Over the years, I have studied meditation techniques as well as theory, and have come across a lot of great information that I am compelled to share. In this blog post, I wanted to provide an overview of “Meditation Basics” in a boiled down, no nonsense format.
WHAT: According to the Oxford Language Dictionary, to meditate is to “think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time…for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxing.” This clearly lends itself to a wide variety to activities and intentions. Meditation is often used as a stress reduction technique, and the science is clear on its many benefits in this area. When we meditate our breathing slows down, our blood pressure and heart rates decrease, and stress hormone levels fall. When the mind relaxes, so does the body. Meditation is often also used for spiritual purposes, and can be used to enhance one’s spiritual practice and to assist in an expansion of consciousness.
WHO: Nearly anyone can meditate, to include children as young as 4 years old. Meditation only requires the intention to relax and focus. Special skills, knowledge, and/or equipment are not necessary to successfully meditate. Please note: Those suffering mental illness, severe physical pain and/or with a history of trauma are strongly recommended to consult with their physicians before undertaking any meditation practice.
WHERE: Because meditating doesn’t require special equipment, you can do it practically anywhere. Many people create a special space in their homes for their meditation practice. It is important to be sure the environment is comfortable, free of distractions and clear of potential hazards, especially when doing a moving meditation such as tai chi. Sounds in the environment can be an issue, especially for beginners, but over time and with practice, sounds will become less of an issue. When meditating outdoors, avoid direct sunlight.
WHEN: Mindfulness experts recommend meditating twice daily for half an hour, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Morning Meditation. The first meditation of the day should be just after waking up. To ensure you are fully awake, it’s best to first wash your face, brush your teeth, and use the bathroom. Otherwise, if you stay in bed you risk falling asleep again.
Afternoon Meditation. The second meditation of the day should be done in late afternoon/early evening, preferably before dinner. If you must eat before meditating, allow ample time for your food to digest.
It is important to note that the benefits of your meditation practice will most likely be experienced with consistency over time, so it is very important to stick with it. Making it a habit, like brushing your teeth, will facilitate a regular daily routine.
WHY: Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and there is an extensive and ever-growing body of research pointing to the wide-range of lasting physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual benefits of a regular meditation practice. For example, it is proven to help reduce depression, insomnia, and migraines; can help abate stress-related illnesses like anxiety and heart disease; and can aid in recovery from addiction. Additionally, it can improve memory, spark creativity, create silence in the mind, and increase the sense of inner peace and joy.
HOW: There are innumerable ways and techniques to meditate, but there are some common best practices to help any meditation be more effective.
- Bring an open mind. Never go into a meditation expecting a specific experience. Each one will be different. It is important to accept whatever happens as what was meant to happen.
- While you shouldn’t expect a specific experience, it is helpful to begin your desired meditation by setting an intention to help focus on a specific issue, challenge, or outcome.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Ensure the environment is free of distractions and hazards.
- It is best to sit upright because your body associates lying down with sleeping. However, if a medical condition makes your session more comfortable, it is okay to lie down.
- Posture is very important, whether sitting, lying down, or moving. A straight spine enables the movement of energy throughout the body and enables you to breathe more deeply.
Meditation techniques typically fall into two overarching categories: Unguided and Guided. In both types, you may use any combination of the following overarching techniques:
- Simple focus on your breathe, a mantra, or an object like a candle flame.
- Controlled breathing.
- Mindful experiencing of body, mind, and emotions to get in touch with how you are feeling, holistically, in the moment.
- Visualizing a desired performance outcome.
- Working through a problem to a desired outcome.
I hope you found this information beneficial in your self-development or spiritual journey.