Lately a lot of people are taking meditation more seriously, considering it’s amazing effects and asking about how to do it or what it can do. To be honest, that is a great step forward for anyone who thinks about improving their lives, no matter what you want to improve.
No, meditation is not equal to being a fanatic, it is not just for Buddhists, it does not mean the person is crazy and it doesn’t mean you’ll become a guru either. It doesn’t have to be related to any religion and it is not forbidden by any religion either, actually prayers are also a kind of meditation.
Meditation is a way of balancing your life, your body and your mind as well as your soul.
- Praying is also a form of meditation as it asks you to concentrate on your feelings or wishes, think of the good of others and believing in a bigger cause while adopting a beneficial posture for your body (in all cases that I’m aware of, sorry if I’m missing some).
- Paying attention for several minutes to your body or to your surroundings without building up any thoughts is also meditation.
- Practicing conscious yoga while paying attention to your body and your breath being in sync is also considered a form of meditation.
- Running with music while you pay attention to your whole body muscles contract and relax without engaging in any conscious thinking is another way of meditating.
- But yes, it can be much more than this: it can change how you think, how you feel, how you sleep, how you eat, how you relate to people and to yourself.
Meditation is something that brings many many benefits to one’s life, so… I say you try it out for yourself to see it’s results.
I’m going to start listing the actual benefits of meditation and it’s uses.
Benefits: (in my favorite order of effect)
- Helps you sleep better as it trains your body to relax faster. While meditating you access different brainwave lengths than you would usually while you’re awake, they are the ones we have when we sleep, so your body learns to get to the right deep sleep brainwave sooner when you actually go to sleep.
- Your sleep will be better even if you sleep a shorter amount of hrs (due to the above brainwave hack).
- when you sleep right, your body rejuvenates, heals and balances itself and stays healthy and younger. You won’t have as many health issues.
- It calms your mind.
- Brings you in touch with your body, which, if you learn to listen to, tells you when and what you need. This will affect your weight, your exercise and your daily posture too as you’ll be aware what doesn’t suit you and what does. It will also help you notice your emotions.
- Teaches you to have a clean thought pattern and to solve problems quickly.
- Teaches you how to evaluate a situation without being distracted.
- Enhances your creativity.
- Teaches you to control and decide your reactions and mood rather than be a victim of your auto-pilot reactions or impulses that we’re being “trained” to have since we are born.
What it’s used for (in one of it’s various forms, not all apply):
- helping people sleep better
- lowering and eliminating anxiety and/or depression
- stress relief
- helping to cope and regulate disrupted thought patterns or unwanted behaviors
- it is recommended in a wide number of mental disorders or personality disorders
- it can help ease pain
- elevating self-esteem, confidence and life quality as a whole
- regulating your body processes and balancing your system
- enhancing creativity, mindfulness, focus-span, intuition, happiness
- improves productivity at work.
- and many more 🙂
There are several types of meditation, like I mentioned, prayers are also a type of meditation if it is done consciously and not on auto-pilot like many people have ended up to do it.
Mindfulness meditation might be the simplest and easiest to do anytime anywhere as it implies to pay attention to your feelings and body sensations for a few minutes without letting other thoughts disrupt you. This can be done on the street, at the office, in the shower or in bed, or anywhere else (though wouldn’t recommend it while driving!).
Still a type of mindfulness meditation would be to pay attention to a single thing for several minutes, let’s say a flower. You simply look at it and observe it’s wholeness, it’s petals, the color, the pores, the pollen, the leaves, every single piece of it and of it’s smell, the way it grows, the way it faces the sun or how the wind has changed it’s growth direction. Simply focus on one thing without letting intrusive thoughts come in for a few minutes.
Then, there’s guided meditations which means you listen to someone’s voice guiding you what to do and you visualize this process in your own head focusing solely on this and or the sensations the guide is asking you to focus on.
Then there’s free or what I call open meditation where you simply sit still and observe your thoughts come and go and let them flow without creating any feelings or opinions about them, and without elaborating on any of them. Just acknowledge them and let them move on.
Then you can also have self-guided visualization meditations where you yourself know where you want to “go to” and you slowly bring yourself into the right state by walking your consciousness to it.
