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What is “AARTI” ?
Aarti is said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung during the ritual. Aarti is performed and sung to develop the highest love for God. "Aa" means "towards or to", and "rati" means "right or virtue" in Sanskrit. Aarti is generally performed two to five times daily and usually at the end of a Puja or Bhajan session. It is performed during almost all Hindu ceremonies and occasions. It involves the circulating of an 'Aarti plate' around a person or deity and is generally accompanied by the singing of songs in praise of that deva or person (many versions exist). In doing so, the plate itself is supposed to acquire the power of the deity. The priest circulates the plate to all those present. They cup their down-turned hands over the flame and then raise their palms to their forehead - the purificatory blessing, passed from the deva's image to the flame, has now has been passed to devotee.
The Aarti plate is generally made of metal, usually silver, bronze or copper. On it must repose a lamp made of kneaded flour, mud or metal, filled with oil or ghee. A cotton wick is put into the oil and then lighted, or camphor is burnt instead. The plate also contains flowers, incense and Akshata.
The purpose of performing Aarti is the waving of lighted wicks before the deities in a spirit of humility and gratitude, wherein faithful followers become immersed in God's divine form. It symbolizes the five elements: 1) space (Akash), 2) wind (Vayu), 3) light (Tej), 4) water (Jal), and 5) earth (Pruthvi). Communal Aarti is performed in the mandir; however, devotees also perform it in their homes.
Why do we say Shaanti thrice?
Shaanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by others or us. For example, peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise.
Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. When agitations end, peace is naturally experienced since it was already there. Where there is peace, there is happiness. Therefore, every one without exception desires peace in his/her life.
However, peace within or without seems very hard to attain because it is covered by our own agitations. A rare few manage to remain peaceful within even in the midst of external agitation and troubles. To invoke peace, we chant prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting shaanti thrice.
It is believed that trivaram satyam - that which is said thrice comes true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, "I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
We chant shaanti thrice to emphasize our intense desire for peace. All obstacles, problems and sorrows originate from three sources.
Aadhidaivika : The unseen divine forces over which we have little or no control like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions etc.
Aadhibhautika: The known factors around us like accidents, human contacts, pollution, crime etc.
Aadhyaatmika: We sincerely pray to the Lord that at least while we undertake special tasks or even in our daily lives, there are no problems or that, problems are minimized from the three sources written about above.
May peace alone prevail. Hence shaanti is chanted thrice.
It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to our immediate surroundings and those around, and softest the last time as it is addressed to oneself.
Why do we worship tulasi?
In Sanskrit, Tulanaa Naasti Athaiva Tulasi - that means which is incomparable (in its qualities) For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship, which, once used, can be washed and reused in Pooja - as it is regarded so self-purifying. As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of Shankhachuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to become a stone (shaaligraama). Seeing her devotion and adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would adorn His head. Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulasi leaf - hence the worship of tulasi.
She also symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the Tulasi.
Tulasi is married to the Lord with all pomp and show as in any wedding.
This is because according to another legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion.
Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world. The Tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold.
Yanmule sarvatirhaani Yannagre sarvadevataa Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha Tulasi taam namaamyaham
Why do we ring the bell in a temple?
Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?
The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.
Even while doing the ritualistic Aarti, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardor, concentration and inner peace.
As we start the daily ritualistic worship (Pooja) we ring the bell, chanting: Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam Kurve ghantaaravam tatra devataahvaahna lakshanam
I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, So that virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart); and the demonic and evil forces from within and without, depart.
Why do we do Pradakshina (circumambulate)
We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of Pradakshina.
Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality. Why is Pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner
The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do Pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the "right hand".
Indian scriptures enjoin - matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, and acharyadevo bhava. May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in mind we also do Pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.
After the completion of traditional worship (Pooja), we customarily do Pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.
Why do offer food to the Lord before eating it?
Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as Prasaada - a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (Pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord.
The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Hence what we receive in life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words "tera tujko arpan"– I offer what is yours to you. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.
Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticize the quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful acceptance (Prasaada buddhi).
Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to the Divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and protection, our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture, the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been "realized", maintained and handed down to us by them, our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute society without the support of which we could not live as we do and other living beings (bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly
Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the food. This is done with the chant
praanaaya swaahaa, apaanaaya swaahaa, vyaanaaya swaahaa, udaanaaya swaahaa, samaanaaya swaahaa, brahmane swaahaa
After offering the food thus, it is eaten as Prasaada - blessed food.
