Meditation has gained vast popularity in the past years. About 200 to 500 million people worldwide meditate.
The practice originated from India as part of Buddhism and Hinduism religion. Meditation’s primary goal is to focus and understand your mind, which brings a high level of inner calmness. It may sound strange sitting still for a predetermined period, but it has extensive mental and physical benefits. You need to know how to meditate correctly to maximize the effects. For those who are starting, learning the basics of the practice is also very important. Here is an informative guide to get you started.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a contemplative practice that helps your body achieve a high sense of tranquility and inner peace. This is a mental activity whereby you pay attention to things happening in your life at the moment without being judgmental. You mainly learn how to stop your thoughts and mind. On average, about 6,200 thoughts cross your mind every day. During meditation, you pay attention to how your mind wanders through thoughts of your daily work stress, relationships then you try to draw your focus back to your breathing patterns. By doing this, you remain conscious of your present moment. The body and the mind become calmer, dissipating stressful thoughts and emotions. Your body will feel refreshed and energized to handle whatever comes your way.
The Different Meditation Techniques
There are various ways to meditate, and if one technique fails to yield results, you can always try another. Every type requires different skills and mindset, so you need to look into all the methods to see which one feels comfortable practicing. Here are some of the best-known ways to meditate.
Spiritual meditation is a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition also used by other Eastern religions like Daoism and Hinduism. This is an ideal solution for people seeking spiritual growth or those who need some self-reflection. Mostly it happens in a place of worship or at home, but you can also practice spiritual meditation in nature. It’s more like saying a prayer as you reflect on the silence around you to get a deeper connection with the divine or the universe. You may use some essential oils to heighten the spiritual experience, including:
The mindfulness meditation technique originated from Buddhist teachings and is extremely popular in the west. This technique focuses on helping people understand how the mind works. While practicing mindfulness meditation, you need to know where you are and what you are doing without getting over-reactive to what is going on around you. For instance, instead of getting annoyed due to a long wait, you note the delay without getting judgmental. It teaches you to rest and appreciate the present moment. This way, you will become more tolerant, patient, and contented so you can lead a happier, healthier life.
Mindfulness meditation best suits those who meditate alone without a practitioner’s guidance. You can practice mindful meditation from just anywhere when commuting to work, at the grocery store, or as you do your chores.
Metta meditation requires you to open up your mind to receive loving-kindness. You recite various words or phrases as you breathe in and out to evoke warm-hearted feelings. Begin by directing loving-kindness towards yourself. For instance, you can repeat the phrase, ‘may I be happy.’ You should repeat the message severally until you begin to feel an attitude of loving-kindness. After some time, you can start to send a loving-kindness message to specific people.
Loving-kindness meditation can help you send well-wishes to yourself, your loved ones, and all living beings. This is your ideal solution if you struggle with internal conflict, anger, resentment, and frustrations. The main aim is to increase positive emotions, promote compassion, kindness, love, and acceptance towards self and others.
During progressive meditation, you scan your body to identify areas of tension. Usually, you begin by focusing on one area of your body, usually the feet, and work your way up through the whole body. At the moment, you can tense, relax your muscle, or visualize a wave flowing through your body to ease tension. You can use progressive relaxation to promote general body relaxation, relieve chronic pain or unwind and distress to promote better sleep.
Movement meditation involves practices like Kundalini yoga which combines movement breathing and mantras. Another approach that falls under this technique is walking meditation, whereby you focus on the sensation on your feet as they move over the ground. You pay attention to how you lift your feet, push them forward, and put them back to the ground to help you stay in the present moment. The main idea is to keep your mind focused on your body movements. This is an excellent choice for people who have trouble sitting still for long periods, those who find peace in action or concentrate more while in motion.
This meditation technique requires you to repeatedly say a word, known as a mantra, quietly or loudly till you gain focus and clarity. Some commonly used mantras include aham and ohm. While chanting, your mind will focus on the word, and the practitioners recommend that you contemplate the word’s meaning.
