Meditation has shed its hippy, new age image. It’s now enjoyed and endorsed by all…celebrities, top business moguls, the military, professional athletes… click here for an A List of the rich and powerful who meditate… And it’s not surprising. Meditation offers such rich rewards for so little time an effort. Lets dive deeper and look at what is meditation, why we should do it and some ideas on how!!!
Meditation is a huge subject, we’re just skimming the surface today. Enough to hopefully get you meditating which is what it’s all about…
Its about a 6 minute read, here’s a brief outline.
- What is meditation?
- Why should we meditate?
- Some ideas on how to meditate.
- Some tips on meditating.
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What is Meditation?
What is meditation? Here’s the Wikipedia description:-
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation
Please note in this definition the word ‘practice’…
…Meditation is a practice not a theory!
It needs to be done not talked about, theorised, planned and prepped for, just done! That’s important.
There are many different kinds of meditation so you can experiment and choose the one that works best for you according to your needs and personality. You can do more than one kind of course:-
- Mindfulness meditation (originates from Bhuddism and most common in the West)
- Moving meditation (yoga, tai chi, gardening, walking…)
- Metta or loving-kindness meditation. (often done in the ‘Daily Calm’ on the Calm app.)
- Guided meditation. (i.e. in a class or with your Calm or Headspace app)
- Transcendental meditation (click to read more)
- Mantra meditation (click to read more)
- Spiritual meditation (click to read more)
They can roughly be divided into 3 styles as below:-
Concentration: focusing attention on a single object, internal or external (focused attention meditation)
Observation: paying attention to whatever is predominant in your experience in the present moment, without allowing the attention to get stuck on any particular thing (open monitoring meditation)
Awareness: allowing awareness to remain present, undistracted and not engaged with either focusing or observinghttp://www.liveanddare.com
If your mind is blown, don’t worry, it’s easier to practice it than theorise it.
It might help to think of meditation as strength training for the mind and soul.
Like strength training it needs to be done regularly for best results.
In the case of meditation, a daily practice is best.
Why Should We Meditate?
Here’s what I personally feel I gain from my daily practice:-
- It helps me remember who I am and makes me feel more me.
- It’s helping me bring my best self out, to develop the very best me.
- It makes me feel comfortable and safe in my own skin.
- I’m more at peace with myself.
- I need nothing else but me and my breath to have a safe haven to relax, recharge and recuperate.
- Proper relaxation means a sharper mind when I need it.
- I just focus on the tasks I need to do with more ease.
- I experience much less stress and anxiety. When I’m in a stressful situation I always use meditation to help me out.
- It helps me maintain a very positive view of the world. I’m very content with the world and my place in it. I can only control what’s within my own power.
- I’m much calmer under pressure.
- I don’t have many personal dramas any more, I seem to be able to take charge of situations and deal with them.
- I can remain detached from other peoples drama and so better able to help.
- It plays a big part along with a healthy diet, exercise etc in my overall good health.
Many scientific studies have show meditation to be very beneficial to our health, particularly in the following areas:-
- Stress reduction ( including stress related illness, IBS, PTSD, Fibromyalgia)
- Anxiety and all its associated problems and conditions.
- Mental and emotional health – decreases depression, enhances self image, promotes a positive outlook.
- An increased self awareness and an enhanced view of the self.
- A sharper mind – ability to stay focused, creative problem solving, less worrying about things we have no control over.
- May reduce age related memory loss
- Encourage you to practice kindness, patience and empathy towards yourself and all living beings, even your enemies!!!
- Can help with addictions. (click more for an interesting read)
- Improves sleep the ability to relax deeply and quieten the monkey mind quickly will undoubtedly improve sleep. For more on sleep cick here to read my recent blog post.)
- Can help control pain.
- Can decrease blood pressure which in turn helps prevent heart disease. Blood pressure decreases both during the act of meditation and is shown to be decreased in general in regular meditators.
- May boost immune system. Click to see study.
If you want to read about even more benefits click here to read the article 76 Benefits of Meditation.
Some of the benefits of meditation are immediate and some may take time to develop. Remember, it’s always the journey that matters not the destination. Dont be in a rush to get somewhere just enjoy the ride, that’s where the fun and the discovery are.
Your motivation to meditate may change over time. You may start out because you want to be healthier, you need to de-stress, sleep better etc. This is all fantastic, but eventually you will be motivated by the meditation itself. Because you love how it makes you feel…
My motivation now is to enjoy the simple and peaceful joy of meditation.