Why do we fast?
Most devoted Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.
Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" + Vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do with food?
A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure. The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy.
Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body.
The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.
Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting.
The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately - neither too less nor too much - yukta-aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not fasting.
Why it is not good to touch papers, books and people with the feet?
To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject - academic or spiritual - was considered divine and taught by the guru in the gurukula.
The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and education. This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswati Pooja or Ayudha Pooja day, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. In fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray: Saraswati namasthubhyam Varade kaama roopini Vidyaarambham karishyaami Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa
O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes, I prostrate to You before starting my studies. May you always fulfill me?
Why do we wear marks (Tilak, Pottu and the like) on the forehead?
The Tilak or Pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped.
In earlier times, the four castes (based on Varna or colour) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks differently. The Brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The Kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying velour as he belonged to warrior races. The Vaishya wore a yellow Kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The Sudra applied a black Bhasma, Kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three divisions.
Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan Tilak of the shape of "U,” Shiva worshippers a Tripundra of Bhasma, Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on.
The Tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. The Tilak is applied with the prayer - "May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The Tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces.
The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves - the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The Tilak and Pottu cool the forehead, protect us and prevent energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or Bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.
Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?
Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by Abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one’s family and social stature.
Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been one of India’s enduring strengths.
The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (Aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.
The different forms of showing respect are: Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person. Namaskaara - paying homage in the form of Namaste. Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers. Shaashtaanga - prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
What is Namaste?
‘Namaste’ or ‘Namaskar’ is the Indian way of greeting each other. Wherever they are – on the street, in the house, in public transport, on vacation or on the phone – when Hindus meet people they know or strangers with whom they want to initiate a conversation, Namaste is the customary courtesy greeting to begin with and often to end with. It is not a superficial gesture or a mere word, and is for all people - young and old, friends and strangers.
Namaste According to the Scriptures: Namaste and its common variants ‘Namaskar,’ ‘Namaskaara’ or ‘Namaskaram’, is one of the five forms of formal traditional greeting mentioned in the Vedas. This is normally understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage or showing respect to one another, as is the practice today, when we greet each other.
The Meaning of Namaste: In Sanskrit the word is namah + te = namaste which means “I bow to you” - my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. The word ‘Namaha’ can also be literally interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one's ego in the presence of another.
How to Namaste: Bend the arms from the elbow upwards and face the two palms of the hands. Place the two palms together and keep the folded palms in front of the chest. Utter the word Namaste and while saying the word bow the head slightly.
Why Namaste: Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. However, there is much more to it than meets the eye. The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet one another with Namaste, it means, ‘may our minds meet’, indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect and humility.
Spiritual Significance of Namaste: The reason why we do Namaste has a deeper spiritual significance. It recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity, the Self or the God in me is the same in all. Acknowledging this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we honor the god in the person we meet.
Namaste in Prayers: During prayers, Hindus not only do Namaste but also bow and close their eyes, as it were, to look into the inner spirit. This physical gesture is sometimes accompanied by names of gods like ‘Ram Ram’, ‘Jai Shri Krishna’, ‘Namo Narayana’, ‘Jai Siya Ram’ or just ‘Om Shaanti’ – the common refrain in Hindu chants. This is also quite common when two devout Hindus meet - indicating the recognition of the divinity within ourselves and extending a warm welcome to each other.
Why do we have a prayer room?
Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual practices like japa (repetition of the Lord’s name), meditation, paaraayana (reading of the scriptures), prayers, devotional singing etc is also done here. Special worship is done on auspicious ocasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and the like. Each member of the family - young or old - communes with and worships the Divine here.
The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness. The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as the true owner of our homes and ourselves as caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a very welcome guest. Just as we would house an important guest in the best comfort, so too we felicitate the Lord’s presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at all times, kept clean and well-decorated. Also the Lord is all-pervading. To remind us that He resides in our homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and on special occasions.
Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it serves. So too for the purpose of meditation, worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere - hence the need for a prayer room. Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.
Why do we light a lamp, burn camphor and perform Aarti?
In every Hindu home a lamp or ‘diya’ is lit daily before a Hindu deity or any symbol associated with Hinduism. Many Hindus also perform an ‘arati’ with the traditional oil lamp. The lamp is lit in the morning or evening or both morning and evening. In some houses the lamp is maintained continuously and is known Akhand Deep or Akhanda Diya.
