Try this simple exercise. Close your eyes and take 3 long deep breaths. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. The entire time think of nothing except how your breath feels as it goes in and out of your body.
What you just did was practice a technique of meditation. How did it feel? Did it relax you? Do you feel somewhat rejuvenated? If so, do you think it would benefit you more if you were to do it for a few minutes rather than a few seconds?
What are some reasons to meditate? Daily meditation is a powerful resource that can help improve all aspects of your life. It will help focus your mind, heal your body, rejuvenate your spirit, and release stress. You will perform better at work, your relationships will improve, and you will have a sense of peace and fulfillment.
One of the most beneficial reasons to meditate is to relieve pain. According to a study conducted by Wake Forest University and reported in the April 6, 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, meditation has shown to reduce pain unpleasantness by 57% and pain intensity by 40%.
The image below using magnetic resonance imaging was taken during the study. The yellow areas correspond with pain activity in the brain.Credit: Wake Forest University
How to meditate? To meditate is to be silent, still, and in the moment. To be in the moment during meditation means to focus on self at that moment. To not think of the present or the past. Instead, to be aware of how your body feels as it relaxes and to be aware of the movement of your breath. To help keep your focus, you have to shut out the external world by closing your eyes and acknowledging but not dwelling on any sounds you hear. If thoughts from the external world enter your mind, treat them like sounds; Acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them.
If you are doing purpose driven meditation, in which you visualize a desired outcome, such as meditation to lose weight, then only think of things as being the way you want them now rather than in the future. If weight loss is the desired outcome, visualize it as already happened.
When doing meditation it is best to be in a sitting posture rather than laying down. Falling asleep while meditating is easy to do when laying down. You want to be in a state of being between asleep and awake. A state where you are conscious and at utmost peace simultaneously. An erect sitting posture is recommend to help keep you in that state. You can sit on the floor or in a chair; Whichever way makes you comfortable.
How long to meditate? Do short meditations of 3 to 8 minutes throughout the day as needed to take breaks and to regenerate, or before times that you will need to perform at a high level. For example, meditate a few minutes in your car before going into work.
Besides short meditations, practice one longer meditation of 8 to 40 minutes everyday. The more practice you have the longer you will be able to meditate.
Where to meditate? Many practitioners will tell you to make it a habit to meditate in the same place each day. The reasoning is that you will feel more comfortable and a meditative state will come easier. This may be true, but I think it is better to be able to meditate in any place and at any time. For example, you will find it beneficial to meditate at work or when you have a few minutes between classes. The main thing is to be in a place where you can close your eyes and shut out the external world for a few moments. A quite place where you won’t be interrupted. If needed, use earplugs or listen to ambient music through headphones to shut out noise.
Meditation is wonderful. Regular practice will prove to bring you improvements to all areas of your life. We all have the tools to do it, and in such a fast pace world we all have the reasons to do it as well.
If you would like additional help reaching a meditative state, try this guided meditation video.