All of these have one thing in common: sitting still for a while allowing yourself to be present in the moment, be it in your consciousness or in the reality surrounding you, but paying attention to the present and to a single thing instead of letting our lives pass by while we are trapped thinking about past or future. We live now, what has been has gone and what will be, will be, but we are here, now, and we mostly forget to live in the now as we’re always doing things out of inertia and automatism while our thoughts are somewhere else (in the past or future) or we’re consuming ourselves about stressful situations or projects that ended or didn’t even happen. And a second thing in common: training your brain to rewire for your benefit.
Tips and FYI’s for beginners:
- I think the 5 minutes mindfulness exercises or the guided meditations are the best for starting out.
- For mindfulness, it is recommended to start with short time-spans like 5 minutes and do it several times a day, and gradually increase to longer time-spans (up to 20-30mins) but less times per day.
- For guided meditations, if you need to find your peace or calm your mind, the best ones to start with are for energy cleaning / chakra balancing and for self-acceptance, forgiveness, self love. “And/or” applies to all these, pick the ones that resonate more with you. And make sure you find the right “voice” that suits you. I found that some voices annoy me and others move too fast through the phases, hence it is a preference thing and it might take a few trials till you find your right guide. Guided meditations require your attention for longer time-frames, usually over 10 minutes and up to unlimited amount of time.
- I tried to meditate while sitting in the Lotus position, while lying in bed or sitting normally on a chair, even in the kneeling position (Hero pose or Thunderbolt pose, which I found to prefer as it’s easier to have a straight spine). You should choose the position that is most comfortable for you and that won’t distract you (by itching, numbness, tense muscles, etc). Lying in bed might be good for very deep meditations as you can fully relax your body, but if you’re tired, guess what, you will fall asleep! 🙂 Anyway, ideally you should have your spine straight when you meditate as it helps you balance your body and your energy completely.
- Don’t worry if your thoughts and emotions will be all over the place the first few times you try it out, that is normal and it will change after the first few or several attempts. Please understand that even if your thoughts wonder away for 30 minutes or you fall asleep, this is still considered a successful meditation, it might not be what you were hoping to achieve but it will have beneficial effects on your body and sleep. Keep trying but don’t attach too much on the outcome!
- If you find your thoughts become chaotic or you feel more agitated or even a bit frightened, stop right there and try again another time, give it at least a few hours to get these out of your system. It may be a momentary thing due to your mood or maybe from a triggering word used by the guide. If you find this happens again with same meditation, try another one or another guiding voice.
- You will feel better after the 1st attempt in which you managed to be focused on the meditation completely (this might be the 3rd, 4th day or maybe even more)
- You will feel the effects on your sleep and health in the first week or two of daily meditations, but most people start feeling it after first days.
- As to how long or short the session should be: it is up to you. As always, listen to your body and inner voice, if it tells you that you need more, do it more. If you feel it’s too much, stop. When I started to meditate I used to do approximately 30 minutes-long sessions twice a day, then I gradually went down to 12-15 minute ones as I felt this was enough. Yet on some days I feel I need more, so on those days I might meditate for 1 full hour. It really is a matter of what you feel you need.
- It is said that it’s best to meditate in the morning, but it really is your choice, this too is a matter of what you feel works best for you. So try it in the morning, after-noon and evening and see which benefits you more. You will know! 🙂 I personally find it easier in the evening (since I’m a bit of a night owl myself) or, if I didn’t have time, I do it before going to bed.
- Make sure you’re in a place where nothing distracts you, the room is not to cold or too hot, there’s nothing to scare you (like sudden loud noises) and nothing to disrupt you (like someone shaking the bed or chair). I know this sounds funny, but trust me, you don’t want that! 🙂
Caution: There are some moments when meditation, especially mindfulness would not be recommended, when you suffer from severe anxiety, panic attacks and severe trauma, I would recommend that you practice insightful mindfulness (turning attention to yourself) only with the help of an expert in this field so they can help you if you have an episode of anxiety related to previous life experiences during this mindfulness exercise. During meditation and mindfulness there is a good chance for such things to arise from your past, so ideally you want to know what you’re doing and how to navigate these situations and an expert guide will know how to do this with you.
I wish you find your peace and benefit fully from meditating! 🙂
Big hugs to all of you and one more last tip: closing your eyes and slightly smiling lets you relax your face and gives you a better “trial” at meditating.