to churn and distract you? If the mind becomes active, then just be aware of what is happening, and continue to gently place your awareness into the silence, the best you can. Accept whatever your experience is.
In addition to the three primary practices listed above, this meditation also introduces a very important concept which runs through the full experience: Being the Witness. This is learning to observe, rather than being reactive. To be present, rather than being distracted by many things. Learning to be the Witness is a fundamental aspect of success in meditation. It is literally developing a deeper aspect of your True Self, flexing the "muscle" of Focused Awareness. Through its development, we will naturally become more focused, more observant, more present, more relaxed and more peaceful.
"Meditation Two: Expanding Peace" (Tracks 7-16) introduces three additional practices which will aid in deepening the meditative experience:
1) Ujjayi Breath
The Ujjayi Breath is an more advanced version of basic Yogic Breathing. I have heard it called the "Darth Vadar" breath before, as it has the sound of heavy breathing, as heard with the character Darth Vadar from the Star Wars series of movies.
The basic practice is added to Yogic breathing, and involves creating an opening in the back of the throat which also creates a slight restriction to the air flow. To get a feel for it, you can imagine you are trying to fog a mirror with your breath. Open the mouth and shift the configuration of the throat so that when you burst air out, it makes a "breathy" sound. Then try making the same sound while breathing through the nose. It can be helpful to gently place the tip of the toungue onto the front palette, a small distance behind the teeth.
When this technique is done correctly, it will sound like a strong wind or ocean waves inside the head.
The Ujjayi breath actually assists with making the breath flow even slower, which deepens the cleansing benefits and the relaxation response. The sound itself gives us something else to focus on which make it easier to ignore the mind and focus beyond it and into the sound of the Ujjayi breath. It is also useful in more advanced Tantric Practices which begin to consciously direct energy within the body.
2) Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Alternate Nostril breathing begins a process of balancing the flow of internal energies. This can be thought of as balancing Masculine and Feminine energies, Sun energy and Moon energy, Hot and Cool energies, Left Brain and Right Brain, or Yin and Yang energies. However you wish to think of it, the results of balancing them is increased focus, greater presence and increasing access to inner stillness. When these energies are not in balance, they oscillate and create fluctuations of the mind.
The balancing of these energies is also very important to prepare for more advanced stages of energy awakening and awareness.
The basic technique is rather easy once you get the hang of it. First, place the index finger of your right (or dominant) hand between the eyebrows. You will then be able to use the middle finger to close the left nostril and the thumb to close the right nostril . (Or reverse if you use the left hand)
To start, exhale fully through both nostrils, and then close the right nostril with the thumb or finger on that side. Once closed, take a slow full INHALE through the LEFT nostril only. After you have completely inhaled, open the right nostril and close the left. EXHALE slowly through the RIGHT nostril. After the complete exhalation, INHALE through the RIGHT nostril. Once full, close the right and open the left, and EXHALE through the LEFT. Then INHALE LEFT, swap nostrils and continue.
Once you get going, it repeats a simple pattern. Exhale then Inhale on one side, the swap and exhale and inhale through the opposite side. We have to start somewhere, so we start with an inhale on the left (this is the cooling or feminine side, so it is safer to start there). When we finish the practice, the last breath with be an EXHALE on the left side. This will make equal inhalations and exhalations on both sides.
Most will find that it is that it is more effective and requires less effort if you close the nostril on the SIDE of the nostril just under the bony part. You can also try closing the nostril by placing the finger or thumb over the nostril opening. Try both and see what works best for you. I prefer the "side of nostril" myself.
When you first start, you will likely be focused on the mechanics, but after you get used to the practice, it will become second nature, and you can focus more on the experience of breathing itself. You can then add the Ujjayi breath to it and experience that as well.
3) Chanting AUM (or OM). Also called Omkar practice.
This is a powerful practice that is loved by the Tantric Traditions. It helps to create focus, which helps take you beyond the mind. It invites an energy which helps to open your awareness to deeper dimensions of your Self and the Peace which is a part of your deeper nature. It also has a purifying effect on the mind, which will deepen the peace you can experience both in and out of meditation.
For a detailed video series on Tantra, Mantra Meditation and the practice of Chanting OM, you can CLICK HERE. The first video in the series is at the bottom of the page, and the last is at the top. View them all for a detailed education on OM and Mantra. Or look at video number 5 only if you just want instructions on the technique of chanting AUM itself.
The CD has been created with multiple tracks per meditation experience. This was done keeping in mind the modern "playlist" option found on most MP3 players, iPods and computer based audio players. You can adjust the meditations to suite your needs. For example, you could leave out track 14 if you wanted a little less Chanting time to shorten the practice of the second meditation a bit. You could also add a second instance of track 14 to add more AUM chanting to the experience.
While I encourage you to play with both experiences in their entirety, you do have the flexibility to shorten them to fit your schedule, remove sections that you aren't ready for yet, or extend the experience by adding more silent time or chanting.
To get the most out of your meditation practice, and working with this CD, it is suggested you find a regular time and practice daily. I also suggest that you be consistent with the meditation you are using each day. Start with the First Meditation, and stick with that, and only that for at least a couple weeks. Consistency is important in order to see results.
I suggest that any changes you make to the Guided meditation you choose to work with be a process of advancing. After several weeks, then advance to the Second meditation. If the full experience is too long for you, then remove a section of AUM or skip some other new element. Then later ADD those elements in until you are working with the full program.
While you may adjust the program to suit your time needs and make it more or less advanced, I recommend that you do not change the order of any of the experiences. They follow a specific order of practice that takes you deeper into the meditative state.
I enourage you to use each in their fullness, or work towards that as your goal in working with this CD. As your experience with the CD and Meditation progresses, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about your experiences, or need guidance with taking your meditation practice deeper.
Thanks for exploring this Guided Meditation CD as part of your practice and I hope to have more opportunities to assist you in your Self discovery.
If you do not already own this CD title, then CLICK HERE for additional details and purchase options.
Do not look at the faults of others, or what others have done or not done; observe what you yourself have done and have not done.
- Buddha, Dhammapada 4.7