Most of the words that you chant correlate to a spiritual force. This practice helps you gain a peaceful and alert state of mind. Mantra meditation is a perfect choice for people who don’t like silence, those who find it easier to focus on words rather than the breathing pattern.
You form pictures in your mind for the visualization technique and use imagination to see yourself living a new life. This meditation type aims to help you focus on what you want in life and eliminate what you don’t want. You can imagine yourself succeeding in certain aspects of your life, which motivates you to work on your goals. This can help promote inner peace and reduce stress.
In focused meditation, you concentrate exclusively on what you are doing at the moment, like listening to a song, staring at a statue, candle, flower, ocean waves, or paying attention to your breathing. For instance, if you choose to gaze at a rose flower, you imagine yourself touching it, enjoying the velvety texture, as you breathe in and out, focus on the flower’s scent and immerse yourself fully into it. Once your thoughts begin to wander, refocus. This practice will help anchor your mind to maintain awareness. With consistency, you will rediscover the joy of being present in all moments.
This meditation involves sitting with your eyes closed repeating a specific mantra for about 20 minutes twice a day. For instance, your practitioner may suggest that you constantly repeat, ‘I am not afraid.’ The ultimate goal is to rise above your current state of being. When done rightly, you will experience heightened mindfulness, rest, and inner peace.
How to Meditate
Although the meditation process may seem quite complicated, it involves some simple steps. With more practice and a little patient, you should know how to do it right. Follow the steps below to try out the practice.
1) Find a Comfortable Spot
You should always practice meditation in a quiet, peaceful environment free from distractions. Find a place where you can concentrate for the entire period. If you choose to do it in the house, switch off your TV, other noisy appliances and put away your phone. But you can play some calm music, use repetitive tones or play nature sounds. Another good idea is to meditate in the outdoors, under a tree or some lush grass.
2) Wear the Right Clothes
During meditation, wear comfortable clothes that will keep you relaxed. Avoid tight and restrictive clothing, so if you have a tie, belt, or scarf on, you may need to take them off or loosen them. Remember to remove your shoes. If you are in a cold place, put on a sweater or wrap yourself with a shawl so the cold won’t consume your thoughts. You can even meditate with no clothes if you are in a private place.
3) Decide Your Meditation Duration
Based on the time available, your schedule, and preferences, determine how long you want to meditate. To make the best out of your practice, practitioners recommend that you meditate for about 13 minutes daily. Seasoned meditators can do it for about 20 minutes twice a day, but you can start with five minutes as a beginner. Once you set a time frame, you will need to stick to it. Set the alarm to alert you when the time elapses.
4) Stretch a Bit to Prevent Stiffness
Keep in mind that some meditation practices involve sitting down for a specific period. So, it’s a good idea that you do some simple stretches before you begin to let out tension. Concentrate on your lower back, neck, and shoulders to prevent soreness. This will also prepare your mind and body for relaxation.
5) Sit Comfortably
Find a sitting position that best works for you, be it on a chair, floor, cushion, or bench. You can choose to cross your legs as long as you feel comfortable. Start on an upright chair with your back straight, chin slightly tucked in, shoulders and neck relaxed for a beginner. You can even meditate while lying, walking, or standing, whatever position you find comfortable.
6) Close or Keep Your Eyes Opened
You can meditate with your eyes opened, but keep them closed if you find it difficult to concentrate. For beginners closing your eyes will help prevent visual distractions. But if you tend to fall asleep while meditating, open your eyes to stay alert.
7) Pay Attention to Your Breath
For the most basic meditation technique, you need to follow your breath’s sensation as it flows into and out of your body. Breathe normally and pay attention to the rising and falling of your abdomen as you breathe in and out. If your mind begins to wander, take your attention back to the breath.
8) Get Some Mental Images to Guide Your Breathing
Try to imagine some images in your mind with the rising and falling of your breath. For instance, you can imagine a buoy floating in the ocean. As you breathe in, it goes up the water and down as you breathe out.
9) Repeat a Mantra to Keep You Focused
Incorporate some words or phrases in your meditation process. Repeat words like peace, love, om over and over until you get into a deep meditative state.
10) Practice Visualization
Staring at a visual object can help you reach a deep state of consciousness. Place an object at eye level concentrate on it until you achieve profound serenity.
11) Do a Body Scan
While still seated or lying in a comfortable position, shift your attention from one part of your body to the other. Consciously relax and contract the muscles to release tension. Start from your toes up to your entire body. Once you finish, focus on the whole body and now enjoy the sense of calmness you achieved.
12) Expand Your Practice
You can break up your sessions by incorporating walking meditation. Choose a quiet place where you can walk, keep your head up, gaze straight, and take slow, deliberate steps. Focus on your feet’ movement. Once you get to the end of the trail, stop, turn around and continue walking in the opposite direction.
13) End the session
At the end of the practice, wake up gently from your meditation, sit for a few more minutes with your eyes closed, paying attention to the surrounding sounds. Open your eyes gently and welcome the full awareness of the present moment. You need to bring the insights from your meditation to the rest of your day.
Integrating Meditation into Your Daily Life
For most people, starting a new thing is usually exciting but keeping it going is a struggle. Meditating once will help you get some self-awareness at the moment, but if you want to reap maximum benefits, you should do it consistently. The great thing about meditation is that it doesn’t require too much time, and you can transform any of your repetitive chores into meditation time.
The easiest way to maintain this practice is by integrating it with an activity that you constantly do. For example, as you brush your teeth or take water, you can spare some moments of silence and stillness to meditate. For those with a busy schedule, incorporate meditation into your daily activities in the following ways.
Meditate in the Morning
One perfect time to meditate is early in the morning before your mind gets consumed with the day’s hassles and worries. Set your alarm ten minutes earlier than your usual wake-up time and dedicate this time to meditation. You can meditate on your bed or move to a more comfortable place. In these ten minutes, think about things you are grateful for, and focus on how it feels to have particular people or circumstances around you. This will help create a positive mindset for the rest of the day.
Practice Bedtime Meditation
If you want to have some deep sleep, you can practice meditation at bedtime. Think of the things that fill your mind at the moment, be it work stresses, your next day’s to-do list, or relationship issues. Imagine yourself getting past such things. You can even play some slow music, focus your mind on it as you regulate your breathing. You will achieve a more relaxed state of mind that enables you to unwind. When you meditate at bedtime, it takes away your worries resulting in a nice restful sleep.
Meditate During Meals
Instead of reading or watching TV while you eat, use this as your meditation time. Focus on the food’s taste, color, texture, temperature, how you chew and swallow. This will help create a mindful eating practice. You can quickly tell when you are full, know your cravings, and learn more about your diets, cultivating healthier eating habits. Take some time and express gratitude for the meal, and you can even say out loud, ‘I am grateful for this food’ repeatedly.
Meditate While Driving
Another perfect time to meditate is while driving, especially in traffic. Feel your hand’s sensation on the steering wheel, listen to your car’s engine rumble, and pay attention to any other noise you hear from the surrounding. You can also try a mantra and get lost in your words as you drive. This will help keep you mindful and fully present, which also improves your safety on the road.
Meditate During Exercise or Yoga Practice
Yoga creates a perfect time for meditation. Pay attention to all the physical poses you make while still concentrating on your breathing. This will help you achieve a peaceful state of meditation. Also, during your gym session, try to connect your body, mind, and breath.
Meditate While in the Shower
Meditating as you take a bath will help soothe tired muscles, relax your body, and give you an escape from your daily stressors. Pay attention to the sounds of the water, concentrate on the sensation you feel on your skin as the warm water flows over, and keep your thoughts in the present moment.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has some long-lasting benefits. It results in enhanced emotional and physical well-being. Other benefits include:
An increase in the level of cortisol hormone is what causes stress. Mindful meditation lowers the production of this hormone which leaves you in a more relaxed state. Reciting the mantra during meditation also helps draw your focus from disturbing thoughts, and you will achieve a state of mental stability.
Improves Focus and Concentration
It becomes challenging to focus on a single task when so many thoughts are racing through your mind. The meditation process emphasizes concentrating on the present moment. This results in heightened attention and a longer concentration span.
Meditation will help you better understand yourself. You will get a deeper reflection of your positive attributes, self-defeating thoughts, your habits and steer them towards more constructive patterns. You can examine your thoughts and feelings without judgment which boosts your confidence.
Helps Manage Anxiety
Meditation calms your mind and lowers the blood lactate level, reducing panic attacks for those who struggle with anxiety. It also helps regulate emotional ups and downs, resulting in overall emotional stability.
Reduces Memory Loss
People who meditate often have a higher level of the brain’s gray matter, responsible for memory. Meditation practices that involve chanting result in clarity in thinking and increased concentration which keeps your brain young and reduces age-related memory loss. This also benefits those who have dementia.
Can Help Fight Addiction
Mindful meditation increases your awareness of cravings so you can better manage them, to fight addiction. It gives you better control over your behavior, thoughts, and emotions, which will help you better deal with substance dependency.
Results in Better Sleep
When you practice meditation consistently, it alters the brain chemistry resulting in better sleep. You can redirect the thoughts that cause insomnia. It also helps overcome anxiety and depression, which relaxes your body, eases tension, and puts you in a restful state, so you will likely fall asleep faster.
Can Help Control Pain
The perception of pain highly relates to the state of your mind, so stressful situations can increase pain’s intensity. Meditation boosts pain tolerance and reduces tension-related pain. It won’t stop the pain but reduces the sensation, which improves the quality of life for people struggling with chronic pain.
Meditation Will Make you More Kind and Loving
Meditation increases positive feelings towards oneself and decreases unconscious bias. You will begin to appreciate and love yourself more and extend the same to other people in your life.
If you are new to the practice, sometimes you may find it challenging to keep going. It’s normal to experience some discomforts and frustration while starting. Follow the tips below for better meditation.
Try a Variety of Meditation Techniques
There are many meditation techniques, so you need to narrow them down to your preferred style. Explore most of them until you get a suitable one. Personalize your practice to keep yourself as profoundly engaged as possible.
Opt for a Guided Meditation Class
You can access guided meditation from YouTube or meditation apps. They will help you hone your techniques. Listening to the trainer’s voice will also give your mind something to focus on to avoid intrusive thoughts.
View Meditation as a Lifestyle Rather Than a Goal
Meditation isn’t a life objective that you need to accomplish. You should focus more on the process and experience it without bringing on your desires. It should be a time to relax, feel happier and calmer rather than a fight to accomplish a specific goal.
Find a Community
Once you begin the meditation journey, it’s a good idea to join groups of other meditators. There are many online platforms and local groups in your community that you can join. You will share ideas with like-minded people to improve your technique, learn and explore other meditation practices.
Be Patient with Your Progress
Don’t go into meditation with the hope of achieving inner peace immediately. Keep your expectations lower and enjoy the process, and with time you will see results. Also, as a first-timer, you will easily get distracted. Be kind to yourself and turn off a self-performance judgment.
The Bottom Line
Meditation is an exciting life journey that can help improve the state of your mind and the overall well-being of your body. The most crucial elements are consistency and determination. You can turn your daily activities into beneficial meditations regardless of how inflexible your schedule seems. Although you might struggle with concentration, embrace the challenge, use every possible technique to keep focusing, and in the end, you will enjoy great rewards.