Have you ever wondered what all the fuss regarding meditation was about? After all with more and more people adopting this ancient practice on a daily basis, it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement.
But what exactly is meditation? And what can it do for you? Let’s find out.
What is meditation?
Essentially, meditation is a technique where you focus your attention on a specific object, item or process. Typically, it involves targeted breathing exercises and a nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts.
Importantly, there is no one single ‘form’ of meditation. You can meditate in a class with other people, by yourself in your home, or even out in nature. And while there are a variety of different forms of meditation, how you meditate is also up to you.
A few types of meditation practices include mindfulness meditation, Buddhist meditation, Taoist meditation, Zen meditation, prayer and transcendental meditation. On a more basic level there is also walking meditation and sitting meditation.
Ultimately however, whichever form of meditation you choose to indulge in is designed to quiet your mind and help relieve stress and anxiety.
Where did meditation come from?
Many people attribute religious roots to meditation and believe that you have to be a Monk in order to meditate. However, while there are elements of meditation in almost all religions including Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and even Christianity, this practice does not solely lie within any specific religion.
Instead, it is ancient practice able to be used by any individual, irrespective of religion, to improve their life. The practice of meditation has been acknowledged and recorded for over 5000 years across a range of cultures.
Indeed, there is no one single event that ‘introduced’ meditation to the world, rather it appears to have always been a practice that has been handed down from generation to generation since our fire-gazing days.
How can meditation benefit me?
The average person has around 70,000 thoughts a day. And yet it’s estimated that up to 75 percent of these thoughts are exactly the same as the thoughts from the day before. And mostly, these thoughts are pretty darn negative.
Through regular meditation you can learn to quiet your mind and change your thought patterns to become more positive and less negative. You can begin to identify negative thinking patterns and stop them in your tracks. And in doing so, control your emotional state and your happiness.
There are also other benefits of regular meditation, which have been confirmed by various research studies. They include:
- Increased sense of calm
- Improved awareness
- Increased relaxation
- Improved memory function
- Improved mental toughness
- Enhanced patience
- Improved cognitive abilities (brain power)
- Enhanced ability focus and think clearly
- Greater emotional balance
- Improved sense of self
- Increased life satisfaction
- Greater sense of fulfillment
- Improved healing power
- Relief from headaches and migraines
- Decreased anxiety
- Reduction in chronic pain
- Reduction in pain symptoms
- Decreased depression
- A reduction in blood pressure (if it is high)
- Stress relief
- Insomnia relief
- Improved sex life for women
How to meditate
If you’re looking at this giant list of benefits and thinking ‘Sign me up!’ then you’re in luck. Not only are we going to show you some great online sites to get your meditation on, but we’re also going to include a quick five-minute meditation for you to try when you have time.
First though, here are some great sites to start meditating:
Your five-minute meditation
Now, if you’re keen, read on for a quick and easy meditation to kick-start your journey to inner peace.
Step 1. Find somewhere that is quiet and where you won’t be disturbed. You can either lie on a bed, or sit in a comfortable chair. If you’re lying down, lay flat on your back with your arms resting by your sides. If you’re sitting, keep your back straight, but only so much that it is comfortable, and ensure that both feet are pressed to the ground.
Step 2. Close your eyes and begin to notice how your breath travels through your body. Pay attention to how your belly moves up when you breathe in and down when you breathe out. Notice that the air you inhale is slightly cooler than the air you exhale. Feel the air flowing through your nostrils.
Step 3. Once you feel calm, you can shift your attention to the very tips of your toes. Notice how they feel when they are pressed against the ground. They may be inside shoes or you might be barefoot. You could be feeling a little cold, or perhaps it’s a hot day and your feet feel particularly warm.
Step 4. Now move your attention up to your calves and your lower legs. Notice how your clothing feels against your legs, or how the air might brush against them. Do they feel relaxed? Or are they tense? Pay attention to the sensations within this area of your body.
Step 5. Next, allow your attention to move to your knees and then your upper legs and thighs. Notice how the chair or the bed presses against your legs. Can you pinpoint the exact areas where contact is made? Do your legs feel heavy or light?
Step 6. Using this technique, allow your attention to move naturally up from your legs to your belly, chest, shoulders, neck and finally head, noticing the sensations you feel along the way.
Step 7. When you reach your head, I want you to consider how tense your jaw is. Are you gritting your teeth? Or is your jaw relaxed? Then, notice how your tongue feels inside your mouth. Is it pushed up against the roof of your mouth? Or is it free floating in the middle? Make an effort to relax both your tongue and your jaw.
Step 8. Finally, bring your attention back to your breath. When you are ready, you can open your eyes and stretch.
How often should I meditate?
Ideally, once a day for around 20-minutes is the ideal amount of time to reap the most benefits. However, for a beginner it’s going to be pretty difficult to do this straight away and you will need to work your way up to 20-minutes.
To start out, turn it into a six-week program, with each week increasing in frequency and length of your meditation sessions. Before long, you’ll be meditating like a pro!