When it comes to meditation as one of the self-improvement techniques, people are usually divided into two categories – the ones who spontaneously started practising meditation and now cannot imagine their life without it and those who claim that they are not able to meditate, that the technique is not suitable for them and the like.
It is important to understand that meditation is a natural state of every human being and that if someone cannot meditate, it only means that they are way too much disconnected from their inner self – it means that they are too much “driven by” their mind or ratio.
Meditation is the time we spend in the silence of our thoughts. A no-thought state is undoubtedly the goal we all strive for, but meditation does not imply that state. It is important to keep the thoughts that pop into our mind while (trying to) meditate detached from ourselves. If we try to observe our thoughts as if they occurred on a TV screen, without having any emotional and rational reaction, they will bear no importance for our functioning. So, our emotional and cognitive distance from the thoughts that do exist and appear occasionally bring peace to our being that we all strive for.
Any form of dissatisfaction, suffering, sadness, jealousy, anger, anxiety and other painful emotions build up at the level of thoughts. Later, those thoughts turn into words, then actions, and then we have a tangible consequence of the products of our thoughts. That is why it is important to maintain our inner purity. Only the purity of our thoughts, words and actions will bring us eternal peace that will consolidate our being both inside and out.
Silencing the mind or being detached from our thoughts is not easy. It takes practice, consistency and continuity. It takes the power of will, faith and a clear purpose. It is the path of inner change that makes events taking place.
Meditation does not necessarily involve sitting in a certain position, a set of recorded instructions that we have played and that guide us, or a specific way of breathing. Meditation means being 100 percent in the present moment. Full awareness of your actions. Whatever it is. Look at small children. They are constantly in meditation – when they play, when they have fun by themselves. Whatever you do: walk, watch the nature, do some craft-work, dance, paint, etc. – if you do these activities with full awareness, focused only to your movement, if you just observe, without taking a second to think about what is just happening, you are already meditating or contemplating intensively. If, for instance, you are taking a slow walk on a beach and collect shells, not thinking about what to do with those shells, to whom you will give them, who might like them, could you make something out of them? None of these. Nothing. Do not let your attention be diverted from what you saw. At first, the hole in the thinking process (the state of quiet thoughts) may last only a few minutes, and later it may last for hours. It is the same as if you are just sitting and listening to the sound of nature in a quiet place or the sound of waves near the water. Do not mentally engage in associations and memories of people, places or any period of your life. That will surely happen. Our mind always aims to remain in control over our whole being. It will develop various connections and associations, it will lead you to the past or the future, and you will automatically start to develop a feeling – happy or bitter memories, concerns, melancholy, even euphoria. Keep in mind that you ended the meditation state at that moment because you failed to remain attached to the present moment. Before you even realize it, all kinds of thoughts have already raced through your mind, aroused some feelings or emotions and triggered our entire system that instantly put the silence and emptiness behind. Let us never forget that peace resides in our empty inner space. Only total concentration on the sound we hear, without interference and attachment to the thoughts that will likely occur in connection with any external stimulus. Because it is often difficult to remain uninvolved in the train of thought at first, which we fail to detect when it starts to lead us, applying a technique of focusing on one’s own breathing will be very helpful. When we pay attention to our breathing, when we focus on the way air enters our body through our nose, visualizing how it descends all the way to the bottom of our abdomen, and the exhale following the same way (also through the nose), we are entirely in the present moment. There is also another option, if you are prone to visualizations and are good at them – you can focus on your breath in the following way: imagine that you breathe air (life, driving force) from the ground, from the very core of the earth. Follow your breath that enters your body through the contact point of where your body meets the ground, and goes up along the spine all the way to the top of your head, from where it leaves and goes up high into the sky. Repeat the same activity for a few minutes, or just take a few inhales and exhales that way; soon, you will see how much you expand and stabilize. The spine is the central pillar of our energy system. If we keep our attention to the spine, constantly attached to the breath, we will stay centred in such an important energy pivot. If we practice it long enough, our energy and emotions will grow strong and unbreakable. On the other hand, we will become more sensitive and subtle, we will express more compassion and care for the world around us. Our peace will spill over into the environment and the people around us.
