“There are some things Internet can’t find an answer to; your inner net is one of them”
How often have you seen people meditate and wondered ‘What are they up to’? Perhaps, you’ve stared at them with a bit of suspicion, wondering what they get out of it or even if there is any benefit at all. Some of you must have tried to imitate them and failed miserably, further increasing your suspicion. Most people I know, realize the benefits of meditation but just fail to practice it themselves.
If you are reading this article, perhaps you are one of them.
Don’t worry. This article will enlighten you and help you master your meditating skills.
First of all, what is meditation?
Meditation, in simple words, is a life-changing skill that enhances your ability to relax and understand your inner self.
Many people fail to master this skill because they practice it with little to no knowledge at all and without understanding the basics.
So let’s kick off by learning how to start meditating as a beginner and most importantly, how not to mediate. We will then discuss its benefits and how meditation has inspired millions of people all over the world.
How to Meditate
On a lighter note, a friend of mine once said, mastering the art of meditation is like getting pregnant. It takes its own time and happens to different people at different times. Even though meditation is for everyone, one shouldn’t compare and complain about it.
On that note, here’s how you can start meditating as a novice.
Find the Golden Spot
The environment you choose to meditate can make a lot of difference. So find a place that’s nice and quiet. Make sure no one disturbs you until you finish meditating. Keep you mobile phones away and make sure all kinds of outside noises are arrested.
Trust me, this might sound plain and simple, but it’s the most difficult thing to do, especially when you live with your family and kids.
Start off by gently stretching your arms and legs before you go for that intense meditation mode. You don’t want to get itchy or gingery once you are in the zone.
Now sit down and be calm and relaxed. Place your palms on your lap. The best place to sit is your floor cross-legged although there is nothing wrong in using a chair. Even better, make a cushiony seat for yourself.
Note: Do not force yourself into any position if you are not comfortable. The last thing you want is to cause pain to yourself and not focus properly.
If you are someone with chronic back pain and cannot sit for prolonged hours, there are other positions you can try. The Burmese Position, the Lotus Position and the Seiza position are some of them.
You can try all these positions to find out which one you are most comfortable with.
Start Deep and Slow Breathing Sessions
Start by gently closing your eyes. Again, there is no need to shut your eyes tight and be conscious about it. The buzzword throughout this activity would be ‘relaaaaaaaaaaaax’.
Start breathing slowly and deeply – breathe in with your nose and breathe out with your mouth. Be natural about it.
Initially, the air intake might feel shallow, as you suddenly start breathing in more air into your lungs. Don’t worry. It will gradually start feeling fuller and deeper.
Keep in mind that meditation is no race. You can take as long as you want to master the art of breathing slowly and deeply.
Be Aware of your breath all the Time
Like all other natural, holistic and good things in life, meditation can be a boring activity. But believe me, once you practicing it on a regular basis, you will love it.
Just breathing deep alone can make you feel calm and relaxed. If you experience that, it’s a good indication that you are already doing well.
Make sure you don’t lose your focus in the breathing process. Be mindful and try to enjoy each breath.
There are no specific time limits. You can do it as long as you like. 5 to 15 minutes would be ideal for starters. If you are able to do more, good for you. Being consistent is most important. If you can get up to meditating for 30 minutes per day for two weeks then this has been scientifically shown to produce positive changes.
Easier said than done. Beginners have almost always had issues staying focused on their breaths. Believe me, this is more of an art and you can master it with regular practice. You may have to put your focus back into your breathing several times, as your mind starts wandering all over.
Back to school days, how hard have you tried to focus on your teacher’s lecture while sitting next to a window? Ah! Tough times weren’t they!
With time, even before you realize it, you will start concentrating better and start loving the activity.
End it Properly
Very much like starting the session, it is important to end the session in a relaxed manner. Gently open your eyes, stand up and start stretching your arms and legs.
How do you feel? Excellent, you’ve nailed it.
But there is a long way to go before you fully start reaping the benefits of meditation.
As the saying goes, improvisation is the mother of invention. In this case, you are inventing yourself. So why wouldn’t you improve?
Different Types of Meditation
What you have accomplished just now is Breath Awareness Meditation. Once you learn this art, there are other types of meditation you can try. Although not recommended for absolute beginners, here are some different forms of meditation you should know about.
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Body Scan meditation
- Zen Meditation
- Mindful meditation
- Kundalini yoga
- Transcendental meditation
Tips for Novices
As mentioned above, the benefits of meditation are better experienced by doing the basics right. However, there are several things that can help you do the basics right.
Here are some simple tips to better invent yourself using this divine activity.
Bringing some Technology into Play
Why sit alone and recollect what your meditation guru has taught you? Bring some technology into play to motivate yourself throughout the session.
