There are so many misconceptions about meditation despite the fact that it’s been around for thousands of years. There are numerous varieties of the types of meditation such as breathing meditations, mantra meditations, chakra meditations and mindfulness meditations, but the technique is all the same.
As there is such a wide variety of practices I believe this is why meditation has been misinterpreted as something so complex, when it’s actually quite simple! Regardless of what type of meditation you do, they all have the same outcomes and benefits: less thoughts and living more presently (being the two main examples). Over periods of time of consistent practice, one can transcend, activate higher levels of consciousness and even spiritually awaken. Unlocking new levels of consciousness help you to connect to your higher self; experiencing deep and profound inner peace and bliss, connectedness, oneness and complete awareness and consciousness.
Meditation is not for religious people nor is it a religion in itself. It’s a simple and natural practice/technique done purely for the purpose to help yourself live a more fulfilled life. That’s literally all it is. Pretty simple right? The good news is you don’t need to be a monk or live in the Himalayan to meditate. It’s our natural state of being, therefore, anyone can do it.
First off, let’s start with WHY you should meditate.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Did you know that meditating can actually rewire the structure of the brain? Here’s a fun fact: a recent study, involving 1,258 patients, concluded that “mindfulness therapy such as meditation is as effective as anti depressants but doesn’t have the same side effects”. These researches found that mindfulness is particularly effective in people who suffer from recurrent depression and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve suffered from chronic depression for almost a decade and since meditating, it’s reduced dramatically!
To keep it basic, I’ve listed some further benefits of meditation:
- Less recurring depression (though we don’t recommend using it to replace any medication or prescribed treatments!)
- Reduces stress levels
- Improves your mood
- Improved concentration
- Helps break habits and addictions
- Enhances self awareness
- Improves length of attention span
- Manages, prevents and controls anxiety
- Helps to lower blood pressure
- Improves sleep
- Promotes emotional and mental health
What type of meditation should I do?
For a beginner, I would recommend the simplest form of meditation such as a breathing meditation. Of course it comes down to personal preference but in my opinion if you dive into something more advanced, you’re going to get overwhelmed and you’re more likely to give up.
A breathing meditation can be as simple as sitting crossed legged and focusing on your breath. Try lying down for a moment and look at your stomach; watch how your stomach rises when you breath in and falls as you breath out. Take notice of the air travelling through your lungs and the way your chest expands. Bring the attention to your breath as it travels from your chest, into your nose and our from your mouth. Focus on this for a solid 5 minutes. Try a couple of minutes with eyes open and then continue with eyes closed. Although it may feel like you’re not doing much, you will begin to notice that your full attention is focused purely on your breathing, your body movements and how you’re feeling at this point in time. This is you being present. This is how you meditate.
Once you master this technique, you may then want to learn about and try other methods, such as the ones mentioned above.
I want to meditate, but I can’t stop thinking!
This is where a big misconception falls into play. A lot of people think meditation is based on “switching off” and have absolutely zero thoughts. This IS NOT why we meditate. The more you try to control your thoughts, the more you will only realise just how out of control of them you really are. We have 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. Telling you not to think for 10 seconds is like me telling you not to breathe for 10 seconds; you cant stop it because i’ts something we all naturally do! Overtime one can however, TEMPORARILY experience what feels like moments of no thoughts but in fact, is an extended period of the time of the space BETWEEN the next thought. It’s something I myself have experienced over 3 years I’ve been meditating and is something quite profound; this is a form of transcending.
Don’t go into meditation with the notion of “okay I’m not going to have a single thought” or “I’m going to stop thinking for just 2 seconds”. Those thoughts are already thoughts in themselves… do you see what you did there? During your meditation, acknowledge your thoughts, but do not identify them. Watch them from the third person, as the observer. This is how you become aware of your higher sense of self; the space in between your thoughts. Once you realise you’re in fact the observer of your thoughts, you know there is more to you because, well, who is the observer exactly? When a thought comes, acknowledge it and then gently let it go. Don’t try to force it away or get angry when it doesn’t fade quick enough.
A lot of beginners will get frustrated during this process and quit. Don’t give up so easily and don’t be so hard on yourself. Start by meditating as little as 5 minutes a day and increase gradually. Start from 5 minutes to 10 to 15 and then to 20 minutes per day. I personally meditation 20 minutes per day and 40 minutes at most.
Should I sit down or lie down when I meditate?
You can sit however you like whether its on a chair sitting upwards or cross legged on the floor, bed or a cushion. I personally change between sitting cross legged on my bed and between the seated lotus position which is something a little more complex. The lotus position is sitting cross legged with your feet on your thighs with the soles of your feet facing upwards. It can be a little uncomfortable at first but comes with ease over practice but sit whichever way is most comfortable and most suitable for you.
I don’t recommend to lay down to meditate because your body will naturally fall asleep. This is okay if you’re meditating yourself to sleep but not if you’re waking up to meditate before starting your day!
Should I listen to music to help me meditate?
Listening to music is probably something I would recommend if you’re a beginner to help ease you in. Music already naturally puts us into a trance-like state if you’re listening to sounds of nature. Running waterfalls or birds amongst the forest is incredibly peaceful and soothing to listen to so if you’re looking to use music during your practice, I would recommend nature. Of course music is not a necessity during meditation. It comes down to personal preference. I personally listen to Tibetan and Buddhist chanting during my meditation.
Sounds great, but I don’t have the time for meditation!
Anyone has time for anything. It comes down to prioritising and how badly you want to do it. I used to wake up at 4:30 every morning to meditate before I’d start my day. In order to meditate, one does not have to be sitting with eyes closed.
You can be meditating by even walking around by just focusing on your breath and focusing all your attention on what you’re doing. Take peeling a potato for example: take real notice of what you’re doing here. How heavy does the potato feel, is it light or is it heavy? What colour is it? what does it smell like? How does the texture feel, is it rough or is it smooth? This is bringing your complete awareness into what you’re doing in the “here and now”. Focusing on what you’re doing whatever it may be, helps you to control and prevent your thoughts travelling elsewhere – this is simply meditation!
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