If I had to sum up the importance of meditation in a single sentence, it would be this quote that I recently came across.
The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts. It’s to stop letting them control you.Unknown
Meditation does to your mind what exercise does to your body. Meditation keeps your mind disease-free and healthful, much like regular exercise keeps your body fit and free of illness.
I believe that you are reading this post to get started on your meditation journey. I’ve been practicing meditation for quite some time now. It brings me joy to share any knowledge & experience I have about meditation. As well as what I wish I had known when I was just starting out myself. Meditation is, after all, a beautiful and magical thing that everyone should be aware of.
Let me proceed with answering three basic questions about meditation. What? Why? and How?
What is meditation?
Before I tell you what meditation is, let me clarify what it isn’t.
Meditation is frequently misunderstood to entail sitting in absolute stillness for long durations and hushing your thoughts. We assume that meditation is being free of all emotions and thoughts. This is simply untrue. Meditation is not something you just do, and it would be best if you didn’t think of it as just a verb!
“But I just cannot sit quietly without any thoughts!” or “My mind keeps wandering!” This is what people usually say. But hold on. If meditation isn’t suppressing our thoughts, then what is it?
Meditation is a state of being. It is not stilling our minds but instead becoming aware of it. Accepting and acknowledging the zillion thoughts that flood your mind without responding or becoming too attached to them.
Now you know what meditation is or rather isn’t. Let us move on to the next question.
Why should you meditate?
Meditation is a tool that could help you get to know yourself better, learn how your mind works, and what kinds of thoughts, ideas, and pictures you constantly feed your brain with. Becoming aware of these things helps you learn if you are nourishing negativity within you, which is the root cause of all your pain and suffering.
Do you feel that the only reward of meditation is relaxation? If you answered yes, let me give you a quick rundown of some other positives of practicing meditation daily.
- Helps lower nervousness, negativity, anxiety, and depression while fostering a sense of well-being. Thereby boosting your mental health significantly.
- Reduces the production of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, enabling your body to relax better. It is undoubtedly one of the best stress relief techniques there is!
- It Lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and enhances overall heart health.
- Helps deepen your connection with your inner self.
- It’s also been found to help people break free from addictions.
- According to research, It boosts your brain’s cognitive ability and makes decision-making smoother and easier for you. It also improves your memory and attention span.
- Helps with sleep disorders and insomnia.
- It can slow down the aging process.
With its numerous advantages, you should not forget that these are just the by-products of meditation and not its end goal. With that in mind, let me go on with the HOW.
How can you begin your meditation practice?
Here are a few simple tips to help you get started with your practice.
1. Make the commitment to practice meditation.
The first step that you should essentially take is committing to your practice. You’ve already taken the first step since you’re reading this article!
Be clear about making meditation a routine and not a one-time fad. Commit to practicing regularly. Preferably at a fixed time each day. Though there are no steadfast rules, allocating a set time every day ensures that you practice regularly and helps you to gradually cultivate meditation into a habit. Mornings are considered the best time for meditating as it gives you a head start for a productive day ahead.
2. Pick a spot for your meditation practice.
Don’t worry. I’m not saying that you need a picture-perfect, extravagant, and beautiful room adorned with plants, crystals, and the fragrance of essential oils, as they show on social media! (Though there is no harm if you do have that luxury 😉)
Just like a fixed time isn’t a requirement for meditation, so is a fixed place. You could practice literally anywhere. On your way to the office, in the park, or even at your desk! But when you are just starting out, it would be really convenient to have a quiet area free of any external noises.
As a beginner, it is already daunting enough to focus with all the endless noise in your mind. You would not want screaming children at the park to add to that noise, do you?
I would recommend that you pick a quiet corner in your home where you feel the most comfortable and where there are fewer or no distractions to hinder your practice. Once you get the hang of meditation, you will be able to practice literally anywhere. But until then, your corner is your best friend!
3. Stop with the ‘How to mediate?’ analysis paralysis!
You can never be completely ready! ever! So, stop researching and start doing. That is the only way you can get started.
There are millions of resources available, and it is impossible to go through them all. What is the right way? How do I sit? Should I use music? By doing this, you are just delaying yourself from starting what could be the most beautiful journey of your life. The journey of discovering yourself.