Like any method, this one too takes daily practice in order to acquire the habit and for our body to remember the feeling, which will soon begin to aspire to spontaneously, even when you do not “force” yourself to take this “activity”. When this routine develops into a spontaneous activity in the midst of whatever you are doing, or you just sit in the silence of your room, close your eyes and start breathing consciously, then you can count on the fact that the changes inside you have started to occur permanently, that your being got a hint of the natural state of peace. Your being was only reminded of that fundamental peace because it is the peace that prevails in your mother’s womb, at the bottom of the ocean and in space (exactly the same vibrations of peace, emptiness and fulfilment, silence and unity). That being the case, meditation has become a part of your everyday life and your way of operating throughout the day, through events that happen to you, through life. Complete presence and acceptance of the moment as it is. As soon as resistance starts, and it inevitably comes from the mind, in the form of criticism, fear, condemnation, concern, etc. you no longer balanced, you are no longer centred and you are hanging out in the wind of daily events and life circumstances.
Through meditation you maintain acceptance. Acceptance opens the door to peace and serenity in life. We cannot expect or attempt to avoid unpleasant situations, events, circumstances and people in life. The concept of life is not like that. Life consists of experiences that the human mind perceives as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Keep in mind that at the level of soul, our being, that is just an experience given to us for a higher purpose, which is always progress and growth. If we refuse that, we will feel resistance and all those negative feelings. If, on the other hand, we only witness, bring awareness and accept (without rational and emotional involvement) events, situations, circumstances, people and emotions that come to us, peace will never leave us. We will become strong personalities whose strength will be reflected not in what they can go through, but in how they can go through everything that happens to them. Do not forget that we should live our lives with dignity, having all the experiences that are given to us in this body, in this life, without resistance and resentment, because they always lead to dissatisfaction and distraction. Acceptance means living every day and every moment in a day without analysing it, without valuing it and without comparing it with other people’s destinies, lives, days. Each of us lives our own fate, destiny or karma and there is no point in thinking of someone else’s. When we accept and become aware of the moment, when we do not become attached to a sensation, thought or emotion, then we meditate. Then we are in a state of peace. Then we have balanced spirit and matter, body and energy, heaven and earth that merge deep in our heart centre. Only then will our hearts be open to receive only love (primarily spreading of love; accepting love will happen automatically when we spread unconditional love), and then we will witness the grace that will only affect our system, engulfing our everyday life and the people around us.
Maintaining inner purity is just as important as maintaining external cleanliness – personal hygiene. Through meditation, we are cleaning our inner being, wash away layers of concepts and beliefs that have stirred painful emotions in us.
We adopted these concepts and beliefs while growing up, mostly unconsciously, through our upbringing, society, cultural and traditional patterns we were exposed to. Be deeply aware that none of this is ours and that none of it belongs to us. These are only social norms and social principles. These are only huge energy blockages, emotional burden, whereas in fact, the nature of our being is lightness and airiness. We are so much more than what society has adopted as morally acceptable behaviour. We are unlimited freedom and infinite potential. Meditation is our inner bath, do not forget that. Keep your inner space clean. Only in this way, your life will be easy, and you will have the strength to face it fiercely, admiring it. Your perception of life will not be pain or injustice but as a true blessing. Regardless of the circumstances and events. Because you will learn the truth of liberated existence. This is where all the beauty of existence begins.
Author: Dejana Vojnović – graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade she has been working as a foreign language teacher for ten years. She completed her psychology training in transactional analysis and at the same time became interested in a more in-depth spiritual search, which continues today. Using her own acquired knowledge and what she has experienced, she has been working as a consultant for several years.
Perhaps you are one of many who finds it hard to sit cross-legged in complete stillness. Or maybe you believe that switching off your mind is ridiculous or even impossible. And therefore you may have given up on meditation, convincing yourself that it is not for you, and is a waste of time.
