A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
Meditation practice has been used since ancient times to help practitioners regain their calm and stay focused. It’s the practice of calming the mind of all those racing thoughts that whiz around all day. Once you have the practice down, you can progress to examining a particular thought.
Overall, though, even if you never progress further than stilling your mind, you’ll find the practice beneficial. The upside is that anyone can meditate. It might take a little practice to get right, but with time you will.
In this beginners guide to meditation blog post, we’ll teach you more about the practice, and give you some tips to get you started on your journey.
Some History Behind Meditation
The term meditation is derived from the Latin, “Meditatum.” Translated to English, it means “ponder.” There is evidence, though, that the practice could go back a lot further than ancient Rome.
The first official records that we can draw on, date to 1500 BCE or so. However, that’s merely the first written records of the practice. Archeologists now believe that it might have evolved a lot earlier, and possibly before there were written records.
They believe that it dates back to when humans were still hunter-gatherers. Whatever you believe, we know that the earliest writings about the practice show that it stemmed from India. It was an integral part of the Hindu culture at the time.
Later on, it was adopted by Buddhists in parts of India and also by Taoists in China. That’s not to say that the west was left out entirely. Philo of Alexandria first introduced the practice to the west. Saint Augustine later ensured that it became firmly entrenched as part of his religious practice.
One thing that we must understand, however, is that there are different traditions of meditation. The Hindu tradition, for example, focused on meditation as one way of communing with their gods.
Buddhists, on the other hand, see it as a way to better understand our connectedness with everything around us. In essence, therefore, the Buddhists do not view meditation as a kind of religious practice at all.
This has led to the more modern view of meditation being a way to improve one’s mental health, to calm the mind and to reduce stress.
In modern times, meditation tends to be looked on as something “new age.” Most psychologists and doctors have dismissed it as a result, and there was a stigma associated with the practice. It was seen as primarily a religious practice.
That view started changing in the sixties. Since then, science has proven that meditation can be as effective as medication in reducing stress and reversing its effects. This new view has led us to the junction we’re currently at where meditation is acknowledged as a beneficial practice for body and mind.
Modern society now embraces many different kinds of meditation, and there are many different styles and practices. This is fantastic for the beginner because it means that you will be able to find a style that resonates with you.
If you find it difficult to clear your mind, for example, you could focus on your breathing, which will allow you to hone your practice. Mindfulness – where you focus intently on whatever task you are doing, is another form of meditation.
There are many other forms, so do some homework when you’re done here and see which might suit you best.
The Benefits of Meditating
You’ll no doubt have heard that meditation is an extremely beneficial practice that helps the whole body. It is essentially a mental discipline, but the effects can also assist with a range of different ailments.
It’s great for reducing high blood pressure, for example. As it calms the mind, your breathing slows, and your blood pressure lowers automatically. There are many other physical benefits of the practice as well.
The Physical Benefits
Not only will it help you reduce your blood pressure, but it can also lower the levels of unhealthy cholesterol in your bloodstream. You are calmer and less likely to binge on the wrong foods, which can help reduce your cholesterol levels.
Lower cholesterol and blood pressure reduces the chances of having a stroke or a heart attack.
Your immune system improves, meaning that you’ll be healthier overall.
You feel less anxious, which means that panic attacks, tense muscles, and other symptoms of anxiety are behind you.
You’ll sleep better. It will be easier to fall asleep, and easier to stay asleep as well. You’ll wake up feeling more rested.
Your athletic performance will improve. You’ll be able to focus more easily and stay on track with working toward your athletic goals.
Meditation can help you kick addictions to alcohol or drugs.
It can help give you relief from chronic pain, like that caused by fibromyalgia.
Your mind will feel sharper and stay sharper as you age.
The Mental Benefits
Scientists are vigorously exploring the mental benefits of meditation today. There have been studies that prove that regular meditation can help you deal with emotional issues.
Help you focus on the present, which means that you can move on from past upsets and avoid worrying about what hasn’t happened yet
Make it easier to deal with stressful situations at home and work
Help you deal with anxiety and severe conditions like PTSD
Make it easier for you to maintain an ongoing focus; you’ll be able to focus on the issue at hand without being sidetracked.
Improve the symptoms of depression. In the area of standard depression, it has been proven as useful as pharmaceuticals, without the nasty side effects.
Helps you improve your emotional intelligence. You’ll be better able to know what you are feeling and be able to distract yourself from negative emotions. You’ll also be able to be more empathetic to those around you.