The light in the lamp symbolizes knowledge. It removes darkness, which symbolizes ignorance. Thus light symbolizes Brahman. The wick in the traditional oil lamp symbolizes ego and the oil or ghee used symbolizes our negative tendencies. When we are lit by self knowledge, the negative tendencies (oil) melt away and finally the ego (wick) perishes. When the ego perishes, we realize that we are all part of Brahman and that life is a continuity.
The lighting of ‘diya’ or lamp at home is considered highly auspiciousness as it brings prosperity and good health. The daily evening lamp lit at home also gives us an opportunity to ponder over one’s omissions and commissions in a day.
WHAT IS PUJA?
Puja is nothing but a reflection of one’s belief in God. It is a blind faith of a person in God. It is possible to reduce the suffering due to the unfavorable position of planets through sincere reliance on God, the One who controls the planets. Different people with different religion have their own way of puja. Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print.
During Puja an image or other symbol of the god serves as a means of gaining access to the divine. This icon is not the deity itself; rather, it is believed to be filled with the deity's cosmic energy. It is a focal point for honoring and communicating with the god. For the devout Hindu, the icon's artistic merit is important, but is secondary to its spiritual content. The objects are created as receptacles for spiritual energy that allow the devotee to experience direct communication with his or her gods. It is nothing but a strong concentration towards the God’s almighty.
There are several Pujas which people can do for specific events, such as the starting of a business, or the beginning of a new journey. The benefit of this type of Puja is to remove obstacles. The Pujas are performed on behalf of those who request them by us.
TYPES OF PUJA HOME PUJA : Many Hindu homes have a personal shrine set aside somewhere in the house that include pictures or ''Murti’s'' (Statue) of various deities. A daily ''puja'' is often performed that may also include offerings for the family's personal deity or religious teacher.
TEMPLE PUJA: Temple ''Pujas'' are more elaborate and typically done several times a day. They are also performed by a temple priest, or ''pujari''. In addition, the temple deity is considered a resident rather than a guest, so the ''puja'' is modified to reflect that; for example the deity is "awakened" rather than "invoked" in the morning. Temple ''Pujas'' vary widely from region to region and for different sects, with devotional hymns sung at Vaishnava temples for example. At a temple ''puja'', there is often less active participation, with the priest acting on behalf of others
BENEFITS OF PUJA 1.Disciplines the mind 2.Energizes the deity and the worshipper 3.Enables one to experience oneness with divinity as we unconsciously offer the self through our material offerings.
Puja establishes a bridge between the worshipper (the lover) and the deity (the loved). It is a two-way flow of love-energy. This energy not only sanctifies the self but also re-vitalizes the body's resources, making one experience, what is called HOLY BLISS. Thus both the worshipped and the worshipper benefit from Puja.Ten Avatars of Vishnu
The most famous of the divine incarnations are Rama, whose life is depicted in the Ramayana, and Krishna, whose life is depicted in the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Bhagavad Gita, which contains the spiritual teachings of Krishna, is one of the most widely-read scriptures in Hinduism.
1. Matsya, the fish, appeared in the Satya Yuga. Represents beginning of life. 2. Kurma, the tortoise, appeared in the Satya Yuga. Represents a human embryo just growing tiny legs, with a huge belly. 3. Varaha, the boar, appeared in the Satya Yuga. Represents a human embryo which is almost ready. Its features are visible. 4. Narasimha, the Man-Lion (Nara = man, simha = lion), appeared in the Satya Yuga. Represents a newborn baby, hairy and cranky, bawling and full of blood. 5. Vamana, the Dwarf, appeared in the Treta Yuga. Represents a young child. 6. Parashurama, Rama with the axe, appeared in the Treta Yuga. Represents both an angry young man and a grumpy old man simultaneously. 7. Rama, Sri Ramachandra, the prince and king of Ayodhya, appeared in the Treta Yuga. Represents a married man with children in a very ideological society 8. Krishna (meaning dark or black; see also other meanings in the article about him.), appeared in the Dwapara Yuga. Represents a person in more practical society, where there is one good or bad. Good or bad depends on society you live in. 9. Gautama Buddha is considered an avatar that returned pure dharma to the world. 10. Kalki ("Eternity", or "time", or "The Destroyer of foulness"), who is expected to appear at the end of Kali Yuga, the time period in which we currently exist. There is also a "hidden avatar" mentioned in 11th canto of the Bhagavata Purana. Some consider Balarama, brother of Krishna to be the eighth avatar of Vishnu, and delete Buddha. The Buddha avatar, which occurs in different versions in various Puranas, may represent an attempt by orthodox Brahmanism to slander the Buddhists by identifying them with the demons. Helmuth von Glasenapp attributed these developments to a Hindu desire to absorb Buddhism in a peaceful manner, both to win Buddhists to Vishnuism and also to account for the fact that such a significant heresy could exist in India.
