Are you looking to calm your mind? Maybe you’re seeking inner peace? Or are you just trying to find a way to deal with stress in a better and more manageable way? Regardless of what your reasons are for seeking out meditation, when beginning this journey, it’s often not clear on what meditation really is. Many people ask how to learn how to meditate; in this post we’re going to give you a basic introduction.
Whilst the thought of meditation may transport you to images of Bhuddist monks sitting atop the Nepalese mountains, you don’t have to don the robes and shave your head (I can hear the audible relief from the ladies reading this) to qualify for enlightenment. Meditation can be practiced anywhere and by anyone.
The essence of meditation is the cultivation of mindful awareness and expanded consciousness. Meditation has long been used to move beyond the mind’s stress-inducing thoughts and emotional upsets into the peace and clarity of present moment awareness.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day” – Deepak Chopra
The Basics – Mindful Breathing
The most basic form of meditation is mindful breathing, and is the perfect place to begin. This is simply to focus your attention on your breath. Paying attention to the process of the inhalation and exhalation. You’ll want to be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position – however I’d recommend seated as once you’re completely relaxed during the meditative process, you may fall asleep if lying down. You can meditate with your eyes open or closed, but the majority of people prefer eyes closed. If you’re new to meditation, having your eyes closed will be better as it will help reduce distractions.
- Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated or lying down. If seated, keep your back upright, ensure that you’re still relaxed and not tense. Hands resting comfortably, on your legs or in your lap. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.
- Now relax and take pay attention to your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight, the pressure on the seat or bed. The sensations it experiences. Relax any areas of tightness or tension on your out-breath.
- Now pay attention to your breath. Feel the natural flow; in and out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath, don’t try and manipulate it, just pay attention to it. Notice where you feel your breath within your body. Do you feel it in your chest, or abdomen? It may be in your throat or in your nostrils that you feel it best. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time.
- If your mind begins to wander, as soon as you notice, just come back to the monitoring of your breath. This is normal, especially when you’re first starting out. Just notice that your mind has wandered and then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
- Stay here for five minutes. Continue to notice your breath, in silence. On occasion your mind may wander in thought, which is OK – just acknowledge it, then return your attention to your breath.
- After a few minutes, return your attention to your body, your whole body, seated or laying down. Relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.
Meditation can also help when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. The regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do it in difficult situations, as the repetition of the process will allow you to train your brain to engage in calmness quicker and easier.
Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils, hold your breath, and a long exhale through your mouth. Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.
When To Meditate
There is no right or wrong time to meditate, only the time best suited to your sitation, circumstances and lifestyle.
It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise every day, as the routine will help it form into habit. Many regular meditators (myself included) will practice twice a day, morning and evening.
Why Should I try It?
Stress, anger, and anxiety can impair not only our health but our judgment and skills of attention. Research suggests that the practice of “mindfulness” is an effective way to deal with these feelings. The ability to pay careful attention to what you’re thinking, feeling, and sensing in the present moment without judging those thoughts and feelings as good or bad. Countless studies link mindfulness to better health, lower anxiety, and greater resilience to stress.
By practicing mindful breathing on a regular basis, you should find it easier to focus attention on your breath in your daily life — an important skill to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions. It also helps you regain your composure when you lose your temper and improves concentration.
Mindfulness gives people distance from their thoughts and feelings, which can help them tolerate and work through unpleasant feelings rather than becoming overwhelmed by them. Mindful breathing in particular is helpful because it gives people an anchor—their breath—on which they can focus when they find themselves carried away by a stressful thought. Mindful breathing also helps people stay “present” in the moment, rather than being distracted by regrets in the past or worries about the future.
How to learn how to meditate – start with the practice of mindfulness, in particular, mindful breathing. It will only serve you for the better in your life.
- Get comfortable and relax, close your eyes.
- Feel your body and it’s weight being supported by the object you’re relaxing on.
- Focus on your breath, where you feel it in your body, follow the inhale and exhale. Feel the sensations associated with your breathing.
- After 5 to 10 minutes, return to the feeling of your body. Acknowledge the calmness, appreciate it.
Wishing you a blessed life.
“Meditation is not what you think” – Jon Kabat-Zinn