But guess what? IT’S NOT!
I am going to present you with three easy approaches that can still give you the benefits of meditation.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you are right” – Henry Ford
I love this quote as it is applicable to many spheres of our lives, and for meditation as well.
Before convincing yourself that you can meditate and be still, try to understand why you would even do it. What are the benefits and goals of meditation? Is there even a goal? You perhaps heard or read about many successful people who meditate regularly, and so you too were inspired to try it for that reason – to become successful like them. If that is the reason you took it up, you just missed the whole point of meditation.
A common question from people is, “How long do I need to practice meditation to reach my goal, after which I can then stop doing it every day?
The answer is that you can NEVER stop! It’s the same as you asking your nutritionist how long you have to stick to the prescribed diet for weight loss, so you can go back to eating junk food afterwards.
The good thing is that in both cases, you became more aware of the changes happening inside you, and began understanding how your previous lifestyle had been impacting you negatively. Once you grasp that and experience it, it’s hard to go back and be abusive to yourself again
So, meditation is not a short-term solution. On the contrary, it should be accepted as a new lifestyle.
Meditation is NOT an exercise, it is a way of living.
The first “goal” of meditation is to become conscious or aware. If you have heard or read of expressions like “a higher consciousness” or “higher awareness”, that is precisely what it means — to become more aware of the things inside of you and things that surround you.
In Hinduism consciousness is called Atman or practice that helps you become aware. Awareness is not a thing that is located in a specific part of our bodies, even if we tend to believe it comes from our brain/mind. We do use our brains to translate all activities and senses on a physical level. However, things that we will start understanding when following this practice might not be tangible or even rationalized through our brain.
Let’s not go too far, and better start with some practical advice on how to obtain awareness even without sitting down and meditating.
These practices will help you master the skill of observing. It will help you train your concentration muscles and become more aware of feelings, emotions, situations, the experience inside but also outside of you.
Today many people don’t think about their breath. They consider it as something that the body does naturally (unconsciously). And even without realizing, most people’s breathing patterns have changed from when they were babies. Instead of breathing from the abdomen, they breathe from their chests instead, and each breath is much shallower too.
Your breath is directly connected with the amount of oxygen you put in your body. Body cells use oxygen to transfer the energy stored in food to a usable form. This process, which is called cellular respiration, allows the cells to harness energy to perform vital functions such as powering muscles (including involuntary muscles such as the heart) and the movement of materials into and out of cells. Without oxygen in the body, cells can function for a limited period and long-term oxygen depletion leads to cell death and eventually death of the organism.
It follows therefore that if you start bringing more oxygen into your body through longer and deeper breathing, you will begin thinking more clearly and feel better overall. We bring this into practice with observing our breath and in terms of meditation, this means that we will be practicing focus and becoming aware of something that we usually do unconsciously.
For some advanced breathing techniques, check out the video below.
Dr. David Hawkins, a psychiatrist, who experienced several life-altering events throughout his life, believes that every word, every thought, and every intention creates what is called a morphogenetic field, or attractor field.
Following each personal experience, he noticed a change in his state of consciousness from an ego-based/mind focus to a completely overwhelming state of overpowering bliss.
In order to investigate the causes behind all these changes, he created a way to measure these energy fields. This process tests the sound, light, and electromagnetic waves coming off of the morphogenetic field of the human heart when someone is thinking, emoting, or creating.
He presented a vibration scale that consists of a hierarchy of levels of human consciousness on a scale of 1 to 1000, where 1 is simply being alive, and 1000 is an advanced state of enlightenment.
Now when we are aware which type of emotions and thoughts are of low vibration, we can get rid of them. There are many ways of doing this, but I’ll give you the most practical one.
From this very moment, I want you as many times as you can per day, to acknowledge and capture when low vibrational thoughts are going through your mind. When that happens, start counting inside yourself (in your mind) — 1,2,3,4,5,6… and so on.
