There’s truly no right or wrong way to meditate and with virtually no downside and a host of potential benefits, now is a great time to begin or expand your meditation practice. With deep roots in ancient tradition, cultures all over the world use meditation to create a sense of calm and inner harmony. Come and see just why this practice is gaining attention and changing lives.
History of Meditation
Although there is no specific date, researchers believe that people began practicing meditation about 5,000 years ago. The first written accounts of how to meditate are found in Indian Vedic scripts dating back to around 1500 BCE. From these scripts emerged Taoist Chinese and Buddhist Indian meditation practices. And, although the practice has ties to many different religious teachings, meditation is less about faith and more about heightening consciousness, cultivating peace, and bringing awareness to the present moment.
Benefits of meditation
The benefits of a meditation practice seem potentially endless but here are a few reasons we commit to a daily meditation practice:
- Reduces Stress
- Creates Emotional Balance
- Improves Focus
- Reduces Pain
- Lowers Anxiety
- Increases Creativity
- Reduces Depression
- Increases Patience
- Improves Sleep
Learning how to meditate can create a heightened state of awareness and focused attention which can help alleviate stress and anxiety, lower cortisol (your stress hormone), and help you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system. With so many benefits, there’s never been a better time to begin your meditation journey!
Meditation for Beginners
Our biggest tip for beginners is to start small–sitting for just 3-5 minutes will still yield tremendous benefits. Create the habit and then begin to gradually increase the duration of each seated meditation. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Release all expectations about what your meditation practice should look like.
- Pick a time to meditate, and stick to it so you can create a daily habit.
- Create a designated space to meditate with as few distractions as possible.
- Take a few moments to settle down and clear your mind before you begin.
- Start with a few deep breaths to calm the body and mind.
- Commit to 5 minutes to start and set a timer so you can relax fully into the moment.
Don’t worry if your mind wanders because it most definitely will. Simply bring your awareness back to the present moment and remember that it’s a meditation practice, not a meditation perfect!
Styles of meditation
As we’ve said, there is no wrong way to meditate but there are various styles of meditation and some might be more appealing to you than others. There are probably more styles of meditation than there are days of the week, but here are a few of our favorites to consider as you embark on your meditation journey.
This style has become very popular in the West and involves acknowledging your reality, beginning with mindfulness of your body, breath, and thoughts. Here, we observe the mind and recognize each thought that arises without judging or manipulating it. Continually returning to the breath, or object of meditation, helps us learn to appreciate the present moment without attachment or judgment of it.
Depending on the tradition, spiritual meditation may include elements of silent, spoken, or chanted prayer. When practiced within a religious context, meditation supports a deeper connection with the Divine.
Focused meditation is the exact opposite of multi-tasking. In this technique, you concentrate exclusively on whatever it is that you are doing at the moment. If you are drinking tea, you focus your attention entirely on drinking your cup of tea. You might notice the sensation of warmth, the aroma, the weight of the cup in your hands. Whenever the mind wanders, you come back to drinking tea.
Many forms of meditation encourage stillness, but movement meditation focuses on the body in motion. Walking meditation is one form of mindful movement as are yoga, tai chi, and other martial arts. Once you are able to be present in your body during movement meditation, you can expand your awareness to include anything that keeps you moving, from gardening and walking the dog to running and cycling.
Chanting and mantra meditation encourages the use of a repetitive sound, phrase, or word (like chanting “Om”) as a way to meditate and help clear the mind. Many discover that their practice cultivates a peaceful, yet alert, state of mind through the use of mantra meditation. As a spiritual practice, it fosters deeper awareness and a stronger connection to positive human qualities such as compassion and confidence.
In this meditation technique, an image that creates a particular feeling or quality is brought to mind. Simply close your eyes and imagine a beautiful mountain lake, an open sky, a familiar landscape, or any other visualization that speaks to you. The power of visualization can provide meditators distance from unwelcome mental activity and bring a sense of peace.
Tools for your meditation practice
Meditation tools are not necessary but they can be helpful, especially as you are learning to meditate. A comfortable seat can help you maintain proper posture and alignment, making it easier to take slow, intentional breaths. Props like bolsters, scented eye pillows, and blankets can increase your comfort as well. Malas, crystals, and essential oils are wonderful tools to help you stay grounded and shift emotional energy. Lastly, as you begin to explore and deepen your meditation practice, consider adding books to your reading list that help you understand the power of stillness and the importance of a mindful practice.