Early in the morning, a solitary figure rises from bed, splashes her face with water and walks to a small room. There are fresh flowers, wide windows, and a single round cushion. Sitting on the cushion, the woman folds her legs and closes her eyes. Twenty minutes later, she emerges from the room to shower and prepare for work.

Many people practice similar meditations either at the beginning or end of each day. These tend to be quiet times, with little activity and few disruptions. They are also transition times; people are either waking and preparing for the day or returning from work and settling in for the evening. Many people find that morning meditation is particularly effective. It is easier to focus the mind before outside distractions and work activities begin. Meditating in the morning is a way to bring the mind to a state of awareness, clarify intentions for the day and renew self-confidence.

Meditation is often misunderstood. Not just a method for relaxing and calming the mind, meditation is actually a powerful tool for self-realization and spiritual fulfillment. In true meditation, the seer moves deep within, temporarily withdrawing senses from the outside world. It is a both a process of discovery and a restorative practice for the body, mind and spirit. Rather than resting the mind, meditation focuses it until the mind merges with the self.

While meditation is by definition a solitary act, there many advantages to group meditation. In a class with an instructor, there is guidance and assistance that can help one to meditate more effectively. A good teacher will have tips and techniques, while understanding the pitfalls and traps that our own minds can set. Group meditation serves as positive reinforcement. Meditators are among others that are following the same path. Meditating with a group of people can enhance the effects, leaving each individual more energized and aware. Lastly, joining a group or class is a form of commitment. It is easier to keep a practice going with others than meditating only alone at home.

Ultimately, meditation leads to better self-awareness. We grow more comfortable with ourselves, awakening a steady, calm inner presence and light that can guide us through life and all of its challenges with compassion, honesty and understanding. Meditation is a gift to one’s self.