Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’ve likely heard that ‘meditation’ is beneficial.
Meditation has a long history, and has acquired some weird cultural baggage. Think of meditation as mental exercise. We all recognize that training the body with physical exercise has massive benefits, the same is true for the mind.
In this how to meditate guide, we’ll give you meditation techniques for beginners.
How should I start ?
Here are the basics of mindfulness meditation in 3 simple steps:
Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Focus your full attention on the feeling of your breath coming in and going out. YOU are responsible for your breathing - YOU control it. You have to be aware of that so, pick a spot - nose, chest, belly - and just feel the inhale and exhale.
The third step is the biggie. As soon as you try to do this, Your mind is probably going to go nuts. You’re going to start thinking: What’s for lunch? Do I need a haircut? Why do celebrities marry other celebrities?
This is totally normal. All of our minds are a bit crazy. As soon as you notice your mind has wandered, just return your attention to the breath.
No matter how many times you get lost, no matter how long you get lost for, as long as your are returning to the breath again and again - you are meditating.
Every time you catch yourself wandering and haul your attention back to the breath, it’s like a bicep curl for the brain. Not for nothing, it’s also a radical act; you’re breaking a lifetime’s habit of walking around in a fog of rumination and projection, and you’re actually focusing on what’s happening right now.
- You are building a mental muscle called ‘mindfulness’ - a complex and ancient term -
I’ve heard from so many people who assume that they could never learn how to meditate because they can’t “clear the mind.” I can’t say this loudly or frequently enough: the goal is not to magically clear your mind; it’s to focus your mind -- for a few nanoseconds at a time -- and every time you get lost, just start again. You have to let go all your thoughts, one by one.
Don't try to answer your mind, no need, just accept it and LET-IT-GO !
Why Meditate ?
Let’s review some of the science. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of research into the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation like :
Lower your blood pressure
Reduce the release of the stress hormone cortisol
Boost your immune system
Slow age-related atrophy of the brain
Mitigate anxiety and depression
Improve focus and productivity
Studies say meditation can improve both behaviour and grades for school children, reduce violence in prisons, and help psoriasis patients with their symptoms.
In recent years, neuroscientists have been peering directly into the brains of meditators, and they’ve found that even short daily doses of this practice can rewire key parts of the brain having to do with self-awareness, compassion, executive function, and emotional reactivity.
One study found that just eight weeks of meditation resulted in measurable decreases in grey matter density in the area of the brain associated with stress. That’s only one of the reasons why another study found that the practice of meditation can reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia -- it also may slows the aging rate of the brain and trigger the growth of new brain cells.
The studies strongly suggest that a few minutes of daily meditation can deliver a long list of tantalizing health benefits.
Finding Time for Meditation
How can we find the time? People tell us all the time: I get it, I know meditation is good for you, but I just can’t get find the time to do it.
Here are some tricks for building meditation into a super busy life:
First, you can meditate pretty much anywhere. Don’t get fixated on finding the perfect, pristine, quiet place. You can meditate in a Uber, in your office, in parks, on planes, and while waiting for your toddler to fall asleep.
Second, you don’t need to be obsessive about meditating at a particular time of day. You may find a regular time slot, and that’s great. But if you have an unpredictable schedule, just fit it in when you can. If you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to do it right after you wake up. Experiment a bit and find something that works.
Third, give yourself a break. Didn't find the time to meditate today ? Nothing’s been lost. It’s like when you get distracted during meditation itself: just begin again.
And here’s our final tip: Start to really notice the benefits as they show up in your actual life. Is meditation making you less likely to pop off at your boss? Is it making you less likely to overeat? Give yourself credit. The more you pay attention to the wins, the more likely you are to continue to practice meditation.
Don’t make the mistake of expecting instant transformation. These things take time. Be Kind & Patient with yourself.
You now have the basic instructions for beginning a meditation practice. Good luck! And remember the stakes here: happiness and compassion are skills.
"All dates can change, so can you"