Meditation is the new buzz word. However, many people are unsure of what it really means, how it can help them, or that there are different forms of meditation.
The purpose of meditation is to relax, decompress, set your intentions, and let your mind go. There are several techniques to choose from including walking meditation, breath watching, emptying your mind, focusing on your body and surroundings, just to name a few. Meditation can be guided, unguided, with music or without.
One common reason people begin a meditation practice is to battle stress. Stress and anxiety can adversely affect the body in a number of ways. One is by making it more acidic and more susceptible to a host of diseases and ailments. Working on your mental health is just as important as working out and eating right. Personally, meditation keeps me balanced. I feel more relaxed, happy and less anxious. The less worked up I get when situations arise, the less stress I cause myself physically.
When meditating, it is important to be as comfortable as possible. Wear loose clothing and be free of restrictive items like hats or ponytail holders. You can lie down, sit in a chair, or sit on the floor. It is recommended that you sit up if you think you might fall asleep and are not at a place that you can comfortably do so. Some people like to sit on the floor with their legs crossed or legs out, hands gently on their legs, palms up. Keep your hands in the same position if you are sitting in a chair. When lying down, place your hands however is most comfortable. If you sit on the floor, it may be helpful to sit on a pillow so you are slightly elevated from your knees. Sit with you back very straight and erect to keep from swaying. The most important thing is to not let the way you are positioned or how you are dressed be a distraction.
I like to set the tone before I begin. Choose an environment that is free from distractions. You can also light candles, dim, or turn off the lights. If you are in a noisy area, use headphones to listen to music or, alternatively, you can concentrate on the noise itself. For example, I love listening to the clothes dryer or even the ceiling fan. If you are in a room with others, let them know you are meditating to keep them from disturbing you.
Choosing your meditation practice is where you decide if you will have a guided (recommended for beginners) or an unguided session. There are some meditation soundtracks that are partly guided where the instructor sets the intention at the beginning, you meditate with music or silence, and then the guide brings you out of the meditation. This is best for beginner or intermediate levels. On a fully guided meditation soundtrack, the facilitator will set the intention for your meditation and will keep you on track during the entire session. When choosing unguided, you have the pleasure of deciding everything. This is where it gets fun. You can choose your practice and have your pick of different lengths of music or silence. You can then decide on breath work, concentrating on an idea or an intention, or you can make up a meditation such as walking through a meadow, seeing a house, walking into your dream house, and what do you see, etc. You can also select a combination of a few or all. I usually begin with 5 minutes of breath work and then a predetermined duration of another mediation.
If you are like me, you have a lot of “chatter” going on in your mind. It is what it is. Do not expect to sit down during your first session and all of a sudden – poof! – have quiet. Just know that, with practice, the chatter decreases. The goal is to bring yourself gently back to the meditation when you notice your mind wandering. I bring my consciousness to my thoughts and then they disappear automatically, almost as if they were caught. Guided meditations may help eliminate mind wandering completely. Just try to relax. It may be helpful to look at something like a candle or a picture for a few seconds before closing your eyes. Taking deep breaths is another common practice at the start of a session. Feeling the flow of air coming in and out of your lungs can help prepare you. Scanning your body mentally is a way to stay focused as well. Do not force anything on yourself.
Feel free to start short. Do a 5-minute session the first week. Add 5 minutes the next week and then another 5 the week after.
Finally, do me a favor. Take 3 deep slow breaths. Feel your hands, arms, legs….Congratulations, you just did a mini meditation!