Meditation is often thought of as something spiritual; something that monks with shaved heads do in mountain monasteries. In reality, anybody can learn to meditate and I believe that everybody should do so. It is a simple, straightforward practice that need not require a lot of time and it has many health benefits.
Why you should meditate:
The benefits of meditation are too numerous to list here but some of the more notable ones are:
- An increased sense of calmness and well-being in your day to day life.
- Better health - several studies have shown meditation to be effective in lowering blood pressure and it has also been linked to decreased levels of cortisol ( a hormone which is linked to stress and anxiety) in your body.
- Improved sleep. Many insominiacs have found that meditation greatly reduced their symptoms.
- More clarity of thought. Many meditators say that a daily practice helps them to think more clearly and leaves them more open to inspiration.
- A better appreciation of the small things in life. Meditation is generally associated with mindfulness; bringing your complete attention to the present moment. When we do this, previously monotonous tasks can take on a new beauty in our minds and increase our happiness.
How to Meditate:
Sit down in a comfortable chair, preferably one with a straight back. Try to sit straight; don't slouch.
Dim the lights so that they are not too bright on your eyes. Now, set an alarm for about 20 minutes, If this seems too long for you then choose a shorter amount of time. When you are more experienced you may wish to sit for longer periods.
You can decide whether you prefer to close your eyes or keep them open - most people prefer to close them.
Take three deep breaths and relax your body, starting with the tips of your toes and moving upwards, consciously feeling each muscle in your body become relaxed.
Then simply focus on your breath. Do not try to control your breathing, but rather just notice it and rest your awareness on each breath in and each breath out.
If you find that thoughts keep coming into your head, that is ok. Just notice them, let them go and return to your breathing.
It is a common misconception that meditation is about not thinking. This is not true. In fact, meditation is the act of noticing and accepting things as they are right now - including any thoughts that you may be having.
When your alarm rings, do not get up immediately. Instead, take a moment to gather yourself, maybe have a little stretch and then get up. After you have been meditating for a time (perhaps a few weeks), you may notice that you start to look forward to it as one of the most enjoyable parts of your day.
What is next?
After your first session, make sure you don't give up. Keep going and try to do it for at least a couple of weeks. This allows you to make an informed decision about whether it is right for you or not. As well, a couple of weeks should be enough time for you to see a noticable difference in your clarity of thought and in your general sense of well-being.