Help you see things from a different perspective. Your relationships improve as a result.
Make it possible for you to work through your fears and phobias
Help you live a more honest life – you’ll deal with issues in your personality through self-reflection.
The Different Types of meditation
Here’s the fun part – it doesn’t matter what style you adopt, you’re going to find it beneficial. Some methods have different goals, so it’s a good idea to discover a style that aligns with the goals that you have.
Here are the main types of meditation.
You will work towards achieving an enlightened state and a deep sense of calm. The focus is on counteracting the stresses and strains of modern life and ridding yourself of negativity.
The idea here is to help balance your emotions, reduce stress, and make you more joyful. You’ll choose a mantra that resonates with you, and that reminds you of our interconnectedness. This mantra is repeated over and over again until you effectively zone out.
If you’re a stressed-out executive, this type of meditation is something to consider. The aim is to boost your energy while working towards altering your state of consciousness. From this point, you can meditate on your role in the world.
How You Can Start Meditating
We’ve chosen a few different types so that you can see what resonates with you the most.
With this type of meditation, it can be useful to have an instructor guide you through the visualization. There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube that are free, or you can buy yourself a CD. If you’re meditating to relieve stress, check out YouTube for a guided meditation.
It’s not essential to have an instructor, though. The idea here is to envision a goal that is important to you. What will it be like if that goal is achieved? See yourself in a situation where you have reached it already. Visualize every detail, from the sounds, colors, and smells, which is something that athletes do to help them prepare for victory.
This is what is known as a moving meditation. You adopt a series of poses and focus your mind. The result is that your body and mind relax completely. Qi Gong is a good option for those who are trying to overcome chronic aches and pains.
Being mindful is one of the easiest forms of meditation. You don’t have to sit down in a dark room, or try and force errant thoughts out of your mind. All you need to do is to concentrate on the task at hand. So, if you’re washing dishes, focus on every aspect.
Feel the soap bubbles against your skin. Note the feeling of the water, the warmth, and so on. Focus every single thought on washing the dishes, and you won’t have time to worry about anything else.
Here we’ll teach you about one of the simplest forms of meditation – a breathing meditation. If you have a problem with thoughts that keep intruding while you’re trying to clear your mind, you’ll want to give this a try.
Set aside a time where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure that you can sit in a quiet room with no distractions. It’s better if it’s completely quiet. If that’s not possible, consider putting on some calm and soothing music.
You’ll also need to ensure that the area that you choose is at a comfortable temperature. Strong smells might distract you as well, so try to keep the scents in the room as neutral as possible.
Now get yourself comfortable. You can adopt the standard meditation pose if it’s comfortable for you, which is seated, with your leg crossed and back straight. If you find that this is uncomfortable, sit up in a chair instead.
We don’t recommend lying down as you might fall asleep. Just keep your back straight and otherwise stay relaxed.
Close your eyes and breathe in deeply to the count of four. Hold your breath for the count of four. Now release to the count of four. Work slowly and deliberately and focus all of your attention on your breathing.
Your mind will clear automatically, and you’ll feel more relaxed. You can choose to continue this for the whole session, or move onto the next step. As a beginner, it might be easier to stop here. You can choose a shorter session of five minutes to start with and increase it as you go along.
As you progress, you’ll want to start learning to control your thoughts. You should be nicely relaxed because of the breathing exercise now. If thoughts start creeping back into your mind, refocus on your breathing.
Then you can start to bring a specific thought to mind. Perhaps you want to replay a scene in your mind to see what else you could have done. Maybe you want to actively ask your subconscious what it most desperately wants to communicate with you.
Here’s the rub – you only want to deal with one thought at a time. If you find that your mind is bombarding you with a lot of different items, gently pull back focus to the thought that you want to concentrate on. If that’s not working, then refocus on your breathing and try again later.
Sit quietly for a moment and enjoy the calm. When you feel ready to, open your eyes and bring your focus back to the outside world. Give yourself another minute or two to enjoy the calm and then go about your day as usual.
Meditation is not all that difficult if you’re willing to put in the time to practice. We’ve given you a fundamental way to start. See how well that works for you, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try other styles as well.
What works for one person might be less effective for the next, so do change things up a bit.
Finally, incorporate a simple session into your everyday life. Even if all you can spare is five minutes, you’ll find that the rewards are well worth the effort.