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Begginers Guide to Meditation

Meditation and yoga are the most ancient part of the science of living. Among their many other benefits they are timeless answers to the age-old problems of stress whose increasingly all pervasive nature, duration and intensity are affecting the health and happiness of more and more people. Even apart from its spiritual dimension, meditation has been shown to be able to play part in relieving a host of mind-made illnesses, from anxiety to heart disease.

By giving this brief but clear introduction to a broad range of meditative techniques, which can help people to find the path most suitable for them, Lois Hewitt has encouraged many people to take an interest in meditation, and make it part of a health-promoting lifestyle.

But if its popularity is recent, meditation itself is not. It has been practised for thousands of years by mystics as a way to increased spiritual awareness, leading eventually to the direct experience of God or ultimate reality. Meditation is found in one form or another in almost all religions, including Christianity, although its practice is considered more important in some Eastern religions, for example Buddhism and Hinduism. While most systems of meditation developed within a religious or mystical context, the actual practice does not, in fact, involve acceptance of any religious or philosophical beliefs. Meditation is a mental discipline and most techniques can be used by anyone, whatever their personal philosophy.

The main reason for the rapidly increasing popularity of meditation is that regular practice has been found to improve mental and physical health. There is now scientific evidence for the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation, and many doctors and therapists recommend daily practice to patients suffering from tension and stress-related disorders. Meditation has been used successfully in the treatment of a wide variety of conditions ranging from depression and neuroses to hypertension, migraines, insomnia, drug abuse and even cancer, and therapists who suggest it as an adjunct to conventional methods of treatment report a much faster rate of improvement among meditators.

But although most people in the West take it up for health reasons - and often it is the physical, relaxing effects which are the first to be felt - as the practice of meditation deepens, the psychological effects become more obvious. The process of meditation is a bit like peeling off the layers of an onion. Layers of habit and conditioning are stripped off only to reveal more beneath. Gradually, preconceived ideas and opinions fall away, and you begin to see yourself, your relationships, and the world around you more clearly. Sensation, for example, often becomes more vivid and intense. Blue becomes bluer, pain becomes more painful, life becomes more alive. Meditators often feel that they are really seeing, really hearing, for the first time. The senses and the intellect are refined through meditation, and the ability to concentrate increased, so that thinking becomes clearer and creativity is enhanced.

People of any age, condition and circumstance can meditate. The only qualification is the desire to do so. Apart from finding the time to do it - which need not be more than 20 minutes a day you don't have to change your lifestyle to benefit from meditation. As a result of regular practice, however, most people quite naturally begin to adopt a healthier way of life.

The first two chapters of this book explain what meditation is and how it can help you. The rest of the book provides practical information on how to practice it. A wide range of techniques is described and the questions most commonly asked about meditation are answered. Advice is also given on choosing a teacher, and the reference section at the end of the book lists a number of teachers who give instruction in meditation.

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