Meditation isn’t just one thing. It’s not sitting crossed legged on the floor saying ‘ohm’ repeatedly whilst your fingers and thumbs form a little circle as they rest against your knees. Meditation is more of an umbrella name for a range of varieties and techniques. Just as ‘sports’ doesn’t mean only football, ‘meditation’ means many things and it’s finding the process that works best for you that will make all the difference.
Firstly, what are the benefits of meditation? Obviously, relaxing and calming the mind, but there are many other advantages too.
Lower blood pressure
Lower heart rate
Lower anxiety levels
Lower cortisol levels
Improved blood circulation
Meditation is a bit like running. You won’t be able to run an entire marathon on your first jog just as you won’t be able to sit in silence for hours on your first session. It takes time to become one with the mind and body, to be able to be calm for the whole process and give undivided attention to peace, unity and that feeling of relaxation.
One way to control your focus is by using an outside stimulus. This could be your breath, a chanting mantra, a specific point in the room or a smell from a scented candle. As the initial process of settling your attention on a single thing can be a struggle for beginners, this helps that process. Start with 3 minute sessions and gradually work up until 20 minute sessions are a breeze.
Thinking during meditation isn’t a bad thing. Many people seem to think that if a thought enters your brain while your meditating then you need to get rid of it immediately. Instead, you simply need to observe the thoughts as they come and go. Don’t hold on to them, don’t treat them negatively. This immediate judgement of something being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is unnecessary and what really stops the exercise. Just let them wander in and wander out, floating through like the smoke from a candle. To keep your thoughts under control, use a mantra such as ‘I am calm’ or ‘I am one with the world’ as a silent focus.
Meditation needn’t be practiced still, either. You can meditate by walking, doing yoga, tai-chi or any other non-vigorous motions. Meditation is simply letting the mind be free of the shackles we impose on it everyday.
Here is a simple way to start meditating today:
Sit or lie on a bed, the floor, a chair or wherever you find comfortable in a position you find relaxing
Close your eyes to minimise distractions from the outside world. Using ear plugs or an eye mask can be very helpful in the early stages of learning how to meditate properly. Using a relaxing soundtrack of water, beach or animal sounds can also help.
Do not attempt to alter your breath, thoughts or anything else. Simply let your breath settle itself and any thoughts enter and leave as they please.
Move your focus to your breath and it’s resulting effects. Feel how your chest rises, how the breath feels as it draws in down your throat and back again out the nose. Feel any physical tension you may have and let it mellow out.
Keep at step four for 3 minutes and then gradually work up to 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes. Soon enough you’ll be meditating and half an hour will pass in the blink of an eye