A Beginner's Guide to Meditation
Meditation refers to a state where your body and mind are consciously relaxed and focused. Practitioners of this art report increased awareness, focus, and concentration, as well as a more positive outlook in life.
Meditation is most commonly associated with monks, mystics, and other spiritual disciplines. However, you don’t have to be a monk or mystic to enjoy its benefits. And you don’t even have to be in a special place to practice it. You could even try it in your own living room!
Although there are many different approaches to meditation, the fundamental principles remain the same. The most important among these principles is that of removing obstructive, negative, and wandering thoughts and fantasies, and calming the mind with a deep sense of focus. This clears the mind of debris and prepares it for a higher quality of activity.
The negative thoughts you have – those of noisy neighbors, pandemic fatigue, an argument with your spouse, another Zoom meeting – are said to contribute to the ‘polluting’ of the mind, and shutting them out allows for the ‘cleansing’ of the mind so that it may focus on deeper, more meaningful thoughts.
Some practitioners even shut out all sensory input – no sights, no sounds, and nothing to touch – and try to detach themselves from the commotion around them. You may now focus on a deep, profound thought if this is your goal. It may seem deafening at first since we are all too accustomed to constantly hearing and seeing things, but as you continue this exercise you will find yourself becoming more aware of everything around you.
If you find the meditating positions you see on television threatening – those with impossibly arched backs, and painful-looking contortions – do what is comfortable for you. The principle here is to be in a comfortable position conducive to concentration. This may be while sitting cross-legged, standing, lying down, and even walking. I like to sit with my feet on the floor in a relaxed position either in my home office or my living room.
If the position allows you to relax and focus, then that would be a good starting point. While sitting or standing, the back should be straight, but not tense or tight. In other positions, the only no-no is slouching and falling asleep. Until I started meditating regularly I didn't realize how much tension I held in every inch of my body (especially my face was always so tense).
Loose, comfortable clothes help a lot in the process since tight-fitting clothes are usually very uncomfortable.
The place you do meditation should have a soothing atmosphere. It may be in your living room, or bedroom, or any place that you feel comfortable. You might want an exercise mat if you plan to take on the more challenging positions, not my testimony. (if you feel more focused doing so, and if the contortionist in you wants to contort then do you). You may want to have the place arranged so that it is soothing to your senses. I can't concentrate with clutter so my space must be clear of all clutter.
Silence helps me relax and meditate, so you may want a quiet, isolated area far from all the noise around you. You may enjoy aromatic candles (as long as isn't an unpleasant order I don't need candles but I am sure that can add to the feeling of being relaxed.
I must admit I didn't think Christians mediated only weird tree huggers do that (sorry if you're a tree-hugger) or monks we've seen on tv making monotonous sounds I didn't want any part of any of that. I learned about the power of meditating through my pastor, mediating helps me to prepare for my time with God to get rid of all the noise and distractions before I pray.
I focus on my breathing which helps when my mind starts to wander. I use a guided meditation focusing on relaxing and letting go of all the tension in my body.
The principle here is focus. You could also try focusing on a certain object or thought, or even, while keeping your eyes open, focus on a single sight.
One sample routine would be – while in a meditative state – silently name every part of your body and focus your consciousness on that part. While doing this you should be aware of any tension on any part of your body. Mentally visualize releasing this tension. It works wonders. In my trauma therapy, this was so important. Your body actually keeps score with the things that have happened in our lives trauma, stress even happiness. If I have a glimpse of my past trauma I have learned my body goes back to that place, meditating has helped me to release the trauma from my body.
In all, meditation is a relatively risk-free practice and its benefits are well worth the effort (or non-effort – remember you're relaxing).
Studies have shown that meditation does bring about beneficial physiological effects to the body. And there has been a growing consensus in the medical community to further study the effects of such.
Do you meditate? Would you consider meditating why or why not?