What is Meditation?
Meditation is simply the practice of learning how to pay attention. It isn’t something magical. It isn’t a cult or religion. Meditation is a mental exercise to strengthen you mind. Meditation is supported by a huge body of scientific research. It has been shown to help manage the symptoms of and reduce the risk of almost every bad thing out there.
Our goal here is to give you the tools to live a happy and healthy life. At any given moment, almost half of us are lost in thoughts unrelated to what’s in front of us. When we are mentally wandering, we are significantly less happy. When neuroscientists looked at a brain during meditation, it scored “off the charts” in activity related to happiness, compassion, and altruism. Doesn’t that sound like something we all want?
How to get started.
Now that we know the benefits. How do we take advantage of this awesome tool?
First thing to do is decide on a specific time each day to hold your practice. Having a set time every day allows you to develop your practice as a habit. If we allow our meditation time to wander through the day, we are more likely skip it, and that isn’t the point of developing a practice.
As a beginner, you don’t need a long meditation time. Five minutes is a good start. If you can’t find that much time, start with just two minutes. The important part is building on your meditation time until you find the amount of time that works best for you.
Once you’ve decided on a time we can begin practicing. There are many different forms of meditation, the one we will be discussing below is a mindfulness practice. Every meditation style is about cultivating awareness and attention.
Find a place to sit that will allow your back to be in an upright position, preferably with your feet lower than your hips. You should be comfortable, but not to a degree that you will fall asleep. You don’t have to sit cross-legged unless you want to. In a straight backed chair or against a wall is a good option.
As you begin, take several slow, deep breaths to gather your concentration. With each inhale, fill your lungs as much as you can. Then exhale slowly. Pay close attention to your breath with each inhale and exhale.
After a few moments, your breath will settle and become normal. Continue to focus on your breathing. Pay attention to the flow of air – in through your nose, down your throat, then filling your lungs. Focus on how the air feels moving through your system. How does it feel as you exhale – you lungs shrinking, the air moving back up your throat and out your mouth? Use your breath as an anchor. Notice the other sensations of your body, but always return to your breath.
If a stray thought enters your mind, don’t worry. Acknowledge the thought and return to your breath. Every time you do this, you are retraining your brain. So, don’t worry about it happening. Just refocus and return to your breath.
This is where you should practice for a few weeks before we move forward. Once you can do this for several minutes by yourself you can move forward to more advance concentration meditations or try some guided meditations.