How about an audio guided meditation mp3? If you are someone who is shy and do not like to do things in front of an instructor or other practicing mates, simply buy an audio guided meditation CD and start practicing by yourself.
Meditation CDs and audios are also used by experienced meditators that love to explore new techniques they haven’t tried before.
Which one should you buy?
There are 100s of meditation mp3s and guides in the market today and it may be overwhelming to choose the one that best suits you. Sometimes, it depends on what you are trying to achieve through meditation.
For example, if you are meditating for relaxation, The Healing Waterfall Series may be a great choice. On the other hand if you are someone who gets nervy or anxious often and you are trying to calm yourself, try Chill Out.
While it’s good to do your homework and choose the one that best relaxes your mind, there is no harm in choosing any. After all, the primary objective of meditation is peace and relaxation and is common to everyone.
Exhale Longer and Longer
As you master the art of mindful inhaling and exhaling, try to exhale longer and longer each time. In other words, ensure that you exhale longer than you inhale and try to increase the time of your exhalation more and more. This will help more fresh air to enter into your lungs by exhausting the used air.
Experienced yogis do this in a more masterful manner by contracting their abdominal muscles gently. If you like to give it a try, watch the video in this link to know how it is done. Once again, if you are not comfortable, don’t do it.
Very much like seeking a peaceful environment that is devoid of noise and disturbances, it is essential to enjoy a warm and pleasant temperature when meditating. Do not hesitate to use a shawl or blanket if the weather is cold outside.
If you live in a hot country, you know what to do. Make yourself comfortable first. If you like it, you can try meditating on a terrace or by the beachside or a park, enjoying some fresh air.
This is obvious. You don’t want to be wearing tight clothes for meditation. No, no show offs here.
The idea is to be very comfortable and not conscious about your clothes. So wear whatever is comfortable for you.
No Empty Stomach or Full Stomach Before Meditating
Neither of these will help you meditate at ease. So make sure you have a light meal before you meditate. Again, not so much that you are not flexible or uncomfortable.
Try Relaxing Sounds or Light Music
As a beginner, you never know what helps you focus better. So try different things to find out. For some people, a relaxing background music helps them focus better. Others like perfect silence. If you belong to the first category, you must choose your music properly. The background music must help you relax and not get distracted during your session.
Here are some soothing background music you can try:
- Natural sounds
- Meditational Music – Steven Halpern’s Music For Healing
- Traditional Music – Native American Flute
The suggestions above are just some examples. Music is a matter of personal choice. You may explore and experiment with your own choice of music.
Use a Timer for Help
Use a timer on your smart phone or watch so it tells you exactly when to stop. Now why should you do this? Meditation is supposed to be untimed.
This is just to help you focus better. If you don’t use a timer, you may be thinking ‘when to stop’ throughout the entire session instead of focusing.
There are many online meditation tools like meditation timer with appropriate intervals and soothing sounds to help you achieve your goal.
Meditation itself is such a divine activity that everything you do about it must be gentle and relaxing.
Find Someone to Accompany you
If you are someone who hates being alone or trying new things alone, get someone to give you company. Call a friend, or a spouse or even your kid who can enhance your experience. But you must ensure that your companion is committed to the task. Otherwise, it can get distractive.
Join A Community Instead
If you live in a big city, it is not difficult to find a community of meditators. Even a dedicated online group should work. The advantage of joining a community is that you can discuss, get help, ask questions, encourage and support each other, thereby helping each other progress faster.
You also know that this is a community of committed people with a common goal in mind.
Time to make progress
As you would have realized by now, the first step of meditation is mastering the art of mindful breathing. Once you have done that, you can try other meditation techniques which I have listed above. Different meditations have different benefits. In order to enjoy the benefits of meditation wholesomely, it is important to progress and try other techniques too.
You will be surprised to realize how much you have started enjoying different techniques as you start progressing. So don’t get stuck in just one form of meditation.
The Priceless Benefits of Meditation
All of us are aware of the invaluable benefits of meditation. But how many of them are you aware of? 5? 10? 20? Ah! Let’s forget the numbers. You cannot measure divinity; you can only feel them. Let’s feel it.
For years, meditation has aided different classes of people in many different ways. So let’s categorize the benefits into physical, mental, meditation, performance, relationship and ‘for kids’ benefits.
Let me briefly explain them one by one. Keep in mind that these are science-backed ideas and not mere claims.
- Mindful meditation helps decrease depression according to Filip Raes, a professor at KU Leuven Belgium School. Mindful meditation works for everyone, regardless of whether you are a kid, pregnant women or adult.
- Consistent practice can help you fight anxiety and mood swings. Meditations involving a combination of relaxation, yoga and prayer can help control anxiety and mood swings.