What is Hinduism?
Hinduism is a religion unlike any other; this is because it has no founder and no specific religious text, though the Bhagavad-Gita could be considered as one. According to Hindu traditions as expounded in Bhagavad-Gita, the religion is timeless and was first given to the Sun god by Lord Krishna over 2.2 million years ago in the last Treta Yuga and transmitted to the wordly beings in various steps. Many religions' (such as Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism) founders are Hindu and therefore many beliefs and customs are the same. Contrary to popular belief, Hindus believe in many gods (each of which represents an aspect of life, e.g. water, crops, fertility and health to name a few) who are all part of one ultimate, formless deity. All in all Hinduism is more than a religion (though some try to argue this). Besides a wide diverse set of beliefs, it has a set of customs and traditions that were synonymous with the people of India. As invaders came and left India, the term "Hinduism" loosely defined the people who believed in Indian customs and tradition (to separate the people who originally lived in India, from the invading people), for example in the past a Christian or Muslim could have been a Hindu as well, because the term only defined Indian customs and beliefs. More recently (last five hundred years), only people who believe in the traditional Hindu gods are called Hindus, hence it is now defined as a religion. Often Hindus celebrate Christmas, despite Christian origins and many people of other religions also celebrate Deepavali (Diwali), the festival of light, and Holi, the festival of colour despite their Hindu origins.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often involves turning attention to a single point of reference. It is recognized as a component of many religions, and has been practiced since antiquity. It is also practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and/or psychophysical practices which may emphasize different goals—from achievement of a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind. The word meditation originally comes from the Indo-European root med-, meaning "to measure." From the root med- are also derived the English words mete, medicine, modest, and moderate. It entered English as meditation through the Latin Meditation, which originally indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise, then later evolved into the more specific meaning "contemplation."
Types of Meditation
Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field. The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Yoga and meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one's breath and one's state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated, or distracted, the breath will tend to be shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath will tend to be slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware. Mindfulness meditation "involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them." The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation, here you will be aware of the entire field.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Where Should you Meditate?
1.You may wish to set aside a special corner of one room, your own private sanctuary, a calm, quiet and peaceful place. 2.You might furnish the area with objects or icons that have spiritual meaning for you, developing a little altar or shrine. 3.Use what will put you into a contemplative frame of mind. You may want to enlist the help of Mother Nature. 4.Spend time at the ocean listening to the surf crashing upon the rocks…walk through a shaded forest trail with a cathedral of trees overhead…stand near a stream with water playing over the rocks or a waterfall…or watch the moon rise or birds fly overhead.
How should you Sit When you Meditate?
Although the classic posture is to sit with legs folded and hands resting quietly on the lap or the knees, the key is to find a way of sitting that is comfortable for you. And remember, you can meditate anytime, anywhere…even driving in your car. Benefits of Meditation
Physical Benefits: 1. Deep rest-as measured by decreased metabolic rate, lower heart rate, and reduced work load of the heart. 2. Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate-two chemicals associated with stress. 3. Reduction of free radicals- unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage. They are now thought to be a major factor in aging and in many diseases. 4. Decreased high blood pressure. 5. Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels. 6. Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels 7. Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing. This has been very helpful to asthma patients 8. Younger biological age. On standard measures of aging, long-term Transcendental Meditation (TM) practitioners (more than five years) measured 12 years younger than their chronological age. 9. Higher levels of DHEAS in the elderly. An additional sign of youthfulness through Transcendental Meditation (TM); lower levels of DHEAS are associated with aging.
Psychological Benefits: 1. Increased brain wave coherence. Harmony of brain wave activity in different parts of the brain is associated with greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and higher IQ. 2. Decreased anxiety. 3. Decreased depression. 4. Decreased irritability and moodiness. 5. Improved learning ability and memory. 6. Increased self-actualization. 7. Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation. 8. Increased happiness. 9. Increased emotional stability