There has been a lot of talk about meditation in recent years. Everyone claims to be doing it, and countless apps have been created to help people with their practice, and introduce newcomers to its benefits. But what is meditation, exactly? According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of meditation is: “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” Sounds like it could be chill, right?
But what are the REAL benefits of a meditation practice? They are numerous, but the ones that most people are interested in are: reducing stress, managing anxiety, managing depression, increasing memory, focus, and productivity, and reducing pain. Assuming you’re interested in at least a few of these benefits, let’s talk about how to get started. There are several types of meditation: if you are interested in developing your own practice, mindful meditation and mantra meditation are two types to consider as a beginner.
In mindful meditation, you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and to help reduce stress.
To start a mindful meditation practice:
- Find a spot where you can sit comfortably.
- Try to focus solely on your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly as you breathe deeply.
- Continue to focus on your breathing as you close your eyes.
- Clear your mind and try not to think about anything else. This will be the hardest part for a beginner: to sit in silence and attempt to think about absolutely nothing.
- After 15 minutes (to start; eventually working up to 40-45 minutes per day), open your eyes. Now take a moment to think about how you feel. Maybe journal after each session.
Mantra meditation is also s process of quieting and focusing the mind, but instead using a sound, word, or phrase recited either aloud or silently. Webster’s dictionary defines a mantra as: “a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs.”
Here’s how you get started:
- Sit comfortably. Set a timer for 5 minutes, increasing your time as you get further in your mediation practice. It may help to have music playing, as long as the musical is instrumental and will not trigger any specific thoughts. You might also try lighting a candle or burning incense.
- Start the timer, and take slow deep breaths. Relax every muscle and bone in your body. Start to repeat the mantra in your mind. Over time you will get better and better and be able to meditate for longer and longer periods of time.
As noted, there are also apps available on mobile devices such as Calm, Muse and Headspace proven to help with meditation, if you prefer a guided approach. Just close your eyes, clear your mind, and...get lifted.