Meditation is a centuries-old practice with deep roots in various traditions, cultures, and religions. Despite its ancient origins, meditation remains as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. In this comprehensive guide, I will explore how to meditate and offer practical tips based on my personal experience.
Meditation is a practice centered on fostering awareness of the present moment. It involves focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and develop mental clarity and emotional stability.
Meditation is not about emptying the mind, but about becoming aware of its contents, observing them without judgment, and letting them flow freely.
The benefits of meditation
Meditation offers an array of benefits that span both the physical and mental realms. Research has demonstrated that regular meditation can reduce stress, ease anxiety, promote better sleep, enhance concentration, and foster a sense of calm and wellbeing. As we continue to navigate an increasingly fast-paced and stressful world, these benefits are becoming ever more crucial.
In my experience meditation helps to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing. However that’s not the greatest benefit. There is also the ‘benefit of the benefit’. My lower levels of stress have benefited me further, by helping to improve the most important relationships in my life.
Also, compassion meditation has helped me gain a different perspective on life that is greater than just stress reduction.
Preparing for meditation
Before you dive into meditation, it is important to set the stage for a successful practice. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Find a Quiet Space: Choose a spot where you can meditate without interruptions. This space doesn’t need to be completely silent, but it should be peaceful enough for you to focus.
- Set a Regular Time: Consistency is key in meditation. Try to meditate at the same time each day to establish a routine.
- Choose a Comfortable Position: Whether you prefer to sit on a cushion, chair, or even lie down, ensure your position is comfortable and your posture is upright but relaxed.
- Dress Comfortably: Wear loose, comfortable clothing that won’t restrict your movement or cause discomfort during meditation.
- Decide on a Duration: Start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice.
In my experience it’s our living-room sofa, early in the morning, after I’ve taken my son to school. My knees won’t allow me to sit cross-legged, so I just sit comfortably with my feet on the ground. My wife will still be moving around our flat, but it’s quiet enough.
And I started with 5 minute meditations, and now meditation for about 12-15 minutes. It’s not long, but still has great benefit! Many people use 10-minute guided meditations, however I prefer to meditate until it comes to a natural end.
How to meditate: basic techniques
There are several techniques you can employ in your meditation practice, but as a beginner, it’s best to start with the basics:
- Focus on the Breath: Pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your abdomen or the sensation of the breath entering and exiting your nostrils.
- Body Scan: Gradually shift your attention through different parts of your body, from your toes to your head, observing any sensations you encounter.
- Mindful Observation: Choose a natural object in your environment and focus on observing it in detail, such as a flower, a flame, or even a piece of fruit.
- Loving Kindness Meditation: This practice involves focusing on developing feelings of compassion and love towards yourself and others.
In my experience it’s the focus on breath which comes most naturally, I don’t find a lot of benefit in the body scan. And I’ve started exploring loving kindness meditation, which is a wonderful experience.
Navigating the meditation experience
Meditation is a personal journey and everyone’s experience is unique. Here are a few common experiences you might encounter and how to navigate them:
- Wandering Mind: It’s natural for your mind to wander during meditation. Instead of getting frustrated, gently bring your focus back to your meditation object.
- Physical Discomfort: If you experience physical discomfort during meditation, try adjusting your position or experimenting with different postures.
- Emotional Release: Meditation can sometimes bring up strong emotions. If this happens, try to observe these feelings without judgment and let them pass.
In my experience the wandering mind is absolutely part of meditation practice. Wandering, then returning. Wandering, then returning. Try to make a gentle return, rather than a panicked one. It’s not a glitch, it’s how meditation works. It’s that dynamic that builds the ability to stay present.
My only physical discomfort is the occasional itch! What to do with an itch if you’re meditating? I suggest you leave it, as soon as you start scratching there will be more itches popping up!
And as you become more comfortable with meditation, you can start to deepen your practice. This might involve meditating for longer periods, exploring more advanced techniques, or incorporating mindfulness into your daily life.
How to meditate: the journey ahead
Embarking on a meditation practice is a deeply personal journey.
I began my meditation journey with several months of daily commitment, but then dropped out of the practice for almost a year. I picked it back up and have been meditating regularly for a couple of years now, but there are still times where it drops out of my routine for a short while.
Be patient with yourself, and remember that every moment spent in meditation, no matter how challenging, is a step forward. Keep an open mind, stay consistent (or as consistent as possible!), and enjoy the journey towards a calmer, more mindful you.