Many people have an uninformed view of meditation and wonder, “What is meditation and what good can it do for me?”
Some people may have visions of monks with shaved heads in far off lands sitting together in silence, or chanting mantra after mantra, when they think about meditation.
Although this stereotypical idea still exists, more and more "normal" people are practising meditation. People from all walks of life, educational backgrounds, race and income brackets are all practising this ancient art.
So let's begin with why we should mediate.
Every day we are bombarded with so much information.
We get exposed to around 2000 adverts and promotions, endless bad news stories about xenophobia, load shedding, crime and price increases.
While we are trying to process all this information, we hop on to Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and all the other social media sites.
All this along with trying to balance work pressures with family and relationship commitments!
No wonder our brains are constantly busy and never still, even we sleep!
When our brains are constantly assimilating information, we tend to be in the proverbial "fight or flight" state of mind.
We run on adrenalin from one task to the next, feeling like a hamster in a spinning wheel, never giving ourselves any "me time" to sit quietly, reflect, plan and give thanks.
As you are reading this article, you are probably thinking: "Yip that's me, but I don't have enough time in my hectic daily schedule to meditate. I'm not one of those monks in faraway places. I can't even relax for 5 minutes, how will I ever be able to meditate?"
Can meditation really help me?
We all know the benefits of looking after our physical bodies.
Trying to exercise daily, eating correctly and attempting to limit the toxins such as nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and all those other ingredients on the packaging we don't understand, is part of what we focus on, but very few of us ever think about our mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Google has pages and pages of the benefits of meditation.
It has been well documented that as little as 5 to 15 minutes of daily meditation will benefit you.
Research has scientifically proven that meditation is a safe and simple way to balance your physical, emotional and mental state and its countless values have been known and practised for thousands of years.
More and more doctors promote the benefits of meditation to cure many stress- related illnesses.
Some of the benefits of meditation are:
- Reduces anxiety attacks as it lowers the levels of blood lactate
- Builds self-confidence
- Increases serotonin which influences moods and behaviour (Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, headaches and insomnia.)
- Enhances energy, strength and vigour
- Helps keep blood pressure normal
- Reduces stress and tension
- Creates a state of deep relaxation and general feeling of well being
- Increases concentration and strengthens the mind
- Helps reduce disease
- Helps to reduce addictions
Other benefits that often get overlooked are those for the business environment.
Over the last 5 to 8 years, more and more large and small businesses are including meditation as part of their staff well-being.
It has also been shown to gain that slight advantage over their competition.
At first glance, meditation and business may seem wildly different.
One is associated with a peaceful state of consciousness, whereas the other is associated with heightened awareness, stress, and competition.
While they seem at different ends of the spectrum, they can have a synergistic relationship.
There are a number of different benefits that translate well between the two.
A few of these benefits to the business are:
Clarity and Focus • Increased employee loyalty • Improved communication • Decreased absenteeism due to illness • Increased Productivity • Heightened awareness • Enhance creativity
Meditation is becoming one of the most common methods that people are using to alleviate some of the stresses that occur in everyday life.
It isn’t difficult to meditate, it is a trained skill and like any other skill it takes practice.
Even those faraway monks started somewhere. Most people think they need to completely still their minds for hours at a time.This is not the case.
Start off by meditating for just a few minutes at a time and increase from there.
Here are a few tips that will help you to learn to meditate, and to do it the right way from the start:
Make it a formal practice.
You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time to be still.
Start with once a day and when ready, preferably twice a day.
Start with the breath.
Breathing deeply slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.
Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably.
Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.
Meditate with Purpose.
Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process.
The art of focusing your attention on a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!
Notice frustration creep up on you.
This is very common for beginners as we think, “Why can’t I just quieten my mind already?”
When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.
There are many forms of meditation. Zen, transcendental, mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation and movement meditation.
Beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.
Feel how different parts of the body move.
A great practice for beginners is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold.
Once the mind quietens, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs).
This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
Pick a specific room in your home to meditate.
Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep.
Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.
Read a book (or two) on meditation.
Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states.
This will get you motivated.
Commit for the long haul.
Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice.
Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!
Listen to instructional tapes and CDs.
Generate moments of awareness during the day.
Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.
Make sure you will not be disturbed.
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not ensuring peaceful practice conditions.
If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle, than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.
Notice small adjustments.
For novice meditators, the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal.
These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.
Use a candle.
Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner.
Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.
Do NOT Stress.
This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement.
No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards.
Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.
Do it together.
Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!
Meditate early in the morning.
Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal time to practise: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed.
Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.
Be grateful at the end.
Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practise and your mind’s ability to focus.
Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane.
Meditation is hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore.
THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with the practice.
Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!
Meditation is an absolutely wonderful practice, but can be very difficult in the beginning.
Use the tips described in this article to get your practice to the next level.
If you haven’t seriously given the idea of meditation your deliberation, you should do so soon, while you still have your sanity.