There are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to take responsibility for our own states of mind – and to change them for the better. Meditation is an antidote to our own personal sorrows, and to the anxieties, fears, hatreds, and general confusions that beset the human condition.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. The many different meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energised states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
Over the millennia countless meditation practices have been developed. All of them may be described as ‘mind-trainings’, but they take many different approaches. The foundation of all of them, however, is the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind.
Motives for learning meditation vary. Some people want to improve their concentration for work, study, or even sports; others are looking for relief from stress and peace of mind. Then there are people trying to answer fundamental questions about life. With regular practice, meditation can help all of us to find what we are looking for.
When you sit down to meditate you need to set up your meditation posture in a way that is relaxed but upright, sitting on a cushion, cross-legged on the floor or in a chair. Then you close your eyes, relax, and tune in to how you are feeling. It is important to be sensitive to your experience because this is what you work with in meditation. It is a good idea to take some time to sit quietly before starting a meditation, to slow down and relax. Some gentle stretching can also help.
The techniques of meditation are very simple. However, reading about them is no substitute for learning from an experienced and reliable teacher. A teacher will be able to offer you guidance in how to apply the technique and how to deal with difficulties. Perhaps most importantly, a teacher can offer the encouragement and inspiration of their own example.
A Basic Meditation Technique
The basic tenets of meditation, relaxation and breathing, can be difficult to master in our hectic lives, but if you’re able to find just a few minutes a day, that’s all you need to get started. Benefits of meditation include stress reduction, sharpened concentration, and improved circulation to start. Once you begin to practice, you’ll soon experience a quieter mind, a more open heart, and a sense of inner freedom.
Remember all you need is 5 to 10 minutes a day to get started with meditation:
- Be comfortable in a quiet place.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. To get started, it doesn’t matter whether you sit or lay down as long as you are comfortable. You can sit cross-legged, on the floor, or on a chair. If you can sit erect, then great. If not, it’s just important to have your body in a somewhat stable position. Then have the palms of your hands face the sky.
- Become “present.”
Become totally aware of your current surroundings. What do you hear? How does it feel to sit? Do you feel tension? Where are your thoughts?
- Focus on your breath.
As you take long and deep breaths, feel your breath move from your lungs and out through your nostrils or your throat. (Breathing through your nostrils is better though either will work). Your mind will wonder (which is okay), just try your best to be as focused as possible.
- Feel your body.
Once you’re focused, take notice of your body and how each body part feels. Start with the toes and work your way up to your head. If your mind continues to wonder then bring your thoughts back to your breath. Breathe 5 to 10 times with full concentration on each breath. Take it a step further and hum “Om” as you breathe out.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
Like anything, practice makes perfect. Make sure to carve out a time each and every day to practice and you’ll find that meditation can be life-changing!