- It helps learning and increases memory power. According to a research by Sara Lazar, a renowned scholar at Harvard University, meditation maximizes grey matter in the brain, helping you learn and concentrate better.
- Meditation promotes psychomotor and reduces the need to sleep long hours. According to a study at the University of Kentucky, meditation helped people perform better (at least on a short term basis) and provided greater ‘sleep satisfaction’ in lesser time.
- Meditation can help individuals trying to reduce alcohol consumption.
- Meditation is commonly known for its ability to enhance attention, focus and pressure handling. A study conducted by Katherine MacLean, proved that meditators were able to focus better on boring and monotonous tasks, hours after their meditation sessions.
- Mindful meditation is often associated with better decision making and data processing as proven by Eileen Luders of UCLA Laboratory.
- Regular meditators are known to have better resilience, mental ability and emotional intelligence.
- Meditation can help you fight pain better. An experiment conducted by Fadel Zeidan of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, showed that meditation can challenge morphine when it comes to relieving pain.
- Meditation relieves ADHD.
- Meditation enhances creativity.
- Meditation can check stroke and other heart diseases, according to the American Heart Association.
- Meditation regulates blood pressure.
- It regulates the genes responsible for controlling immunity and stress.
- Mindful meditation checks inflammatory disorders
- Regular practice will prevent arthritis, rheumatoid, asthma and bowel related health problems, reads Medical News Today.
- Meditative prayers can aid in the treatment of menopausal and premenstrual syndrome.
- Mindful meditation is known to decrease the risk of premature death and Alzheimer’s
- It also regulates respiratory and heart rates.
- In general, mindful meditation helps you live longer and stronger,
Relationship and Social Benefits
- Thanks to its divine nature, meditation is known to improve positive relationship and empathy.
- Meditation helps you stay away from social isolation.
- Regular meditators have claimed that meditation reduces worry and increases a compassion feeling.
- You can also reduce your habit of emotional eating by meditating regularly.
Even Kids enjoy their Share of Benefits by Meditating
According to MindfulnessInSchools.org, meditation helps kids in the following way:
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Promotes self-care
- Decreases reactivity
- Promotes cognitive retention
- Encourages Self Esteem
- Helps sleep and social skills
- Helps academic performances
Awesome, isn’t it? My question to you is – Have you ever heard of anything that’s as super beneficial as meditation. I can think of two things – exercise and yoga. What else? Come on, join the discussion.
Other Interesting Bits of Information
We are not done yet. There are few other things meditation is believed to offer.
- It is widely believed that chanting the word ‘OM’ prior to surgery helps in preparing yourself for the upcoming treatment.
Interestingly, there are many other mantras that are known to have magical benefits.
- Yet another hard to believe story! Meditation can help you save money.
- Meditation can make your sex life happier. This is an obvious thing. When you are in sound physical, mental and emotional health, your sex life tends to be great.
- It can reduce age and race prejudice.
Put your thinking caps on! When there are so many science-backed benefits of regular meditation, you can imagine how many more benefits are there that are yet to be discovered or proved. I haven’t mentioned any spiritual benefits in this article, as they are hard to track or convince. But for those who believe in it, you know, you can never be wrong.
But rest assured, there are many more yet-to-be-proven benefits of meditation than the ones I mentioned in this article.
Celebrities Bet Big on Meditation
No wonder why so many celebrities and successful people embrace meditation as their prime secret of success. With the kind of busy life they lead, their everyday appointments and the number of things they do and manage every day, life without meditation can become tough for them.
Meditation is tailor-made for such people.
Now then, here are some well-known personalities that have embraced meditation.
- Richard Gere is a Buddhist celebrity, an actor who has been practicing meditation for a long time.
- Angelina Jolie: This beautiful lady dedicates her success to meditation and healthy living.
- Kobe Bryant may be super quick on his feet on a basketball court but his day starts with a humble mindful meditation.
- Jerry Seinfeld, the rib-tickling comedian bets big on transcendental meditation.
- The gorgeous Madonna is a meditation lover too.
- The 5-times Wushu champion, Jet Li is a big proponent of mindful meditation.
- Time and again, Oprah Winfrey has revealed that meditation is the most significant part of her life.
- The legendary Steve Jobs was specifically fond of Zen meditation.
- Kate Perry is another huge believer of Transcendental Meditation.
- Hugh Jackman is often heard discussing the uncanny benefits of meditation on numerous TV shows and interviews.
Bill Gates, Michael Jordon, Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney and the list goes on and on. There are thousands of successful people out there who embrace the power of meditation that listing them all would take me 500-plus days. Just joking.
So, which of these celebrities are among your favorites? Do they inspire you to start meditating today?
Then what are you waiting for? Soon, you will be a master. Don’t forget to share your stories and experiences with us. Remember, sharing and caring is the best way to live in harmony.