Meditation: No longer just for hippies and monks
“Simplicity is harder than complication. To make your thinking clear and simple requires a lot of effort. When you reach the level of being able to think simply, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
You may already have an idea of meditation from what you’ve already heard about it—The Beatles, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Dalio, Katy Perry, are all strong advocates for the benefits of meditation. Or maybe you’ve seen Buddhist monks or Yogis meditating. Each will have slightly different reasons and personal benefits such as improved creativity, better productivity, finding peaceful moments, more open-mindedness, and stress reduction.
What is meditation?
Meditation comes down to working with the mind and turning the senses inwards so the body can reach a comfortable equilibrium state. That is one of the main reasons why developing a frequent meditation practice can be an important aspect of a personal wellness program. It is when the body reaches the comfortable equilibrium that the real holistic benefits start to realize. The benefits of meditation have even been a part of clinical studies about neuroplasticity (1). Even starting with 3 minutes a day can make a difference.
Why should I meditate?
By regularly practicing meditation, the body can return to its state of equilibrium more reliably and in a more controlled manner. This is especially effective if you find yourself frequently stressed, confused, overwhelmed, or agitated. When the body is in these excited states, it no longer operates at its peak capacity. The brain begins to shut down the connection on the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (the logic and personality center of the brain) and reverts to the limbic system in the brain which controls the reactionary response (also known as fight-or-flight). By using meditation practices to create a wider gap between the resting operating state and reaction response, the brain has more capacity to process logical, emotional and problem-solving tasks when things start to get stressful.
While this is a simplified version of how the complex nature of the brain and nervous system operate, it has proven to be an effective one (2).
How do I get started?
There are a ton of apps and how to guides out there right now on how to get started, its easy to get overwhelmed with all of the options.
A great way to get started is simply starting with the practice of focusing the mind on a particular object of attention. This object of attention can be something as simple as the breath. Breath meditation can be a great and simple place to start so you can more easily figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. While I have defined meditation in a broad sense, there is no time like the present, so, I would invite you to run a little experiment.
This practice is meant to be accessible and easy but if it gets to be too much, feel free to stop at any time. This shouldn’t be strenuous or uncomfortable in any way.
So, let’s dive in.
Breath meditation works by focusing on the natural flow of your breath. You might quickly realize that the breath is both automatic and something you can control. How cool is that? For this particular meditation, we will want to allow the breath to just be as it is. You might want to set a timer before you get started; even 3-4 minutes can be a good place to start.
Begin to find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. You will want to do a quick check of your posture to ensure you aren’t putting any extra strain on your body. Making sure the body is supported either by a chair or couch or on the floor leaning up against a wall. Ensuring the back is straight will help the breath flow easier and reduce the likelihood of you falling asleep.
Once you are comfortable, begin to close your eyes. You still may notice sounds going on around you or begin to have thoughts running through your awareness. This is totally normal. The goal of the meditation isn’t to shut out every single sound or thought, but to simply let them go and not become attached. If it was a good thought, it will come back anyway.
Once your eyes are closed, begin to try and find the natural rhythm of the breath. It should be easily flowing in and out of the body. As you begin to settle into the breath, you can begin to loosen the focus on the passing thoughts as they go by. Keeping the focus on the breath, begin to feel what sort of sensations come up in the body. If you are feeling a sense of calm, or maybe a sense of restlessness, every sensation is ok, there aren’t good or bad sensations in meditation, just letting each sensation come up and let it pass by.
After you’ve focused on your breath for a few minutes and your timer goes off, be sure to give yourself time to re-adjust after meditation and be careful as you get up. Take a minute or two to check in and re-orient with the surroundings before jumping back into the world.
That’s all there is to it!
Try it out for a few days and experiment with different times of day, different settings, and different seats to see what works for you. After that the meditation world is yours to explore!
If you would like to know more or have any questions please don’t hesitate to send me a message. Meditation and yoga have been passions for over 3 years now and I would be happy to help clear up any apprehensions or uncertainty.
Hope this helps!
Let me know what sort of other topics you are interested in in the comments!
Small reminder: This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a mental health professional such as a psychologist or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding meditation or your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the internet.