What is it? Why do we want to do it? What do we expect to get out of it?

Basically, it’s a mastery of the mind and body-an escape, if you like, from everyday stresses of modern life from which we expect to find tranquillity and peace. It is a process of stilling the mind, clearing it of unwanted thoughts, whilst relaxing the physical and emotional body. There are many different ways of meditating and each way will be taught according to the religion or belief system of the teacher and those wishing to learn meditation.

The greatest problem for beginners is trying too hard. This in itself can cause stress, the very opposite of the goal we seek. Everyone has his or her own favourite way of meditating. For some it will be with music, others visualisation, or chanting a mantra, whilst others focus on an object such as a candle or flower. You have to do what feels right for you. There are a few basic rules in the early days. Mainly to find a place where you will not be interrupted and can be quiet. Take the telephone of the hook, don’t allow your pet to be in the same room, wrap a shawl or blanket around you as meditation lowers the heart rate and body heat. You can feel cold, particularly when coming out of meditation. Be seated in a comfortable position. Although it is better for the beginner to be seated, it is not necessary to adopt a yoga position; in fact to do so for the elderly or disabled could cause so much discomfort that there would be no possibility of meditating! Be sure to wear loose clothing, if possible, of natural fibres. Although it is increasingly difficult to find clothing without man made fibres, a loose kaftan or similar can be found in Indian shops which are usually made of pure cotton.

Your spine should be straight-whether seated or lying down. Close your eyes and begin breathing deeply, inhaling through the nose, with your mouth closed. Hold the breath gently for a few moments before exhaling through the mouth. It can be helpful to either concentrate on the sound of your breathing, or the rise and fall of the abdomen during breathing. Presence of the mind is all important. Mentally ‘watch’ and soon you will be aware of a different breathing rhythm

It can seem to beginners that they are going nowhere fast and they quickly become disheartened and often give up. Each individual will vary in the time it takes to learn the correct technique. It can be learned very quickly, but can also take months. It is important not to despair, however long it takes, and even if you do not appear to be meditating according to the book, your body and mind will be learning stillness. One of the main problems is that we are taught from childhood to breathe using our chest rather than our abdomen. Unless the breathing is controlled through the abdomen/solar plexus area then it is likely that the beginner, being anxious, will find himself or herself hyperventilating.

Many find using a crystal is helpful-the crystal’s energy enhances the auric field. If seated, hold a cleansed small crystal (quartz, amethyst or rose quartz) between the hands making sure the fingers of both hands touch each other and the crystal for good electrical contact. The energy flows naturally from the right hand into the crystal where it is amplified and sent to the left hand through the arms. This energy goes into the hypothalamus and then into the nervous system. It repeatedly stimulates the energy field so deepening the state of meditation.

There are also many groups which run meditation courses, based on as many different methods as there are religions. Some people will find group meditation helpful, whilst others can find it more of a distraction. Again, it is up to the individual to find what feels right.


Kulkan's Pyramid by day
Fire-walkers, Kandy, Sri-Lanka

For centuries, the art of man walking on fire has been a part of religious and mystical ceremonies in many parts of the world. The only part of the world I have personally seen this is in Sri Lanka.

This followed a concert of local folklore in Kandy, which takes place regularly and is aimed at tourists. There is no doubt that the fires are real-the heat from them can be felt more than 30 feet away. Sparks fly high into the sky and petrol is continuously poured unto the flames to keep the fire stoked up. It appears that the local men dowse themselves liberally with water before the firewalking. There is no hurried rush to cross the flames; all appears calm and controlled with dignity.

During the Perahera Festival, the most famous of which is celebrated at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, but which is also enacted in other parts of Sri Lanka, fire-walking is part of the religious ceremonies. In July and August, the amazing Kataragama Festival takes place over a two-week period. Once deep jungle, this has become a place of worship for Hindus as well as Buddhists, Muslims and, surprisingly some Christians. The major part of devotees are Hindus, as the festivals honour Skanda, (the God of War) the main deity of Kataragama. Here, acts of self-mortification take place in repayment of vows. Some roll half-naked in scorching sand. Others skewer their cheeks and tongues with miniature spears. The most famous spectacle is the fire walking. Old men and women, as well as small children, walk over a bed of burning embers without any visible sign of discomfort and show no injury to their feet. Originally holy men enacted these ceremonies. Now it is the local people who participate with the Holy man directing the ceremony.

It is known that many walkers have undergone a long religious training and are able to put themselves into a trance state at will. In this trance state they will feel no pain and fear no harm to their person. However, this reasoning does not seem valid for children.

Although Western scientists have examined these firewalkers and noted that not even their soles were burnt or blistered, and the person had normal reactions to sensitivity tests, they cannot offer any rational explanation as to why firewalkers are not badly burnt. I personally believe they are in a state of deep self-hypnosis. In the deepest form of meditation/trance the human body can block out pain. It has been recorded that many major operations have been undertaken with the patient in a trance state. In its own way, fire walking is comparable with the men of the Philippines who act out the crucifixion of Christ; by allowing themselves to be crucified each Easter.
The Third Eye

For thousands of years man has been credited with having a third eye. It is known by man as the Eye of Enlightenment. The more psychic the person, the more open is this ‘eye’. It grants the access of knowledge through clairvoyant means, which would normally not be known. This chakra is connected to the pineal gland. The pineal gland is pea-sized, and buried at the back of the skull.

In the 4th century BC, the Greek Herophilus stated that the pineal gland was the valve, which regulates the flow of thought. Some 2,000 years later the French philosopher Descartes called it the seat of the rational soul.

A study of creatures, which have not changed their forms for aeons, reveals that the pineal gland is sensitive to light. This light is allowed through via the Third Eye Chakra. In 1958 Aaron Lerner, an American scientist discovered a hormone produced by the pineal gland. He named this Melatonin and it controls the spread of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to the skin and hair. Melatonin is a by-product of seratonin, which is found in large quantities in the pineal gland. When the correct amount of seratonin is present in the brain, it is thought that man can ‘think straight’. When it is absent then hallucinations can occur. Those who take mind-altering drugs upset their seratonin level, which can cause numerous and horrific side effects, according to the drug taken and the vibrations of the individual.