I know it sounds ridiculous but it is very effective because the moment you start counting you can’t have other thoughts. When you begin with this practice you will be aware more and more of your negative thoughts, and you will start competing with your mind counting every time when the thoughts arrive. 1,2,3,4,5,6 …. 1,2,3,4,5,6… 1,2,3,4,5,6…
At some point, you will get bored with having just numbers in your head and you will begin searching for the way to stop counting and stop having low vibrational thoughts at the same time. There are just two ways to do it — to think about something nice/positive or to quiet your mind.
We tend to think the most when we are the least active. This is why stillness is hard for many people. But let’s say that you are on the bus on your way to work and that you will have 30 minutes or more to be with yourself. And then thinking starts — you think about the meeting you’ll have in 2 hours, and you start going through all the scenarios where something can go wrong, and you have started worrying about something that hasn’t even happened and so on.
And before you know it, you just spent 30 minutes on work without getting paid for it, plus you filled yourself with negativity.
So, counting doesn’t seem that ridiculous now, does it ?
If you thought I will give you just one strange practice you are wrong! Drinking water with attention sounds strange but it’s deeper than you think. What I want you to do here is to drink water and notice the following things:
And this is it. Now repeat it every time that you drink water.
Once you get good at practicing with water, you can try the same procedure with food, then while showering, sunbathing, riding a bike, walking, dancing, etc. Be aware of your body and sensation you have at each moment.
Now you have three simple techniques you can use to achieve the first “goal” of meditation (to be aware) without sitting still, without forcing yourself. Truth be told. these practices are considered as meditation as well, because there is not only one way to meditate.
Author: Ivana Veljović
Business and Marketing Strategist / Apps and Startups Whiz/ Light Worker / Reality Hacker
Addiction affected by style, manhood, ignorance and mixed belief, enhances a strong desire to grow up, that flow people in a dark lagoon that makes them feel high and delight, confident and tough, pushing them down underneath the fumes of a burning golden stick made by brownish humble leaf. Cigarette, a minimalist design that burns up the nose and mouth of millions of people, since the 19th century, a word that stinks of colonialism, aristocracy, and arrogance.
We are facing 5 million disregarded deaths due to foggy puffs each year, a plague that chokes and rots people from all over the world. If we are stressed, if we are happy, after a coffee, in our break time, before sleep or in front of a glass of wine, it is always a good time to inhale the grey cloud, a stimulant that turns on receptors in our brain that makes us feel better, the addiction kicks in and you become dependent on it, a lovely dose of endorphin that produces the famous nicotine buzz.
I have been a zombie craving tobacco for 7 years, not too long, but more than enough to be miserable and moody. I spent my teenage years washing my hands with essential oils and brushing my mouth with soap to prevent my parents from finding out my recreational addiction. It was terrible, because after family lunch or dinner, instead of thinking about having a cake or hot tea with my family, the priority was to light up a cigarette and feel good. My budget as a student was quite limited and I spent a couple of years waiting to be home alone to rummage into plant pots where my mom was putting out her cigarettes.
I remember the bliss I used to get after lighting up all the leftovers I could scrape together from clay pots, so much joy closed inside the bathroom hiding myself to have a smoke. When I think about that time, I’m always wondering how this substance is permitted and widespread in our society with such a normality and acceptance.
After a few years of struggling with this ongoing addiction, I moved abroad and I didn’t have to hide from my parents anymore. I grew up and, getting older, this pleasurable smoke was not something forbidden anymore but got a scent of freedom and maturity; probably through that deadly smell I always felt holding my dad, the man who always wrapped me with so much love in his beautiful jacket soaked with smoke. I felt the fabric in every hugs and kisses of his and now every puff abroad was like his kisses on my forehead; and this is probably how emotional attachment becomes an addiction.
