Meditation is easy!
There are some common misconceptions about meditation. These include what it involves and what makes a meditation successful. I’m here to tell you now that the only way to be unsuccessful with meditation is to never try it or to give up on it as a practice.
Meditation is a proven successful method of reducing and managing stress and anxiety. It is a simple practice, often used for grounding the self in the present moment.
In our busy modern lives, we are usually inundated with tasks and our minds are always racing from one thing to the next. You could think of finding time for meditation as a chance to recharge your brains batteries between tasks, like charging your mobile phone when it’s starting to run low. It’s a much-needed break for the mind and everyone can benefit from it.
Meditation can be a great start to the morning, kicking you off with calm and clarity for the day ahead. It can be done at night before bed and is proven to help people relax into sleep. Even children can learn and benefit from the practice of meditation.
If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.
~ Amit Ray
Meditation isn’t just for spiritual and religious people. It’s not just for psychics and people trying to practice magic. It doesn’t necessarily involve going into trances and having visions, though for some people, this might be what happens.
Some people go into meditation with a specific purpose other than grounding themselves or to try to help them sleep. They may go into meditation with the intention of healing themselves, energetically, or to connect to spirit guides. These sorts of practices are obviously unsuitable for those who do not believe in Spirit, or the power of energy healing, but what is suitable for everyone is basic meditation practices, scientifically proven to be good for mental health.
In this article, I would like to focus on basic meditation techniques and mindfulness for the beginner interested in using meditation for relieving stress and grounding yourself in the present moment.
Step 1 (Set a timer for five minutes):
As a beginner, you want to start by finding somewhere quiet to practice where you will not be distracted. It usually helps to be sitting down comfortably in a chair, or on the floor, keeping your spine straight, with your hands on your lap or knees and your chin tilted slightly towards your chest.
Meditation can be done standing or lying down too, but as it can be extremely relaxing, you might find yourself falling asleep when led down. If you don’t want to fall asleep when you’re lying down, it is always helpful to have a timer set. I personally use a free meditation app on my phone called Insight Timer.
The main thing is to ensure you are comfortable, as you will be maintaining this position for five minutes.
When you are more skilled at meditation, you will likely find you are able to go into meditative states even when there are distractions around.
Step 2 (Focus on your breath):
Now that you are comfortable, you are to begin by focusing on your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, and notice the sensations. Is the breath cooler coming in or out?
You might want to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or belly, but do not try to change your breath. Just let it be, as it is.
You are just going to focus on your breath to begin with. It may help to visualise the word “inhale” with each breath in, and on each breath out begin to count up, from “one”, all the way up to “nine”.
If your mind wanders off and becomes lost in thought, don’t despair! Just notice, without judgement, what has happened and bring your attention back to your breath. Keep counting on each breath out, all the way up to the number 9.
You should now already be in a much calmer state of mind.
Step 3 (Relax):
Continuing to breathe in and out, bring your awareness to your body. How does it feel? Are you holding tension anywhere?
Tell yourself “relax” and breathe into the area you are holding tension. Allow yourself to let go.
When you feel your body is relaxed, you can bring your attention back to your breath and once again count all the way up to “nine” on each breath out. You can keep repeating this process, but read on to find out how to deal with thoughts and feelings that arise during your meditation.
Observe your thoughts:
It’s natural for the mind to wander, even during meditation. With practice you may find it wanders less and less often, but whenever it does, notice the thoughts and watch them, as an observer. Do not follow the thoughts. Just let them pass you by.
To not follow them means to not get carried away with the stories and ideas the mind is presenting to you. Notice them. Observe them without judgement and let them go, returning your awareness to your breath.
You are not your thoughts. You are the watcher. You are the listener.
My favourite analogy is to compare thoughts to traffic. You are the watcher, sat on the side of the road as the cars, motorcycles and trucks (i.e. your thoughts) continue to drive by.
Observe your feelings:
During meditation, some emotions may arise. Notice these feelings. Perhaps you can identify them. For example, you might feel happy or sad. Don’t argue with your feelings or try to change them. Just observe the feeling and let it be.
Just as you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings. You are the watcher. You are the one that notices the changing tides of your emotions.
Understand that everything is just as it should be in this moment. You are exactly as you should be. Sit with your emotions without judgement, over-analysing or attaching stories to them and continue to focus on your breath.
Notice if anything changes. Feelings are transient and it’s possible they will change even during the meditation.
Observe your body:
Notice bodily sensations. Your tummy may rumble. You may suddenly feel urges to scratch an itch. You may feel tension coming back or feel your body relaxing as you bring your awareness to the tension and breathe into it. Resist the urge to change anything and simply be, as you are, aware of what is going on in your body and mind and aware of your breath coming in and out.
Notice the space:
Space is the gap between thoughts that you may feel you rarely or have never experienced if you have quite a busy mind. You can begin to learn to notice it by noticing the space between each breath – that moment between each inhale and exhale.
As you learn to observe your thoughts as a watcher, you begin to find space. Notice the space between each thought. Notice these quiet moments, where you are not thinking at all. Notice when the space gets longer or shorter.
Notice how you feel in this space.
Don’t give up:
If you’ve follow my guidance, soon you will have successfully practised meditation for five minutes, without worrying that you’ve had “too many thoughts” or that you’ve somehow done something wrong because you didn’t go into a trance. Hopefully, you find it relaxing and perhaps even enlightening in some way. Maybe you will quickly see the benefit of taking the time to meditate.
The trick to getting the full benefits of meditation is to never give up on it. Continue to practice every day, perhaps several times a day, and/or for longer periods if you feel able to. The more you practise, the easier it is and the more likely you will see positive changes in your health.