Do you find that the everyday pressures of work and life are getting to you? Do you have a constructive way of dealing with and processing the stresses that we all face? If you don’t have the ability to deal with these things, then you may find that it can drag you down, affecting your relationships as well as your physical and mental health. Have you ever considered looking deeper within yourself for a way to a more positive and measured outlook? The primary benefit of meditation is that you can attempt this in the comfort of your own home, without putting your hand in your pocket.
Why should you meditate?
You may be confused as to whether meditation is all that it is cracked up to be and would it even work for you. The answer is a definite yes! Practising meditation provides a wide array of benefits, from improving your health and mental well being to providing the body with more energy and vitality. Enabling us to sleep better and deal with our stresses, anxieties and fears in a more constructive way.
It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? So, if you have been experiencing difficult times, have trouble sleeping or have feelings of depression or lack of control in your life, or maybe you are just looking to gain some calm and perspective, then looking into meditation is for you.
What is the best way to start meditating?
If you have decided that you want to give meditation a place in your life then fantastic! Fancy tools and techniques are not required for the beginner. In order to gain the benefit of meditation, all you need is willpower and a desire. Setting aside a little time each day, only maybe 15, 20 minutes would be sufficient to start with. The only real rule that there is when thinking of starting to practice meditation, and that is that you need to relax, both your mind and body.
How do beginners learn meditation?
We already discovered that meditating requires a certain degree of relaxation. However, this isn’t always easy. Beginners often have trouble with this. Thinking about our daily lives and stresses can be a hurdle that many people need to overcome when starting to meditate. Rather than being able to calm their minds and enjoy the state of peace, people can allow their thoughts to run riot.
Some may feel restless and twitchy. This is all quite natural in the beginning and is not a reason to worry. In time and with practice, your meditation sessions will become more successful and leave you with a feeling of clarity and calm. But patience and perseverance are often needed. It will be worth it, that’s for sure.
To set yourself up in the right environment for meditation, it’s a good idea to create a space that you can have some quiet time in. If there are kids around, or the phone ringing, or annoying background noise, you will find it hard to relax. A quiet, calm space, with a tranquil atmosphere and natural light, is ideal.
Not always possible I know, but a wee private spot where you can sit and breathe is advantageous. In time and through practice, your surroundings will matter less and less as your ability to focus within yourself and be less distracted increases.
What is the history of meditation?
Meditation originated in India an unimaginably long time ago. Wall art depicting people in meditative poses has been found around the subcontinent that dates back to 5000 to 3500 BC! Numerous aspects of humanity have changed dramatically in this time, yet we still hold dear the sacred practice of meditation.
This is due to the fact that nothing comes close to bestowing us with the same blessings and connection that meditation does. It is, undoubtedly a gift to mankind. The benefit of meditation cannot be underestimated.
What is the goal of meditation?
The objective of meditation is to quieten and still the mind. It is not about eliminating the external stimulation, but more so to train the mind and direct it to be able to focus on one solitary aspect. This individual aspect could be a word, a sound, a thought, an image or even the individuals own breath.
As the mind is focused on the element, there is a sense of stillness and calm. This will consequently replace any feelings of concern, anxiety and stress. Naturally, any negative thought patterns will be replaced with more favourable ones in this manner.
Even though this healing practise has its roots in Eastern cultures, the West is quickly discovering the benefit of meditation. Lots of people consider meditation as some long-haired hippy sitting cross-legged on a pillow, with their eyes closed, chanting.
However, there are no hard rules for this. You can be lying down, sat on a chair, at your desk or even washing the dishes. It really doesn’t matter, the key is being in the moment.
What are the two main types of meditation?
Although the many different types of meditation are as varied as their styles, they all share one key intention: their aim is to still and quieten a disorderly, active mind.
All meditation practises falling into one of two different styles. One style of meditation is concentrative, meaning that the attention is focused on something, such as an image, the breath, music or even a sound. Hindus and Buddhists use mantras to aid concentration while meditating. Mantra is a Sanskrit word which means a sacred message or text which is repeated.
The source of all mantras being AUM. Chanting the word AUM alone is enough to centre your mind and create stillness within. Other mantras can be repeated to invoke individual gods, such as the Gayatri mantra or Shanti mantra. It is not essential to be chanting Hindu or Buddhist mantras though, many people prefer to focus on words like peace, balance, connection or other affirmations.
This Concentrative style of meditation is very popular. The individual sits in a relaxed comfortable position and brings their awareness to their breath. They call this “conscious breathing”. When practised with regularity, this form of meditation is a real stress and anxiety reliever because the individual’s focus is directed elsewhere, such as the breath or a mantra. This process assists your body and mind to be less distracted by external forces and stimulus.
Mindfulness meditation is the second style and this involves bringing your awareness to any thoughts, feelings, sounds, smells or images that you experience. You are not to become attached to any of these or dwell on them in any way. It is essentially about observing what goes on in your mind. It is okay to have these fleeting thoughts, but the idea is to let them pass. In the beginning, your mind will be pretty active, but you observe the thought or image and then bring your awareness back to the breath. It is a training in being non-reactive and non-judgemental. Through practice, you will develop a quieter, clearer mindset, with a lot less mental chatter and you will be less prone to unnecessary worry and stress.
How do I reach a higher level of consciousness?
Meditation gifts us with the opportunity for clear communication between all levels of our being. Our awareness is drawn to the inner self and the energy within our bodies. This connection with our inner selves is the first step in developing an understanding of our higher selves.
Many people and certain faiths believe our higher self is our true being, our soul, our connection to the universe, our consciousness. Some even call it the Divine Self. Through meditation and other spiritual practises where we calm our minds and mental chatter, we strengthen our connection with our higher self and tap into our higher intelligence. It is there that we can find real answers to questions we may have and can tap into our intuition and wisdom. This is a sacred benefit of meditation.
Meditation has the ability to remove any barriers that we put up to the world. It can dissolve our egos and any attachments we may have, giving us the space to explore our true nature. Filling us with a sense of contentment and the chance to experience real happiness and joy.
A major benefit of meditation that anyone who practises agrees on is how much it has enhanced their brain function.
What are the health benefits of meditation?
Here are some of the numerous health benefits you will experience if you explore this spiritual practise:
- A deep sense of relaxation
- A reduction in heart attacks and tension in the muscles
- Better circulation
- A reduction in stress and anxiety
- Reduced age-related memory loss
- Enhanced immune system
- Reduction of inflammation
- Better sleep
- An increase of energy
- More balanced emotional health
- Reduction in pain