Years later, I got rid of meat and spirits in my diet but I couldn’t remove the tobacco from my lifestyle. Then, one day, I attended a breathing workshop. Mindfulness and spirituality were tackling my soul for a while but this Wisdom of Breath workshop enlightened my inner self. We started breathing, feeling, perceiving and noticing the outside world with tranquility, peace, and quiet. My mind started fizzling and tingling all over the room. Mindfulness and meditation allowed my mind to understand and tackle the addiction, to face this issue. My curiosity allowed to rip off the chains who were making me sink.
Cigarettes are like breathing for our toxic society; today it makes more sense to puff or vape in our break time than sitting down and gazing in a lovely valley full of lush. Why is it socially accepted to go out for a smoke during our work time and not laying down under a tree, breathing? Why are we encouraged to smoke with wine after a stressful day at work, smoking if somebody lets you down, comforting ourselves if something makes us suffer? It makes sense, it’s so normal to share addictions to comfort ourselves, it’s usual and normal to poke our shoulder and hand out a cigarette to your mate or colleague. Breaths, kisses, and hugs are not welcome in our society, tranquility and love are seen as a weakness and delusional. We prefer dragging poison inside our throats instead of inhaling air, pure oxygen, the life-supporting component of life; but what if we just had to breathe, yes breathe consciously from the belly, like the kids, what if our anxiety could be lulled with the wind inside our body instead of capitalistic poison?
The average smoker burns 12 cigarettes per day, one pack contains 20 cigarettes, which is the amount that many consume on a daily basis. When will you replace your puff with air? When will you stop getting burned from the inside instead of thriving from your spine?
Figure out how to put out. Breathing is the key and what allows us to feel and perceive, clarity is in the air, oxygen is on your side. A cigarette takes 8-12 puffs, a group meditation takes 8-12 AUM’s; what about trying to inhale the power of purity, indulge in the blossom of love and set you free. The power is in your hands, hold on the flowers of love and throw away the dirty leaf.
Author: Walter Giangreco
Walter is a human being with an open heart, everlasting energy, and good vibes. He loves the sunshine and taking time for breakfast.
He never stops questioning, curiosity is his reason to live. He enjoys connecting with inspiring individuals and comparing himself with different cultures; he’s fascinated with people that he doesn’t know and enjoys getting a window into their lives.
His priorities in life are nature, animals, and humankind. As a true travel lover, he loves getting lost taking pictures around the world, enjoying amazing landscapes surrounded by the wonders of nature, visiting bookshops in every place he visits, watching the sunset on the beach in a warm evening and listening to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore.
Being a vegan activist and natural lifestyle advocate, he really believes in a future based on living on fresh fruits, surrounded by nature, where people can have a great time all day long enjoying the beauty of simple living.
“Love is everywhere, unleash your soul and let it shine!”
Around the world, most secondary schools share a similar design: There are hallways that lead to classrooms, a front and back entrance, a cafeteria, and a gymnasium.
Near Chennai, India, a new boarding school called Riverbend aims to rethink traditional architecture — and curricula — in education. Instead of one large, central building, the campus will include more than a dozen smaller facilities that are designed to focus on a range of subjects, including math, entrepreneurship, literature, art, meditation, history, and physical education.
The goal is to prioritize the middle and high school students’ happiness rather than grades, Riverbend School’s lead architect, Danish Kurani, tells.
Construction will start this year and wrap up in 2020.
In a rural area outside Chennai, Riverbend School will host its first class of 300 students (plus faculty, staff, and an artist-in-residence) in 2020.
Students will live there on weekdays and travel home on weekends.
The school was designed by the New York-based firm Kurani, which specializes in educational spaces.
Kurani’s team designed the campus like a village, he says. The site will center around a central plaza, with classrooms outside it, student and faculty housing outside that, and then agricultural land on the outskirts, where students will farm.
When planning Riverbend, the firm looked to a long-running Harvard study that has tracked people over the past eight decades. It suggests that strong relationships contribute to a happy life.
The campus will include many communal spaces, dubbed “chat labs,” where students can discuss projects with peers or teachers.
Students will decide their personal curricula and schedule.
