Meditation is an ancient technique, used for centuries in different cultures. It is a state of contemplation or deep and prolonged reflection to achieve a focused attention or altered state of consciousness, obtaining a vision of oneself and the world without being affected by external factors. Traditionally associated with spiritual and religious exercises, meditation is also used to provide relaxation and reduce the effects of stress, increase our capacity for concentration and attention, improve memory, treat symptoms such as hypertension, pain, insomnia, strengthen the immune system and promote general health and well-being, among other benefits.
Meditating is not about becoming a different person, it is about training awareness and gaining a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to shut off your thoughts or feelings. You are learning to observe them without judgment. And, over time, you may also begin to understand them better. Learning to meditate is like learning any other skill, it takes practice. Think of it like exercising a muscle you’ve never exercised. It takes constant practice to get comfortable. There is no such thing as a perfect meditation. Sometimes your attention may wander or you may forget to follow your breath. That’s okay. It is part of the experience. The most important thing is to meditate consistently. It is one of those things where the journey is more important than the destination.
HOW TO START MEDITATING?
It takes time to get comfortable in the mind. You may encounter setbacks along the way, but that is part of meditation. Keep practicing. You are doing very well just by trying.
There are different kinds of meditations, but most of them start the same way, by closing your eyes, calming your mind and concentrating on your breath. We use the breath as an anchor in the moment, simply sit and gradually learn to let thoughts and feelings come and go.
Of course, it is completely normal that when we start meditating the mind becomes distracted. The nature of the mind is to think, so it will think; meditation is not about stopping thoughts, we practice to observe them, without getting caught up in them. When we meditate we learn to tame this restlessness, developing an awareness for those moments when our attention has wandered. If we become distracted, we return our attention to our breathing. Through meditation, the mind learns to become more comfortable with the idea of taking a break, and we begin to integrate the qualities experienced during meditation practice-calmness, concentration, compassion, mindfulness-into our daily lives.
Step 1: Choose a time and place that works for you. Studies show that it is easier to create a new habit when we do it “at the same time and place” every day. Don’t overthink it: The best time to meditate is actually the time you can best prioritise. And the best place to meditate? Wherever you feel comfortable and are least distracted.
Step 2: Decide how long you want to meditate. Especially for beginners, it is essential to start with small periods of time, between 5 to 10 minutes, so that you can build up your practice and find your sweet spot. The most important thing is to decide on an amount of time that is effective, but that you also find achievable so that you continue to meditate daily.
Step 3: Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Sit with your legs and arms uncrossed, feet flat on the floor and hands resting in your lap or at your sides. Keep your back straight, but not too tense. If needed, a small cushion or rolled up towel can help keep your back straight.
Step 4: Decide whether you want the meditation to be guided or unguided. A guided meditation is led by an experienced teacher, either in person in a meditation group or class, or by audio or video. Guided meditation is recommended for people who are learning to meditate. Most guided meditations follow a similar format: the teacher explains how the mind behaves during meditation, guides you through a particular meditation technique, and finishes by suggesting how to integrate this technique into your daily.
BODY SCAN MEDITATION TECHNIQUE
The body scan technique can be a great introduction for people learning to meditate. It is designed to synchronize the body and mind by performing mental scans, from the top of the head to the end of the toes, and is performed as follows: