The words “meditation” and “mindfulness” have blown up in the last few decades throughout the West. There are magazines dedicated to the practice and billboards showing women meditating from companies who are selling something seemingly unrelated. But what does meditation or mindfulness mean? Does it really help? How do you do it?
First, let me start off by saying that there are many different types of meditation. So. Many. But on this post I will be describing the best way, I believe, to begin meditating and how it can benefit you according to my experiences.
I’ve been told that people find it so difficult to meditate because they can’t seem to clear their minds. People seem to have this preconceived notion that meditation is sitting still in perfect posture and not thinking a single thing.
But mediation is so much better – and easier than that. You can meditate sitting straight up, against a wall or lying down. But don’t fall asleep!
As for the mental practice… I always tell people that when you first start meditating it’s good to do a guided meditation (which you can find on Spotify, YouTube, and other places) or put on some binaural beats (which you can also find at the same locations).
Know that the practice is not going to come easily. It may be frustrating or seem like a waste of your time at first. But I promise, it’s not. Just one moment of peace in your meditation is transforming your practice.
How to Begin
If you are not doing a guided meditation, then I recommend you start by taking five deep breaths. Consciously think “breathe in” and “breathe out”. Notice the way your breath feels in your chest, stomach and nostrils. Engulf yourself in your breath.
After the five deep breaths, the trick is not to try and “think of nothing”. In fact, it’s to calmly realize all that you are thinking about. What’s distracting you? What anticipation are you looking forward to? What memory keeps popping into your head? Begin to notice one thought at a time, accept what you are thinking about and consciously let each thought go.
Imagine yourself as a mountain and your thoughts are clouds passing by. It may seem silly but it will help you separate yourself from your thoughts and gently let them pass. Recognize the thought’s importance, what impact they have on your mind and body. Then realize you no longer need them in this space. Move on to the next thought. If this gets frustrating or if you pass the state of distracting thoughts for a second, come back to your breath. This is meditation and mindfulness of each passing thought. You may want to set a timer for about ten minutes when you are first starting, in case you have to be somewhere.
Being aware of our thoughts allows us to have more control over them and over our emotions. We are then aware of the things that are important to us and can let go of anything that is not important. Here, solutions can be found for any problem you may be experiencing and peace of mind can be achieved. When you meditate every day you will see the benefits in day-to-day life. Your reactions will become more conscious and you will be more in touch with yourself.
However, meditation is hard work. With technology all around us, we numb our minds so often to what we truly feel and lose the connection to ourselves. When meditating there will be times where you feel frustrated or things will come up that you may have pushed away for too long and not wanted to face. Just know that any practice, whether short or difficult, is progress. My own practice has never been very regimented or consistent. But I know the peace that I can always come back to and the growth I can achieve by meditating.
I once heard that there are three things in life that one must do – learn, meditate and dance. And I really believe in the power of this combination. By doing these three things we can improve our relationships (social, personal and ecological), the footprint we leave on this earth and the joy we experience in life. I think in today’s world we are in dire need of mediation – taking back control of our thoughts and emotions and connecting back with ourselves. But don’t take my word for it. Try meditating every day for ten days and see how you feel.