1. What does meditation involve?
It depends on why discipline you are working within.
The whole point is that you are seeking to put the mind, and itÄôs endless turmoil, down. To get a break from the chatter, memory, fear, longing and negativity.
So the usual practices from all manner of disciplines include some or all of the following; Mantra, pranayama and mudra.
Mantra is basically Words of Power or phrases, sentences, prayers that have an energy given by their use by millions over millennia. For instance, Hail Mary, Full of Grace. Or Wah Hey Guru, Om namah Shivia, Om Mane Padme Om etc.
Pranayama is breath manipulation. The principle is that the air is filled with Prana, or Life Force, and that by increasing the levels of prana in the body, (and at the same time, hugely elevating the oxygen levels in the blood) you become elevated. What is elevated? This means that with the combination of the Prana and the extra oxygen there is an increased hormonal flow in the body and the stimulation increases the energy flowing vertically in the spine. From this, the expansion of the three main glands in the head allows for better intuition, awareness of the consequences of your actions increasing and a sense of calm.
Mudras are hand and finger positions. Touching the index finger tip to the top of the thumb is called gyan mudra. It is a position that grounds you and controls the ego. Other finger combinations produce different effects.
The combination of these three things, combined with the awareness that you need to leave the mind, and itsÄô thoughts, alone, are the basics of meditation.
2. How is it effective in relieving stress?
Meditation is extremely effective because you are choosing to go beyond your daily experiences and to make a choice for change. The act of sitting to still the mind is a powerful intention. Whether or not you succeed to your satisfaction is another thing entirely and all down to how much power you give the mind during the practice.
The mind does not want to be put down. It wants to be in control and manipulating all incoming information. The instant that you sit it will bombard you with memories, things to forget, and anything it can find to try and stop you discovering that you have a choice, that you can choose, there is another way. Meditation is lifeÄôs big secret. Very effective, but challenging. It takes time, willingness and practice to master.