How to meditate
Simply put, we are better when we meditate. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and is known to provide various benefits for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. When we meditate, our brain enters a state of deep relaxation and focused attention, which can lead to a range of positive effects. Let us walk you through the basics in this mindfulness guide.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that involves training and focusing the mind to achieve a state of mental clarity, emotional calmness, and inner peace. It is often associated with various religious and spiritual traditions, but it can also be practiced as a secular activity for its numerous benefits on mental and physical well-being.
During meditation, individuals typically sit or assume a comfortable posture, close their eyes or softly gaze at a specific point, and engage in specific techniques or mental exercises. These techniques can vary, but they often involve directing attention to a particular object, such as the breath, a mantra (a repeated word or phrase), a visualization, or a specific sensation in the body.
The primary goal of meditation is to cultivate a state of mindfulness, which is the practice of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. By focusing attention on a chosen object or by simply observing thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations as they arise without getting caught up in them, individuals develop a greater sense of self-awareness and learn to be fully present in the here and now.
Meditation can be practiced in different forms and styles, such as mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, transcendental meditation, and many others. The duration and frequency of meditation sessions can also vary, ranging from a few minutes to hours, and can be practiced individually or in groups under the guidance of a teacher.
It's worth noting that while meditation is often associated with relaxation and tranquility, it is not about emptying the mind or stopping thoughts altogether. Instead, it is about observing thoughts and allowing them to pass without getting attached or carried away by them. With regular practice, meditation can help individuals cultivate a sense of inner peace, clarity, and overall well-being.
We've got seven reasons why you must incorporate meditation into your daily routine NOW!
- Are you stressed? Meditation can help with that! Meditation helps reduce stress by activating the relaxation response in our bodies. It can lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and promote a sense of calmness and inner peace.
- Monkey brain controlling you? Regular meditation practice can enhance our ability to concentrate and sustain attention. It strengthens the neural pathways associated with focus and helps us resist distractions.
- Feeling overwhelmed?Meditation cultivates mindfulness, the practice of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. This allows us to observe our thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them. It can help regulate emotions, reduce negative feelings like anxiety and depression, and promote overall emotional well-being.
- How well do you know you? Through meditation, we develop a greater understanding of ourselves and our thoughts. It allows us to observe our patterns of thinking and behavior, facilitating personal growth and self-reflection.
- Free your mind! Regular meditation has been associated with improved cognitive abilities, such as enhanced memory, increased creativity, and better problem-solving skills. It may also slow down age-related cognitive decline.
- Get up and try again! Meditation can boost our resilience, helping us bounce back from setbacks and cope with challenges more effectively. It can provide a sense of inner strength and stability, enabling us to navigate life's ups and downs with greater ease.
- Get fit from the inside out. Meditation has been linked to various physical health benefits. It can lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions.
How to meditate
You make the rules for you! Meditation is a personal practice, and there are various approaches and techniques you can try. Here is a basic guide to get started with a simple meditation technique:
1. Find a quiet and comfortable space: Choose a place where you can sit quietly without distractions. It can be a dedicated meditation space or any quiet corner of your home.
2. Assume a comfortable posture: Sit in a position that allows you to be both alert and relaxed. You can sit on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed, or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keep your spine straight but not rigid, and rest your hands on your lap or thighs.
3. Close your eyes or soften your gaze: Close your eyes gently or maintain a soft gaze, whatever feels comfortable for you.
4. Focus on your breath: Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. You can focus on the rising and falling of your abdomen or the feeling of air passing through your nostrils.
5. Be present and observe: As you focus on your breath, thoughts, emotions, and sensations may arise. Instead of getting caught up in them, simply observe them without judgment and let them pass. If you find yourself carried away by thoughts, gently bring your attention back to the breath.
6. Cultivate a non-judgmental attitude: Practice accepting whatever arises during your meditation without labeling it as good or bad. Be kind and compassionate toward yourself.
7. Maintain consistency: Start with shorter sessions, such as 5 or 10 minutes, and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable. Aim to practice regularly, ideally daily, to experience the benefits of meditation.
Apart from focusing on the breath, you can also explore other meditation techniques, such as body scan meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or guided meditation, which involves listening to recorded instructions or using a meditation app.
Remember that meditation is a skill that develops over time with practice. It's normal for the mind to wander during meditation, so be patient and gentle with yourself. As you continue to practice, you may find that your ability to focus, relax, and be present improves.
Let's try a basic meditation technique known as breath awareness:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. You can sit cross-legged on a cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Rest your hands on your lap or thighs.
- Close your eyes gently or maintain a soft gaze, whichever feels more comfortable for you.
- Take a few deep breaths to relax your body and settle into the present moment.
- Shift your attention to the sensation of your breath. Notice the natural rhythm of your breath, whether it's through your nostrils, in your chest, or in your abdomen.
- Focus on the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Pay attention to the physical sensations associated with each breath, such as the coolness or warmth of the air, the expansion and contraction of your chest or abdomen, or the feeling of the breath flowing in and out.
- As you focus on your breath, you may notice thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations arise. Acknowledge their presence without judgment and gently return your attention to the breath.
- If you find your mind wandering or getting caught up in thoughts, gently bring your focus back to the breath each time, using it as an anchor for your attention.
- Continue this practice for a predetermined amount of time, such as 5, 10, or 15 minutes. You can use a timer to signal the end of your meditation session.
- When you're ready to conclude your meditation, slowly bring your awareness back to your surroundings. Take a moment to notice how you feel after the practice.
Remember, the goal of this meditation is to cultivate a sense of present-moment awareness by focusing on the breath. It's normal for your mind to wander during the practice, so be patient and gentle with yourself. Over time, with consistent practice, you may find it easier to maintain your focus and experience the benefits of increased mindfulness and relaxation.