Getting Started With Meditation
In recent times there has been an increased focus on both mental and physical wellbeing, with businesses beginning to recognize the importance of their employees' happiness. Practices such as mindfulness, yoga and meditation have become part of the mainstream as individuals acknowledge the role that they can play in helping them achieve a strong sense of wellbeing and happiness.
In particular, meditation has been shown to have powerful effects on stress levels, concentration levels, self-awareness and numerous other factors that contribute to wellbeing. The value of introducing a meditation routine to your daily life should not be underestimated.
The challenge that exists for aspiring meditators is in knowing where to start. Answering three simple questions can make the process smooth, allowing you to develop a regular meditation routine and reap the benefits that meditation can bring.
Question 1: What is the goal of meditation?
When approaching a new task, it's natural to want a clear idea of what you are looking to achieve. In order to understand the goal of meditation, it's necessary to consider the nature of your mind.
At any moment, your mind most likely feels like a constant progression of thoughts. Each time one thought drops from your mind, another comes to take its place. This may seem to occur outside of your control, with the thoughts acting through their own free will.
Although the progression of thoughts may feel constant, there will be gaps between those thoughts. If you have a particularly busy mind, you may feel that there are no noticeable gaps between your thoughts. Rest assured, however, that the gaps are there.
Now that you understand the nature of your mind, the goal of meditation is simple: increase the length of the gaps between your thoughts. It is in these gaps that your mind is truly restful, without any attachment to external desires.
Question 2: How do I achieve this goal?
The practical process of meditation involves using a routine that focuses your mind, allowing the thoughts that pop into your head to simply pass through without being either indulged or fought against.
There are vast numbers of potential routines for focusing the mind, with one being particularly common. This common routine is recommended for new meditators as it involves only a simple focus on breathing.
The process involves merely maintaining an awareness of your breath. Begin by focusing on each inhalation and exhalation, allowing any other thoughts to just pass through your mind. The presence of other thoughts is not a sign that you are failing; it is the reality of how your mind works. The key is to neither indulge them and become attached nor have any aversion to them. Recognize that they are there and they will pass with time.
When you do indulge thoughts, as will inevitably happen, simply draw your attention back to your breath. The key is to use 25% of your focus on breathing, another 25% of your focus on drawing your attention back to breathing and the remaining 50% enjoying the gaps between your thoughts.
As you become a more experienced meditator, the gaps between your thoughts will grow. Although the gaps may not be consistent or ever-present, continue to simply draw your focus back to your breath. Enjoy the gaps when you do find them.
Question 3: When, where and how should I meditate?
There is no fixed setup to adhere to when meditating, but a few general tips can make the process smoother. First, always meditate sitting upright with your back straight. Whether you sit on the floor or in a chair with back support, keeping yourself upright ensures that you maintain sharpness of mind. Although it is possible to meditate while lying down, this can lead to drowsiness. As a new meditator, it is best to ensure that your mind remains sharp and clear.
Second, meditate with your eyes open and your gaze focused on a point in front of you. While this also isn't a set rule of meditation, with your eyes open you are far less likely to become drowsy.
In terms of location, you should simply look for a calm and quiet environment. The fewer external sounds or sights that exist to potentially draw your mind away from your breath, the more likely you are to increase the gaps between your thoughts. It can also be very helpful to ask others not to disturb you.
The length of time that you meditate for should be determined by the experiences you have in your meditation sessions. Although 20 minutes is a common recommendation, you may find it very difficult to focus on your breath for this length of time when first getting started. Try starting with shorter time periods, such as 5 minutes. As you progress, look to increase the time period gradually.
Give It A Try
With the answers detailed above, you should now have enough information to try meditation for yourself. To avoid frustration, be sure to remind yourself frequently that you aren't trying to block all thoughts from your mind. Thoughts are not the enemy and should simply be observed and allowed to pass through. You will often find your mind being dragged along by thoughts and you just need to bring your thoughts back to your breathing.
As time goes on, your mind will become less busy and the gaps between your thoughts will increase. At this point you will begin to reap the numerous benefits of meditation. With dedication and patience, meditation can change your life for the better.
Alexandra Ross is a freelance writer, food lover and healthy lifestyle writer.