How – Some Ideas on How to Meditate
You can do as little or as much as you need. It’s probably best to start off small. Ten minutes is great but less is also great if that’s all you can manage.
There is an old Zen saying which I first heard from Max Strom (His book ‘A Life Worth Breathing’ is well worth reading)…
…‘Meditate for 20 minutes, if you haven’t got 20 minutes meditate for an hour’
Here’s some ways to fit meditation into your life:-
Get Yourself a meditation app like Calm or Headspace. Very inexpensive, well worth the money. They have a menu of meditations to choose from depending on what you fancy or need at the time. I’ve heard these types of guided meditations called ‘the junk food’ of the meditation world but I don’t agree.
They are a great start. A fantastic introduction to the world of meditation. An absolute godsend. They make meditating available to all.
There is something for everyone from calming anxiety to loving kindness to Winnie the pooh meditations (my favourite). They also include unguided meditations of varying lengths with just an occasional bell to bring you back to the breath (which should quieten the ‘junk food’ critics.)
Do your Daily Calm from the calm app. This is my choice. Daily Calm is a 10 minute meditation that appears on the Calm app every day. I don’t need to think about it I just get what I’m given.
Every day is a different message, a different something to reflect on. It takes 10 minutes of my day.
I do it first thing in the morning before I even get up, instead of turning over and snoozing, I play the Daily Calm. Right there lying down in my bed. No special position, no special clothes, no fuss. I just do it!!
I do this every morning without fail. Then later on in the day if I can find the time I will fit in an unguided meditation, sitting in silence, using an unguided meditation from the Calm app for the bells or perhaps with meditational type music. More tips below for just meditating.
This type of meditation is what we think of when we think of meditation but there is meditation in other activities giving the same or similar benefits. Here’s some I use:-
Ashtanga Yoga – a moving meditation which unfies ujaii breathing with movement.
Walking in nature – A form of meditation, just concentrating on breathing and a steady pace.
Gardening – Working with and becoming absorbed in nature…bliss…
Meditating to music – especially after a workout session I always take 10 minutes to just lie and be, concentrating on some appropriate music. The album I love listening to is…
‘Yoga and Mindfulness, music for Bhuddist Meditation and Transcendental Meditation, Spa Relaxation and Healing Music Therapy’. – Various artists. I know, quite a mouthful. It’s stunning… I can’t recommend it enough. It’s available on Apple Music.
I’ve read literally hundreds of books on meditation. Undoubtedly I learned something from each and everyone of them but there is one that stood out. ‘Guided Meditations, Evoking the Divine Ground of Your Being’ by Adyashanti. I learned a lot from him that I still use to this day.
Tips for Meditating
On a practical level, you will want:-
- To be somewhere reasonably quiet and comfortable.
- To be sitting (or lying) in a comfortable position you can maintain for the duration of your meditation.
- Eyes closed is most people’s preference although not strictly necessary.
- Concentrate on the breath
- Compassionately return to the breath.
- Commit to stillness.
- Observe don’t react.
Notes on the Tips:-
- I find Ujjai breathing to be the best during meditation This is the breath used in Ashtanga yoga. Sometimes called the ocean breath because it sounds like the ocean when done. Click for a link to a short video tutorial on how to do it. I tend to begin my meditation with Ujjayi then resort to just my normal breath.
- This means if you find you have stopped concentrating on the breath and your mind has wondered you should go back to the breath without judgement on yourself. Show yourself compassion after all, we are all just human including you. We all have ‘monkey minds’ even the Zen masters. You will never get to a place where your mind won’t wander, this is not the goal of meditation.
- Don’t move, commit to stillness, it’s probably harder than you think. If your nose is itchy don’t scratch it, If you notice your hair is on your face dont reach up and move it. The discomfort will soon disappear, How can we hope to settle our minds when we move at every sign of discomfort. Outer stillness allows inner stillness to happen and that is a beautiful thing.
- Contrary to popular belief we’re not trying to clear our minds of all thoughts during meditation. We’re simply detaching from the thoughts, observing them without becoming involved. Realising that we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are not THE TRUTH, they are simply our thoughts. AND REMEMBER, if you do become involve in your thoughts, which you will, just gently and compassionately return to the breath.
I like to end all meditation sessions with the following affirmation. Depending on where I am I will say them out loud or in my head.
Let all beings be happy
Let all beings be at peace
Let all beings be free
Om Shanti shanti shanti
Peace Peace Perfect Peace
I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestion, comments and questions in the comments section below.
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