Meditation is a natural technique used to manage stress, invoke relaxation and increase your sense of wellbeing. In this article I will be focusing on a simple and proven form of meditation called mindfulness meditation. There are many forms of meditation that can be explored but I have found mindfulness meditation to be one of the most accessible forms of meditation.
Mindfulness meditation involves simple breath and body awareness techniques that help train our bodies and minds to be more focused and aware in the present moment. And this is the goal of meditation – to exercise our mindfulness muscles so that we can more easily access mindfulness in our daily activities.
With regular practice, people experience numerous benefits from meditation including: sleeping more easily and soundly, improved focus, increased energy, being less reactive to stressful situations, a greater sense of balance and wellbeing, and a renewed appreciation for life.
While external stressors can’t be eliminated from our lives, we do have the power to change the way we react to them. Meditation is a way of training our bodies and minds to respond to these demands in healthier ways that don’t leave us feeling depleted.
While this powerful tool should be accessible to everyone, misconceptions about meditation can get in the way. As such, it’s helpful to know the basics so you’re not discouraged from trying or disappointed by the experience.
It requires no special skills to learn to meditate. You don’t need special clothing or equipment. You don’t need to sit with your legs crossed. You don’t need to have a certain personality type. You simply need a willingness to learn a very simple technique and to practice regularly.
Meditation works like a vitamin, not a pill. This is not something that is done in reaction to a stressful event as a way to calm down. Meditation is done on a regular basis — even when life is great —to build up your resilience to stressful events so that you can more calmly respond to the inevitable stressful events associated with life.
Meditation won’t stop your thoughts. Deepak Chopra may have said it best:
“Meditation is not a way of making the mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there.”
Scientists have found that we have as many as 50,000 thoughts per day. Knowing this, we can understand that we aren’t going to stop the thoughts. The mind was designed to have thoughts, the same way the eye was designed to see. It’s just doing its job!
So if you are coming to meditation to stop the thoughts, you will likely feel discouraged when this doesn’t happen. Instead, know that this isn’t going to happen. With this knowledge, you free yourself up for your meditation practice.
Your meditation practice is all about focusing. You are literally practicing focusing. This is accomplished by choosing something to focus on – such as your breath – and keeping your focus there.
As thoughts or other distractions arise, you simply bring your focus back to your breath. Over and over again. It’s really that simple!
Meditation is not about achieving states of bliss. Some people are drawn to meditation hoping it will lead to blissful or mystical experiences, and are disappointed when this doesn’t happen. While these transcendental experiences can happen, this is not the goal of meditation nor is it something that happens regularly. However, a regular meditation practice can lead to a greater appreciation for everyday life, including the mundane aspects of our lives.
Meditation is a practice. Just like learning to play a musical instrument or sport, meditation requires regular practice. The benefits only come with practice and repetition. As I mentioned earlier, meditation works like a vitamin rather than a pill, so if only done sporadically you may not see the desired results. With regular practice – even just a short time most days – you can experience powerful results.