A Beginner's Guide to Meditation
Our modern world is full of stressors. Life seems to fly by at a mile a minute without ever having the courtesy of offering us a moment to catch our breath. More and more, it is up to us to carve out moments of stillness in our days. For many, meditation has provided just the answer they’ve been searching for, an antidote to the breakneck pace of their daily lives.
CEOs in particular are practicing meditation principles with a goal of creating agile and flexible mindsets as a foundation for leadership. Meditation makes us adaptable, less prone to sudden, impulsive action.
You may not be the leader of a Fortune 500 company or earn your living putting a ball through a hoop. Thankfully, you don’t have to be! From busy, on-the-go moms to students, anyone can reap the benefits of meditation.
So, are you ready to begin?
Benefits Of Meditation
Let’s start with going over some of the benefits associated with meditation.
- Increases Capacity to Manage Stress and Anxiety
- Helps Relationships
- Increases Productivity
- Boosts Creativity
Elements Of Meditation
A common misconception about meditation is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. While this is somewhat true, there are definitely best practices which can lead to more productive meditation.
As you read through this list, remember that these points are meant to help you relax and enter a truly meditative state. Don’t let thoughts of meditating the “right” way increase your stress. Implementing these best practices should be a soothing, calming experience.
Before meditating, choose something to focus your attention on. Focusing on your breathing is a common technique which works well for many. You can also make a repetitive sound (such as “ohm”) or you can hold something in your hand and focus on that.
Whatever you choose, what’s important is that your point of focus is clear and well defined. This will help you create the best meditation experience possible for yourself.
Emotions affect our breathing. When we’re scared, for example, we breathe more quickly. But the same is true in reverse. Our breathing can have a powerful effect on our emotional state. In fact, the age-old advice of “breathe” has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
As you meditate, avoid unnatural forms of breathing. The goal should be to imitate the way you breathe when you are genuinely relaxed.
Finding a quiet place to meditate is important because it frees you from outside distractions. Remember, meditation is an exercise that trains your mind to better focus its attention. Minimizing distractions allows us to achieve greater depth of focus during meditation.
What position comes to mind when you think of meditation? You might imagine people sitting cross legged and straight backed, resting their wrists on their knees. It’s an image which has been so ingrained in our minds, that it can be easy to assume that it is the only way to meditate.
In reality, you can meditate in just about any position, so long as it's comfortable. Physical discomfort can be as much of a distraction as loud noise or bright lights. So, whether you choose to sit, kneel, stand, or lie down, just make sure you’re comfortable.
As you meditate, it is important to let your thoughts flow. Whatever these thoughts are, take note of them, but do not judge them. Don’t ascribe labels of “good” or “bad” to the thoughts that cross your mind as you meditate. Don’t allow yourself to fall into self-criticism.
Remember that meditation is a way for us to come to a deeper understanding of ourselves. As you allow your thoughts to flow, you can better understand what causes you stress and anxiety, and you can use that knowledge to grow into a stronger and more mentally resilient person.
3 Types Of Meditation
Guided meditation is great for beginners. It engages the imagination, replacing restless thoughts with soothing images, sounds and sensations. Guided meditation may also include the use of aids such as pictures or soundtracks to help deepen immersion in the experience.
People interested in trying guided meditation can do so in a class if they wish, but valuable resources can be found on the internet as well. A simple search of “Guided Meditations” brings up hundreds, if not thousands of videos to assist you.
As you meditate, pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions. Don’t judge them, simply observe them and take note of the patterns you see. When unpleasant thoughts arise, don’t try to force them down. This only makes these thoughts stronger. Instead, acknowledge their existence and allow them to pass through your mind. Allow yourself to feel the emotions they inspire.
As you practice mindfulness meditation, you can train yourself to let these thoughts go. As you become more skilled, you can develop greater control over your thoughts, emotions, and attention.
Movement meditation focuses on deliberate movements, and it’s a great option for anyone who finds themselves growing bored using other meditation methods. Yoga can be a type of movement meditation, as can Tai Chi.
Try this: get into your preferred meditation position. Close your eyes, and then begin making slow, deliberate movements. You can reach up with your finger and touch your nose, or you can trace a shape in the air. Just about anything will do. Remember, your focus should be on the movements of your body rather than the goal of those movements.
Frequently Asked Meditation Questions
How long should I meditate for?
As long as you want! That being said, fifteen minutes to a half hour is usually plenty of time, so long as you’re being consistent. More important than the duration of your meditation sessions is their frequency and consistency.
Even if all you have is a few minutes each day to meditate, you can still see results so long as you are consistent.
How do I gauge my progress in meditation?
The most significant benefits of meditation show themselves only over the course of time. Be patient with yourself. Meditation is a skill, and it takes practice.
Remember that meditation should not be another box to check. You have to embody this mindful mode to see benefits. As you cultivate mindfulness, the calm you feel while meditating seeps into other aspects of your life.
What should I wear to meditate?
You can wear whatever you like so long as you’re comfortable. It may be helpful to remove tight shoes, ties, or belts which can feel constricting.
How do I find time to meditate?
Finding time for meditation means making time for meditation. It can be helpful to pair it with another part of your daily routine. For example, you can commit to meditating as soon as you’ve finished lunch or right before you go to bed.
You may have reached the end of this article, but your journey with meditation is just beginning. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, create tranquility, or just come to a greater understanding of yourself, there’s a meditation practice for you.
Be explorative! Be adventurous! Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new, different types. You can even go off script and invent your own using the principles that you’ve learned here! Remember, what’s important is that you find something that works for you.