Meditation is a mystery to many in the Western world. Sure, we’ve all heard of it, but most say they “don’t have time” to slow down for it and others say they simply don’t know how or they’ve tried it and couldn’t do it “right.” Some even misunderstand it as being against their religion or think something crazy might happen, like they’ll start levitating during a session. While I actually think that levitating would be pretty cool — no, that’s not going to happen! What will happen is a slew of positive health benefits. Regular meditators experience a sense of calm, peace, balance, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. They also may have the ability to stay more focused with longer attention spans and better thought control than they would have without meditation. Other side effects can include increased happiness, more creativity, and deeper self-awareness and acceptance. The Dalai Lama, reportedly, has boldly declared, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
So, what is stopping us? Despite all of the fantastic benefits, statistically, less than 10 percent of Americans have a meditation practice. And the reason why is quite simple. As a whole, we don’t know any better. We live in a very fast-paced society and have it ingrained in our brains that if we slow down, we’re going to get passed up and plowed over. Further, as a society, we are over-medicated and taught that the cure for pretty much everything lies within a pill. Therefore, we’ve lost faith in our own bodies and their amazing abilities to heal. If doctors wrote out prescriptions to start a meditation practice and fuel our bodies with healthy nutrition, then miracles could happen. But we’ve come so far in science that we overlook the basics that are right in front of us and easy for all to achieve. There is no money to be made in telling people to meditate, and we’re a very profit-driven society.
We can all become spiritually rich if we turn to tools like meditation, which help us to raise our own vibrations and those of the world around us. A meditation practice helps us to get to the core of our being. By stilling our minds and silencing the overwhelming abundance of thoughts wildly dancing through at any given time, we’re able to hear the voice of our loving inner guide over that of our fear-based ego. Once we’re able to loosen the tight grasp that the ego mind has on us, we can swap out unpleasant insecurities, anxieties and fears for peace, happiness, and fulfilling our destinies.
There is an old Zen adage, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” At first, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But, anybody that has had a meditation practice will say, “I totally get it!” When we’re super busy, we usually feel tense and high-strung, which is our body’s normal reaction to stress. Meditation helps us to feel calm and thus allow stress to melt away. Meditating is not going to make our schedules any less hectic. However, it will make us more clear-headed and able to deal with whatever life tosses our way so that we actually begin dancing joyfully amidst the chaos. We’re essentially training our brain how to relax and deal with things in a much more level-headed and peaceful manner.
If this all sounds good to you, but you still have no idea where to begin, here are seven steps to get your practice going:
- Try to set up a little sacred spot in your home to go to every time you meditate. Put a few articles out that inspire you or that you have a spiritual connection too. If not, don’t let that stop you. That point is to just get it in when you can! My ideal spot is on my meditation pillow in my own little sacred spot, but as a new mom, I’ve logged plenty of recent sessions with a sleeping baby on my lap on the rocking chair. Those sessions are just as valuable!
- If you have something specific that you want to meditate on, think or pray about it before you begin your session. You don’t want to try to force or control your thoughts while meditating, so if you have something that you’re seeking guidance on, it’s best bring it up beforehand.
- Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably. If you have kids, you might need to sneak out of bed before the rest of the house wakes up or do it after they go to bed. Or, you might try headphones with some relaxing music to drown out the noise. Just find a way to make it work with your schedule and lifestyle.
- Decide how long you will meditate for. Beginners might want to start with just a few minutes a day and gradually increase. Five minutes is better than zero! Just like working out, the benefits will compound over time. Generally, the more frequently and longer, the better, but don’t discount the short sessions. Thirty minutes a day is an excellent goal to strive for.
- Set a timer. There are many apps you can download for your phone or table that have timers, keep logs, and play chimes at the beginning and end of your session. Insight Timer is one of my favorites and will even publish your sessions to Facebook and Twitter, if you want to share.
- Now, close your eyes and focus on your breathe. Inhale deeply into your diaphragm and slowly exhale. Don’t force the breathe, but just let it flow naturally as your allow your attention to draw there. Don’t worry if thoughts come while you are meditating. That is going to happen, especially if you’re new to it. Just try to observe the thoughts without judgment.
- Continue this until your timer lets you know the session is up. Don’t quit early!! Completing your full session time is going to help you build the discipline needed for an ongoing meditation practice.
If you stick with it daily and increase your session length over time, you’ll soon notice some positive changes in your life. Try journaling afterwards to log any major insights or an especially great feeling. When I get in my 30 minutes a day, I feel so wonderfully grounded, peaceful, and ready to conquer the world!
Have more questions, or want to share your own experience? Come join my Facebook page or message me privately. I always love to hear from you guys!
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Dawn Gluskin: Meditation, Demystified on Huff Post.