Often times, anxiety is presented as a result of our thoughts. When this happens, we start thinking thoughts both consciously and subconsciously that that are seemingly threatening to our livelihood, and send our body into “fight or flight” mode.
Once we’re there, it’s so challenging to calm down. That’s why it’s important to learn mind tools to use when you realize your mind is going down the rabbit hole. We can then stop that negative train of thought and refocus the mind to think positively and neutralize the uncomfortable physical side effects, such as tense muscles and shortened breathing.
Learning these tools, applying these tools and practicing these tools is a process, but ultimately, if you’re interested in learning how to reach enlightenment through meditation, this article aims to provide you with 5 key tips to help you achieve this goal.
What is Spiritual Enlightenment?
Enlightenment has slightly differing meanings, depending on the religion or spiritual practices. While Buddhists view enlightenment as mentally waking up to the absolute Truth, with the result of reincarnation, in Hinduism, there are varied paths of enlightenment. Some believe that it is a sudden transformation to awakening, while others think it is a gradual process of being liberated from the mind.
According to Yogapedia, many yogis and gurus agree that we are all already enlightened. From this perspective, it can be defined as discovering what our true nature is, and finding a peaceful mind state from no longer being a slave to our thoughts. In the following paragraph, I will list and describe five tips on how to reach enlightenment through meditation.
Five Tips For Spiritual Enlightenment
Let’s begin with a helpful yogic breath technique.
1) Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath)
Ujjayi Pranayama (oo-JYEE praw-nuh-YAW-muh) is an easy, yet effective yogic breath that helps the body and mind become or stay relaxed. While it is often known as the breath done while doing the poses in Vinyasa Yoga, it can also be done in everyday life such as when you’re at work or driving, because it is easy to do when you understand the concept, and it’s fairly unnoticeable by others compared to various breathing techniques.
Doing this breath technique regularly is helpful for achieving enlightenment because it can help resolve emotional distress such as anger, anxiety, and fear by preventing you from holding your breath, allowing your mind to stay clear and your body to remain without tension and pain.
In order to do Ujjayi Pranayama, start by straightening your spine, whether you’re standing, sitting or lying on your back. This will allow the breath to be able to circulate throughout your body. Next, keeping your mouth closed, breath in through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold for 3 seconds. While keeping your mouth closed, exhale the breath from your nose to your throat for 6 seconds, so that you feel heat in your throat and you create a sound that sounds like the waves of the ocean crashing on the shore and rocks.
2) Visual Meditation
If you are a daydreamer or someone who visualizes a story while they’re reading, I recommend visual meditation. Visual meditation is one of the best stress relief techniques I use and is a way to completely focus on a scenario in your mind that helps you to become calmer in the present moment.
If you are new to visual meditation, take some time wherever you are to try imagining a place you normally feel calm, whether that is a specific room or around trees and water, or the ocean and sand. Imagine your favorite place and doing activities you love until you can replicate that sensation of calmness you usually feel there. If you are more experienced with visual meditation, I advise trying to imagine being where you are in the present moment, and figuring out a way to make it feel non-anxiety provoking.
If you are in traffic, imagine that you are still in the car, but the sound of honking is blocked by your car, and all you hear is calming music in your car. I use that example a lot because it can be stressful, knowing it’s not very easy to just leave your car on the freeway and then come back to it when you feel like it, but if you don’t experience traffic, my point is, whenever you are in a situation you feel stuck in, if you think leaving the present situation would do more harm than good, imagine what would make the present moment better and focus on the feeling of happiness or relaxation that comes up. This can also help you manifest a way to make that possible in your future.
3) Mantra and Positive Affirmations
If you process information better when it is auditory, you may prefer chanting mantra and positive affirmations over visual meditation. Mantra in Sanskrit means “mind tool” and helps you associate a feeling with words. Western science has shown that the mantra doesn’t have to be in Sanskrit to help you feel happier or more relaxed, but the Sanskrit mantras were designed to create a vibration in your body that affects your nervous system, believed to help the mood.
That’s why, in Western countries, we often refer to the phrase “Positive Affirmations”, as a similar practice to mantras. Positive Affirmations are words or phrases that have a socially accepted positive meaning, and therefore are supposed to help you think more optimistically and feel more grounded.
One chant you can start with is “Aum”, more commonly spelled now a days as “Om”, which is interpreted as “all” or “entire awareness”. When you drag out the sound of each letter of aum, you will feel a vibration in your mouth, that can take you through 4 stages of consciousness: outward focus on the physical world, superficial focus on the mind, deep meditation, and lastly, once there is no sound, there’s an indescribable sensation in the body and mind.
A positive affirmation could be any one word or couple of words that resonates with something you need more of in your life. For example, if you find that you blame yourself for situations that really aren’t your fault, you may benefit from pondering what self-love is and then making it a habit to repeat the phrase “self-love” over and over in your mind until the negative message no longer competes with your desire for self-love.
Play with both mantra and positive affirmations until you find what is best for you! We all vary in some ways, but on a physiological level, most humans benefit from sound!
4) Have Alone Time
Often times, when you hear about a spiritual guru, you’ll hear or read about them going on a long journey on their own. For example, Mikao Usui, known for spreading the practice of Reiki, climbed Mt. Kurama alone and fasted, when he felt reiki energy and was inspired to teach his ways.
Science has shown that alone time increases productivity, empathy, and creativity while also helping you get to know yourself without the confusion of outside influence. While it is dangerous to go without human contact for too long, due to our instinct associating it with depression or being abandoned by our community, it is important to have alone time once in a while to keep your sense of identity and take care of yourself.
“Alone Time” could be defined as doing anything by yourself, but often times, people find it helpful to write, draw, go hiking or even actively ponder in nature alone. Try doing different activities by yourself and see what you find most beneficial!
5) Testing Yourself
Once you have worked on the previous four steps for a while, you may want to step out of your comfort zone by testing yourself. You can do this by actively putting yourself in a situation you often find challenging, and seeing if you can use the tools you’ve learned to combat any stressful emotions or thoughts you normally have.
For example, if you live in a town with a small population, and are normally overwhelmed in large crowds, you may want to test yourself on whether you can emotionally handle being in a large city using breathing techniques, mantra, visual meditation, and once in a while, finding a place to have alone time. When you are in a crowd, you could breathe through the tensing of your lungs, tell yourself “I am relaxed and aware”, and imagine being at your destination, which hopefully, has less people, in this case.
Do know that this last tip takes a lot of focus and strength. I only recommend doing this when you’ve gotten a solid grasp on the last four tips, so that it’s easy to remember them, even when you sense your body is getting ready to stress out. I also don’t advise doing this regularly, for it may hinder or regress your progress. If you test yourself and find that you’re starting to get overwhelmed, cut that situation that is testing you out of your life until you’re ready again.
Do not test yourself again until you find yourself in a place that you are emotionally strong, and able to handle the battle of old thought patterns and decisions with new ones.
I hope that you found this information useful to combat any struggles you may have and I wish you the best on your journey to find enlightenment. Remember not to beat yourself up if you find one of these practices challenging, or if you fall off the path.
Always brush yourself off, and get back on the path without judgement. We are all human beings, doing our best to be the best versions of ourselves. Sometimes, stressful emotions can slow that transformation, but you’re in charge of accepting that obstacles are a part of all human life and having the will to find solutions and keep going.
Be good to yourself. That’s the secret to Enlightenment.
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