Meditation is enjoying something of a revival with studies claiming it can ease depression, lower blood pressure, treat chronic pain and improve concentration.
Doctors are so impressed with the health benefits they have even urged the government to fund meditation courses on the NHS. But many people are put off by a perception that the practice is only for religious devotees and earnest do-gooders.
Although there are numerous meditation traditions - Eastern and Western, religious and secular - most meditation techniques fall into four ways of working with the mind.
Through mindfulness you learn to be mentally present - aware of what you are doing and thinking, and aware also of the world around you - while maintaining a non-judgmental and compassionate attitude. Often spiritual adepts of all traditions East and West meditate on death to help recognise the fleeting quality and precious nature of human life.
When you soften your belly, allowing it to expand as you inhale, your organs drop, allowing the diaphragm to more easily contract downwards. Relax your stomach muscles so that your abdomen becomes soft and rounded and the small of your back gently curves forward. Check that your head is level, your shoulders are relaxed and your ears are parallel with your shoulders.
Focus your eyes in the space about 3 to 4ft in front of you, lowering your eyelids slightly at a 45-degree angle. Place your left hand on top of your right hand with both palms facing upwards and your thumbs raised slightly and just touching. This site contains materials from other clearly stated media sources for the purpose of discussion stimulation and content enrichment among our members only.

By training the mind to focus on an object – such as a candle, on the breath, or on a movement such as walking - you become aware of your normal uncontrolled thinking patterns and eventually learn to relax and quiet your mind.
The early Christians for example meditatedon passages of The New Testament, while Tibetan Buddhists meditate on topics such as compassion.
For instance using your sense of hearing and your voice you can practise chanting and mantra recitation and listen to music and the sounds of nature. The body’s bio-chemistry responds in the same way to real or imagined threat, releasing chemicals into the bloodstream that tell body and brain to get ready for danger. If you find any place that is still tense, then consciously relax that place and let the tension dissipate. Belly breathing focuses you on using the diaphragm to expand and contract the belly, which helps to deepen the breath. As your diaphragm relaxes and moves upwards feel your belly settle back into its normal place.
The sides of your little fingers should rest against your lower abdomen about three inches below your navel. Then unfold your hands and legs and stretch carefully before slowly standing up, raising your head last.
Then you begin to observe the mental habits and patterns that may be holding you back in life. With your belly contracted you should feel a great deal of tension and difficulty in breathing, forcing you to take frequent, shallow breaths. Lengthen your spine into its natural curve by imagining you have a string attached to the crown of your head and that it is being pulled gently from above.

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Start with relaxing your toes, then the ball of your foot, the arch, your heels and your ankles.
When the belly is tight, the diaphragm has a difficult time moving downwards because it is resisted by contracted abdominal muscles and internal organs.
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