Vivek, Kiran, and Indira Reddy, the school’s cofounders — who come from an entrepreneurial background — believe kids will stay more engaged if they learn things they care about.
Students might learn how to code software, build a rocket, or write a play — whatever interests them.
“You take for granted what a school is. Most people think it’s just a bunch of hallways and classrooms,” Kurani said. “But if you’re going to change the learning model — and focus on students’ character, happiness, and emotional intelligence — then we have to question, ‘what are the types of spaces we should offer kids?'”
The campus will also feature meditation spots, a kitchen for culinary classes, recording and dance studios, and a storefront where students can launch businesses.
There will be more subtle architectural differences between Riverbend and typical schools as well.
The buildings will all have curved corners to encourage people to congregate on all sides. And no building will be taller than two stories, which Kurani believes will make the campus feel more intimate.
Riverbend hasn’t yet determined if students will receive grades, which Kurani says can breed unhealthy competition. They will not take standardized tests either.
The school will follow a recent trend in American education called “personalized learning.”
The teacher doesn’t lecture, but acts more as a facilitator to students, who choose how and what they learn.
An on-campus research institute will study the efficacy of Riverbend’s techniques, which the faculty plans to share with other educators around the world.
The school’s larger goal is to rethink traditional education and build a happier and more compassionate generation.
“The focus will not just be cramming kids’ heads with information, regurgitating it out to us, and having no sense of why it matters,” Kurani said. “We want to raise people who are good for our communities. It’s about flipping the priorities of traditional pedagogy.”
As avid travellers, we are always on the lookout for apps, tools and books that we can travel with and continue our spiritual explorations. 2018 was a year when we went to many places, sometimes we were lucky to be accompanying a master, at other times we traveled solo. While we had a lot of the books that we loved on Kindle, we were still searching for the perfect meditation app. We did use Insight Timer but were looking to see what else was there that would make our life simpler.
Apps had changed since we did our last survey. After being focused on virtually transporting users to beaches, rain forests and other dreamy locales, meditation apps today are also trying to appeal to the people who are actually travelling to such places. We found that several apps, like Buddhify, Calm and Simple Habit, offer special meditation sessions for travellers making their way across the ocean, simply across town, or even while just waiting.
Meditation is personal – the voice, words and methods affect each one of us in different ways. So here we have highlighted features that appealed to us. We looked at the apps that had features that were suited to both a novice who wants guided work and a more seasoned meditator. A great app, we feel, must include both guided meditations as well as hands-off options like a timer, and help you focus on the breath and be in the moment. It could offer meditations that aren’t so long that a beginner would feel overwhelmed by them, offer a trial period or a few meditations for free before you are charged, work on different devices, and maybe include other methods for relaxing, like music, instruction, etc., and allow you to download meditations for offline use.
Here’s what we came up with:
We checked out Buddhify which has a friendly interface that guides modern technology users in meditation practices. It has a rainbow wheel with a question in the centre: “What are you doing?” Users can select slices of the wheel with sessions like “Walking in City.” Each topic has timed meditations from five to 30 minutes, and you can rate your relaxation level and keep stats on your progress. We also thought that the over 80 custom guided audio meditation tracks were of excellent quality. And the Buddhify kids’ wheel has some 60 meditations that you can do with your kids.
We tried two paid apps, Calm and Headspace. Calm offers more open-ended sessions that we felt may appeal to more experienced mediators who aren’t looking for that much guidance. It also provides bonus perks, like ambient music and sleep guidance, and has multi-day programs. We preferred the beginner meditations on Headspace. Calm’s shortest meditations start are 10 minutes long, while Headspace has lots of short one- to five-minute options where it will guide you via podcast on how to get to sleep quickly and easily, how to make your daily crazed commute stress-free, how to take the time to really appreciate your food, and more. Calm offers sleep stories, which may appeal to you if you like to fall asleep to the sound of a soothing voice. Headspace makes it easy to set reminders to keep yourself on track and even offers a dashboard to evaluate your progress.