I hope this is the last article you read before you finally start practicing! Do not waste more time. Please! Just get started! That is what is essential.
4. Don’t be afraid of not getting it right!
Frankly speaking, the question of right or wrong shouldn’t even arise here since there is no right or wrong way to meditate! Whatever feels good to you, do that!
Just understand that no one is perfect from Day 1! No one was born knowing everything! That is why it is called practice! Give yourself some time. Be patient and just enjoy the process. With time, you’ll gain a better handle on it. (Again, what matters is that you feel good!)
5. Get started with your first meditation session ever!
You can follow the ten steps below to guide you through your first-ever session and then REPEAT them in each of your future sessions!
Seat yourself in a comfortable posture. There is no right or wrong way. You can sit on a chair, on the floor, or even lie down if that makes you feel more comfortable.
Be sure to loosen any tight belt, tie, or scarf you may be wearing. Put on some gentle music if you so wish.
You can choose to keep your eyes open or closed. As a beginner, closing your eyes may be difficult since you tend to try too hard, thus ending up with more thoughts than you usually do. So, it is totally okay if you keep your eyes open. With practice, you will be able to have your eyes closed for longer.
Begin by taking a few long and deep breaths, inhaling through your nose, and exhaling with a sigh through your mouth.
Once you have settled down, slowly shift your focus on your breathing. Use this as an anchor. Trace your breath as the air goes through your nose to your lungs and back out. Continue this for at least a good 15 minutes or for as long as you find comfortable.
It is natural for thoughts to overwhelm your mind. Do not try to push them away. Instead, acknowledge them while choosing not to react to them. And don’t treat them as foes or invaders. Be kind to your thoughts, and whenever you feel your mind has strayed away, use your anchor! That is, try to bring back your focus onto your breathing.
Slowly move inward, gently scanning each part of your body and how it is feeling at that exact moment.
Do not try to suppress any emotions that may arise. Anger, joy, love, or anything else. Accept it. I have even heard instances of people crying while meditating. If this happens to you, it is perfectly okay and is nothing to be ashamed of! It’s simply your body’s way of letting go of all the emotional baggage you’ve been carrying around your entire life!
As you prepare to end your session, take a moment to become aware of your body. Where your body is touching the ground. Accept all that you sense and feel. It might be the sound of rustling leaves, air grazing past your face, or any other minor detail.
Gently open your eyes while donning a beautiful smile on your face. Express gratitude to the universe and thank yourself for doing this for YOU! Do not try to stand up or move too fast immediately after meditating because it is common for you to feel dizzy after meditation. So, don’t hurry and take your time.
So, this brings me to the last question,
6. How much should you meditate?
There is an old Zen saying, and it goes like this,
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you are too busy, then you should sit for one hour.
This has been said to emphasize the necessity of meditation in today’s stressful, busy and chaotic world. Initially, practicing for even 2 minutes is going to be difficult. But do not give up just yet. The key is to not worry about how much you are meditating but rather to just keep practicing. You will gradually be able to meditate for longer durations. You can meditate for as long or as little as you like as long as you practice consistently.
Finally, I’d want to share some handy bonus tips worth knowing.
1. Every day is different. Similarly, each meditation session will be unique. And that’s perfectly okay. You won’t have the same experience tomorrow as you did today!
2. If you want to be guided through each and every step, guided meditations are a good option. They can really be helpful. Especially when you are just starting out and finding it challenging to practice on your own.
3. It is okay to feel a little sleepy after meditating. This is because meditation calms your mind and relaxes you, and your body confuses it for sleep. With time, your body will adjust.
4. Did you know that there are many different types of meditation like Loving-kindness meditation, Transcendental Meditation, and many others! You can try out various options before settling on what works best for you!
5. Make an effort to practice mindfulness throughout the day, not only during your meditation sessions. It is very beneficial to your mental and physical well-being.
6. Meditation is something that anyone, regardless of age, can do! So don’t be hesitant to encourage your children, parents, or anyone else to meditate!
Start practicing meditation right now, and don’t put it off any longer. I hope this post gave you the final push you needed. I would love to know your experiences of how meditation has benefited you in the comments below.