Meditation has been found to be good for one’s health, but what is meditation exactly? Meditation is a way to train the mind and body in a way that is similar to physical fitness. It can enjoyed by anyone of any age, from beginners to monks, and it can be performed in solitary or in a group setting.
While it can be difficult for a beginner as sitting for hours and emptying the mind can be difficult, many meditation teachers and enthusiasts recommend focusing on the breath. It is recommended that beginners meditate for only a few minutes each day and build their “meditation muscles,” working up to longer lengths of time.
As with forms of exercise, there are many approaches to meditation.
- Concentration meditation – A technique used when the person mediating concentrates on a single point. This point can include the breath, the repetition of a word or mantra, or a candle flame. Some even use a string of beads as a point of concentration. Whatever you use, be sure that you focus on this object as soon as you sense the wandering of your mind. Let go of runaway thoughts and only concentrate on your object.
- Mindfulness meditation – This technique allows the mind of the person meditating to wander. These “wanderings” are then observed without judgment. The purpose of this technique is to be aware of your thoughts and feelings, how they repeat in patterns, and how they can be eventually tamed for inner balance.
- Cultivation of compassion – This technique, practiced by Buddhist monks, involves mindful concentration on negative events being recast into positivity through the practice of compassion.
While there are a number of meditation techniques, take the time to try them for yourself. Soon, you will discover which works the best for your needs. Don’t forget to explore the meditation techniques that involve physical movement: tai chi, chi kung and walking meditation.
The Benefits of Meditating
The goal of meditating is to be present. Knowing how to mediate will liberate your mind from situations outside of your control. And while we do not know all of the mental, emotional and physical benefits of meditation, there are a good number that have been proven by researchers when meditation has been practiced on a consistent basis.
- Deep relaxation
- Improved blood circulation
- Fewer bouts of anxiety
- Less perspiration
- Stress relief
- Decreased blood cortisol levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower heart rate
- Increased life satisfaction and well-being
- Slower respiratory rate
Many medication researchers are finding that consistent meditation practices increase one’s lifespan, bringing positive effects on brain and immune functions.
How to Meditate
The best way to learn how to mediate is to understand why you’re doing it. Once you have the purpose in mind, it is a little easier to prepare yourself mentally and physically for your mediation session.
The most recommended method for meditating beginners is to focus on your breath while following these step-by-step basics:
- Find a space that is quiet and comfortable. This may be a room, a garden or a special retreat.
- Sit in a comfort position.
- Gently close your eyes.
- Breathe naturally and concentrate your breathing patterns.
- “Watch” your body as it moves with your inhalations and exhalations.
- When your mind wanders (and it will), just free your mind of those thoughts and return your focus to your breath.
- Continue with this process for two or three minutes, building up your “meditation muscles.” Soon, you will be able to add more time.
It is important to note that meditation isn’t result oriented. It is about being present without internal and external distractions.
Speaking of external distractions, some people like to listen to music or natural sounds while meditating. Although this is relaxing, it is not considered meditation in the truest sense of the word. However, you could consider listening to music as a form of meditation in and of itself. If you plan to use mediation music or natural sounds in your daily practice, then develop your awareness of the harmonies and melodies, the way your body responds to the rhythms and the way they evoke your emotional responses. Just be consistent with your meditation music, finding a comfortable place to sit or lie and focusing in on only the sounds.