20. Practice Breathing Meditation

First, practice breathing deeply. Then, when you feel you can breathe from the lower part of your body rather than from your upper chest, sit comfortably, either on the floor, or in a chair. Sit up straight so that you aren’t scrunching up your body’s breathing space. Imagine you are being suspended from above so that the effort of sitting up straight feels effortless. Now, take a long, slow, deep breath through your nose, and in your mind, count slowly to five. When you’ve inhaled fully at five, hold the breath for five more counts. Then, slowly release the breath through your nose to the count of ten. As you breathe and count, your mind will need to concentrate on the counting. Now, it’s time to focus on the sound and feel of the breath, as in zazen meditation. Focus completely on the breath.

Keep breathing in this way for several minutes. Increase your breathing meditation time by two minutes per week until you’ve reached fifteen to thirty minutes once or twice each day.

21. Learn about Mantra Meditation

Any concentrated focusing while repeating a sound can be called a mantra meditation, whether it’s Sufi chanting or the recitation of the rosary prayer. If you choose a word or phrase that means something to you, you may feel your meditation has a more personalized feel to it. Your mantra can even be an affirmation like “I am happy.” Any word or phrase will do, but here are a few you might try if you don’t already have something in mind:

• “Om”

• “Sky”

• “One”

• “Peace”

• “Love”

• “Joy”

• “Earth”

Mantra meditation disciplines the mind, sharpens the focus, and even improves the depth of the breath and the capacity of the lungs. It’s also supremely relaxing.

22. Practice Mantra Meditation

To practice mantra meditation, find a quiet place to sit, in the position described for yoga meditation or Zen meditation or even in a chair. Get situated, centered, and in a comfortable position. Take a few relaxed breaths, then slowly begin to repeat your mantra with every exhalation of your breath. Repeat for five minutes at first, then build up by two minutes each week, until you’ve reached a comfortable period of time between fifteen and thirty minutes once or, if possible, twice each day.

23. Learn about Mandala Meditation

In mandala meditation, which comes from Tibetan culture, the focus of meditation isn’t placed on a sound but on a beautiful object: a mandala. Mandalas are circular pictures, sometimes very plain, sometimes highly ornate, that are used for meditation. The round form and, often, the inner lines of the picture, draw the eye to the center of the mandala, helping the mind to focus on that center point. Mandalas are thought to be a symbolic representation of the universe, making them the perfect point of focus.

24. Choose a Mandala

First, you need a mandala. You can find mandalas in books, in stores that carry imported items from Tibet, and in stores that carry meditation supplies. Or, you can make one yourself, one as simple as a circle with a center point, or as complex and ornate as you want to make it.

25. Practice Mandala Meditation

Hang or place the mandala at just below eye level from a sitting position, and sit four to eight feet away from it, depending on how comfortable you feel. Sit comfortably cross-legged, in a kneeling position, or on a small bench or a chair. If sitting on the floor, use a cushion to make yourself more comfortable. Take a few relaxed breaths. Then, look at the mandala. Instead of following your breath or a sound, use the mandala as your point of concentration. Examine it in detail. Start with five minutes, then add two minutes every week until you are up to fifteen to thirty minutes of mandala meditation once or twice each day.

26. What Are Chakras?

According to yoga and other traditions, chakras are those centers or “wheels” of energy at key points along the energy channels in the body. Each chakra is thought to represent different parts of the body, both physically and emotionally. Each chakra also has a color. Meditating on the chakra that represents an area in your life that needs reinforcement can be an effective, even life-changing form of meditation. Meditating to open and energize all the chakras is also an effective technique for freeing the body to do the work of extinguishing the negative effects of stress.

27. The Seven Major Chakras

While the body is filled with minor chakras, the seven major chakras exist on a line from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Different schools of thought put these in slightly different places and attribute slightly different meanings to each one, but you’ll find the following basically in line with standard interpretations:

The First Chakra is located deep at the base of the spine. Its color is red. This is the seat of instinct, including appetite, the instinctual sexual urge, aggression, violence, fear, and that instinctual, nonintellectual joyful response to the satisfaction of the basic urges and needs. Meditate on this chakra if you are having trouble controlling your primal urges.

The Second Chakra is located behind the navel or just slightly below. Its color is orange. This is the seat of creativity, including both procreation and the deep-seated urge to create art. This is also the seat of passion.

• Meditate on this chakra if you are having trouble with blocked creativity, including reproductive problems.

The Third Chakra is located just behind the solar plexus in that indentation beneath your rib cage where both sides of your ribs meet. Its color is yellow. This is the seat of action and consumption. Your digestive fire lies here, turning food into energy. Meditate on this chakra if you are having trouble with your appetite, either for food or for life. If you have difficulty taking things in, work on this chakra.

The Fourth Chakra is located just behind the heart. Its color is green. This is the middle chakra of the seven, and the center of compassion, emotion, and love. This is the chakra of giving away, in contrast to the third chakra, which takes and consumes. Meditate on this chakra if you are having trouble giving of yourself, being compassionate or loving, or feeling emotions.

The Fifth Chakra is located in the throat. Its color is sky blue. This is the seat of communication energy. Meditate on this chakra if you are having trouble communicating your feelings or expressing yourself, or if you have writer’s block.

The Sixth Chakra is located between and just above the eyebrows. It is sometimes called the Third Eye chakra. Its color is deep, dark blue or indigo—like the night sky, as opposed to the fifth chakra’s color of bright blue sky. This is the center of intuition, unclouded perception, and psychic abilities. Meditate on this area if you want to develop your intuition or if you feel your intuition is blocked.

The Seventh Chakra is located at the crown of the head. This is the highest chakra, sometimes called the Thousand Petalled Lotus chakra. Its color • is violet. This is the source of enlightenment and knowing your true self. If enlightenment is your goal, meditate on all the chakras and the energy that flows between them, culminating in the seventh chakra.

28. Practice Chakra Meditation

Choose a quiet spot where you are unlikely to be disturbed, and sit comfortably.

Rock yourself into a straight position. The primary energy channels in your body run along your spine and into your head. If you keep your spine straight, energy can flow more easily through the chakras. Close your eyes and breathe easily.

Then, focus either on the first chakra, if you plan to move through all of them, or the chakra on which you want to focus. Imagine the chakra’s color and feel the color pulsing in the area of that chakra. Think about what that chakra represents. Reflect on those qualities in your own life.

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