Meditation tends to be a forgotten way of relaxation. There’s many reasons why that can be.
Misunderstandings occur many times and meditation is no exception.
Meditation does not mean you have to sit still for hours on end with your legs crossed, candles lit, holding a beaded necklace with your eyes closed while chanting or praying to a statue of Buddha.
That’s NOT what meditation is.
What is meditation then you ask?
Well, simply put: the act of focusing the mind.
According to Psychology Today, meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra*. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.
Now, you can sit however and for how long you please, light candles or not, hold whatever you want (or not hold anything at all), keep your eyes open or closed, say whatever you feel and pray to whomever you want during YOUR meditation time. Because it’s YOUR time to focus and clear YOUR mind you do it by YOUR rules.
So, with that said there is no one way, or right or wrong way for that matter, to meditate.
Side note: Are you a Christian and still not sure if meditation is for you? Read this fantastic article from AllAboutGod.com
*Note about mantras: The word “mantra” means a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
Mantras are commonly used in meditation, both religious and non-religious practices. They are believed to have psychological and / or spiritual power. The primary power in using mantra is found in repeating it either audibly or mentally. Some believe that the vibrations created from audibly speaking the mantra can be healing both physically and spiritually since everything emits a vibrational frequency, including the human body and sound.
Traditional mantras were originally written in Sanskrit, usually carrying spiritual meaning with them. Today, many people use positive words, quotes, or affirmations in meditation as mantras. They can be psychologically and emotionally beneficial and help to maintain focus and intention during meditation.
How meditation can help you
There are many benefits of meditation and if we went through all of them we would be here for a very long time, so here are just some of the benefits of meditation:
- Increases connection with others
- Decreases anxiety, stress and depression, improving mental wellness
- Increases attentiveness & aids in memory
- Boosts immune system
- Decreases pain
- Increases open-mindedness and self- awareness
- Allows emotional balance
- Helps with allergies and asthma
- Aids in recovery from substance abuse, binge eating and other compulsive disorders
- Improvement in health of cancer patients
- Contributes to overall cardiovascular health
- Reduces blood pressure
- Increases relaxation and helps with insomnia
- Increases productivity
- Helps reduce fear
- May reduce hot flashes during menopause
Breathing & meditation
We all breathe, right?
Breathing is so important because it is directly related to both our physical and emotional well-being. Our breathing affects our health and emotional state, and our health and emotional state affects our breathing.
Did you know our bodies prefer nose breathing? Yes, our nostrils and air pathways are equipped to filter the air that we breathe in to protect us from harmful germs, allergens, and toxins. The nostrils also warm the air as it passes down into the lungs.
Many people (and I’m guilty of this, too) have become accustomed to breathing shallowly. This can compromise health, vitality, emotional and mental well-being.
During times of fear, anxiety, concentration, and physical exertion, we can unconsciously hold our breath. This, of course, can prevent the right amount of oxygen from properly reaching our cells, prevent waste from being eliminated from our body, and negatively affect our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Because we’re mindful of our breathing during meditation, we can actually retrain our bodies to breathe more effectively and more efficiently. This will in turn carry over into times when we’re not meditating, too.
By breathing in a controlled, mindful manner, you can almost instantly change the way you feel. When your breathing slows down, it can create a calmness in the body, allowing the mind to quiet and focus.
So when you begin to practice meditation regularly, make sure you are using full breaths and breathing slowly to assist in being able to achieve a meditative state.
Here is a simple breathing exercise you can try right now:
- Sit in a position to where your back is straight and your stomach is not restricted.
- Set a timer for four minutes.
- Close your eyes or keep them partially or fully open with them focused on an object about three feet in front of your chest.
- Inhale slowly, filling your belly with breath, allowing your belly and chest to expand.
- As you inhale, note the sensation of where the air hits your nostrils. Where it is filling the lungs. Notice how your belly and chest expand, shifting against your clothing. Allow yourself to feel the sensation of your lungs being filled with air.
- Notice the moment your lungs become full, the natural pause in your breathing where you are neither inhaling or exhaling.
- Exhale slowly, allowing your belly to contract, followed by your chest.
- As you exhale, note the sensation of the air leaving your nostrils, the temperature, the pressure of the air escaping your body.
- Allow your lungs to empty completely, again, noticing the natural pause between exhale and inhale.
- Continue to experience your breath, feeling every sensation created by it.
- As your mind begins to drift, allow the thought to pass through your mind, without judgment or attention, and gently return your focus to your breathing and the sensations.
- Once the timer sounds, slowly bring your awareness back to your entire body, moving your fingers and toes.
- When ready, open your eyes if they were closed.
- Notice how you feel both mentally and physically. Is it different than when you began?
Do you meditate? How has it helped you?