Both Calm and Headspace have timers that you can increase, Headspace timers increase in only five- or 10-minute increments, while Calm’s timer can be increased in one-minute increments.
The official app created by the Art of Living organisation is your “portal to a world of content to help you improve your personal self, strengthen your relationships, and eliminate negativity and stress from your life”. What we liked were the live broadcasts that we could join. The app is an excellent source of knowledge and teachings from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as well as a varied selection of articles, videos and audios from the Art of Living Foundation. The app also allows you to learn to cook as per Ayurveda, volunteer for service projects, get direct access to a range of wellness products, watch and learn from yoga videos demonstrating the various asanas, and get the latest updates about the organisation and Sri Sri Ravishankar. And one can also follow Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s guided meditation audios for relaxation and peace. If Art of Living is close to your heart, this is a good app for you.
The official Isha App (from the Isha Foundation and Sadhguru) allows you to keep in touch with Isha news and events, get Sadhguru’s daily messages and weekly spots, watch the latest videos, download wallpapers, ringtones etc. It allows you to also search for Isha programs, Sadguru’s programs and other special events. We liked that it allowed you to keep track of the monthly lunar events like Amavasya, Ekadasi, Pournami, major Isha Events like Mahashivarathri, etc. If you are a follower of or if you like Sadhguru and his teaching, this is a great app.
We love the Insight Timer, and use it on our commute to work as well as on our travels. It’s free, and while it did ask me to sign up, I felt it is worth giving up some information! It has a clean user interface and upon first opening the app, you are shown with a map of all the users across the world who are currently meditating using the app. It has five menus that allow you to quickly flip from guided to silent to timed meditations. And you can customise your profile and view your meditation stats as you continue to grow your practice. You also have an extensive directory of free meditations to choose from, including meditations on topics like healing and forgiveness. The timer is customizable, and you can personalise the bell sounds, frequencies and intervals, background noise as well as set an overall timer is a favourite. And you can track your progress too. There are also many courses, both in the free and more available in the premium (paid) version, that you might enjoy.
While on this search we found the monk Om Swami’s Black Lotus app. It focuses on spreading compassion, kindness, humility and love. It is free and allows you to meditate privately on calmness, forgiveness, peace, bliss, compassion and many other emotions at your own pace with carefully curated music that we loved. You can also choose to join and meditate live with the famous Himalayan mystic Om Swami and thousands of other meditators around the world every fortnight. With five categories, events, meditation and wisdom, chanting and random acts of kindness (RAKS) the app has a clean, minimalist approach. The Events section gives information regarding various retreats and camps, swaminars by Om Swami; while the Meditation menu allows you to either meditate with others (Globally) or meditate by yourself. You can select a variety of random or timed tracks for meditating. You can also just close your eyes and listen to five selected mantras recorded in the voice of Om Swami, which we are sure will help calm you. The Wisdom section has quotes, blogs, books and videos on spirituality, self-help and personal empowerment by Om Swami. The RAK section invites you to do random acts of kindness and earn points: like donating pet food or giving up your spot in a queue and get points. You reward yourself each good deed done. Om Swami says that Black Lotus is the start of a movement, and the app is just a tiny subset of this movement – a campaign to spread kindness. What we liked about it was the gamification of spiritual development (which the young-at-heart and millennial population likes), and it made us realise that even giving up one’s parking spot is an act of kindness that we must acknowledge to ourselves too. It helps you measure your meditation, chanting and your kindness levels. Swami is very definite that when goodness and kindness are nurtured by living and experiencing it in our everyday lives and actions, they slowly seep into our consciousness and become our second nature. And when a group of people start to live in a manner conducive to everyone’s wellbeing, and welfare, others around them adopt that way too – slowly, but Swami says it works. And he says that every kind act is a deposit in your spiritual bank account, so if everyone produced enough compassion, the GDP of kindness would go up! We love this app because we love the ethos behind it – kindness, compassion and sincerity.
We also checked out the Meditate OM which has a list of some 20-odd Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Hindu mantras. The app is entirely free and is easy-to-use. The mantras are listed in an uncomplicated manner, and every mantra comes with text that gives the full meaning and translation. We loved that the mantras can be set to repeat for a particular number of times – perfect while you travel!
By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it is a list by meditators for meditators. And we remind you that the smartphone that you are using to flip through emails could be the ticket to workday or travel zen!
– The Travelling Lotus (Raji Menon & Dhritiman Biswas)
Feature Image photo credit: valhallamind.com
In 1939, Wang Xiangzhai issued a public challenge through a Beijing newspaper. His objective: to test and prove the new martial arts training system of Yiquan, a system that placed standing meditation (zhan zhuang) at its core.
Expert fighters from across China, Japan and even Europe traveled to answer Wang’s challenge. None could beat him or his senior students. His standing meditation training produced superior results in a shorter time period, when compared to methods used in boxing, Judo, and other styles of Kung Fu.
Considering the proven value of standing meditation, surprisingly few people undertake the practice today. Why is this? As Wang himself noted, the exercise is plagued by logical contradictions. Understandably, but unfortunately, martial artists reject the exercise because it cannot possibly work.
Sincere students, who are willing to suspend their disbelief for a few hours of introductory practice, will encounter and resolve these four paradoxes.
Standing still is good exercise. Wang Xiangzhai explained the unique health benefits of standing meditation in his essay, The Gain From Practicing Martial Art:
Appropriate exercises can positively affect every cell and every organ in the human body, improve the functioning of respiratory and vascular systems, and also improve metabolism. In other words, they activate the whole human organism.
In typical forms of exercise, before the body is tired, there are already problems with breathing and the heart is overburdened. So the exercise must be halted prematurely in order to let one’s heart rest, to catch one’s breath and return to a normal state.
Chinese combat science uses the opposite method. This is exercise of the muscular and vascular systems, exercise for all cells of the body. The principle is to stimulate every organ at the same time. Even if during exercise your muscles become tired, your pulse stays in the normal range, and breathing is natural. After the exercise, you feel that your breath is freer and more comfortable than before.
Because there are no complex sets of movements, the nervous system is not greatly stressed; you eliminate internal tension, achieving mental calm. This is one of the elements that make combat science different from typical forms of exercise.
Holding your arms up is relaxing. Many variations of standing meditation require that the arms be held up, as if holding a ball, for fifteen minutes or more. At first, such postures are unpleasant, and cause tension and soreness in the shoulders. However, the posture itself is not the problem, it only exposes the problem: an unhealthy lifestyle, so deficient in exercise that even your own arms seem oppressively heavy.
After a few weeks of regular practice, the soreness will give way to more pleasant sensations. You will be able to raise your arms up with no discernable effort, and your entire body will become warm. Your joints will feel well-lubricated; stiffness or arthritic conditions will be relieved.
Time flies when you’re doing nothing. A lack of upper-body strength is not the only obstacle to successful practice. After the soreness disappears, a succession of images will parade through your mind. Endlessly replaying the events of the past, and predicting those of the future, you should begin to recognize that you are addicted to distraction.
Starving the beast will weaken it. If you can disregard these distractions from within, do so; otherwise, remove them from your practice environment. Shut the windows and the doors. When your mind finally stops, your perception of time will change; instead of watching the clock, you’ll wish you had more time to spend in this calm and quiet state.
Static posture training promotes fluid and coordinated movement. The prevalence of these mental and physical discomforts illustrates that, although everyone can stand still, few people do it well.
Only after resolving these issues within yourself, will you discover how deeply they affect your performance. As you would expect, your balance will improve; you may be surprised to find that standing meditation also increases your sensitivity, explosive speed and power.
In his later years, Wang Xiangzhai nicknamed himself “Old Man of Contradictions”. Martial artists today cannot hope to match his great accomplishment, unless they are willing to stand first, and ask questions later.