If you’ve been curious about meditation, but maybe also a bit intimidated by the New Agey vibe associated with it, this article is for you. I’ll give you a simple explanation of mediation, so you know what it is (and what it isn’t), and then I’ll explain the benefits of it, why people choose meditation, and finally how to get started if you think it might be a good tool for you.
What Is Meditation?
Mediation is a silent approach to finding peacefulness. Although it is all about you and your mind, it has nothing to do with God or praying. It is really a state of being where you, in a sense, “empty” your mind. Meditating is a way to clear your mind so that only your consciousness remains. One way to look at it is this – If you have a lamp on, but you remove all the objects in the room, the lamp still goes on giving light. Meditation does the same thing, but in your mind. You remove all the “objects” (thoughts, worries, aches and pains) from your mind, and only your consciousness remains. True meditation is that state you are in when it is just you and your consciousness without any particular thoughts.
This isn’t guided imagery where you picture yourself in a peaceful place, and it isn’t a relaxation technique where you focus on something like your breathing. You aren’t thinking about anything. You are clearing your mind of everything to find a place of peace.
Don’t be scared off by the idea of reaching your “consciousness”. It means nothing more than just clearing your mind completely.
Why Do People Meditate?
People meditate for a lot of different reasons. Usually, individuals are drawn to meditation when their lives are getting a little too hectic, and they are yearning for some balance or peace of mind. If you ever feel like your life is a bit out of control, or you are just running from one thing to the next all day, meditation can really help you calm the chaos in your mind.
Other people arrive at meditation not to counterbalance chaos, but more for treatment of generalized problems. For instance, people who struggle with anxiety (even mild anxiety) find meditation to be helpful. Also, people who are feeling stressed – even if they can’t necessarily identify all their stressors – find that meditation helps them lower their stress level. Think of it as a medicine without having to clearly diagnose your ailment. It helps your overall mental health, even when you haven’t thought about what led you to struggle in the first place.
If you’re always on the go and sometimes feel like you need a moment to catch your breath for your own sanity, meditation can be a great tool.
What Will Meditating Do For Me?
Besides the sense of calmness or inner peace that meditation can bring you, there are also numerous studies showing the physiological benefits. People who meditate have been found to have stronger immune systems to fight diseases (not just viruses but systemic ailments like cancer too), lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, and healthier hearts.
Another interesting benefit to meditating is the changes in your mental health. People who meditate report feeling like their minds are sharper. They are better able to focus on both physical tasks and problem-solving, and they actually find they are able to resolve concerns and stressors easier. This makes sense, since when you meditate, you clear your mind for a time period. In a way, it’s like clearing any clutter from your mind that is impacting your thoughts and other mental tasks.
How Do I Start?
Even if you aren’t sure whether meditating is for you, it is certainly worth a try. Give it a week and see how you feel. If you don’t want to commit a lot of time to something you aren’t sure about, that’s okay – you can give it just 5 minutes per day.
If you think it might feel a bit awkward to just sit in a room and try to focus on nothing, start at an easier step. Just do this:
- Go in a quiet room that you can darken, and where you won’t be disturbed.
- If you’d like, turn on some quiet, soothing music.
- Find a comfortable sitting position – it doesn’t have to be the traditional meditation pose on the floor with legs crossed. Just be comfortable.
- Now just breathe. I know we talked earlier about this not being a breathing exercise, but if you’re new to meditation, it’s a good place to start. Just breathe in and out quietly for five minutes (or longer). If you find yourself thinking about things you need to do, shift your focus to something quieting – like a cloud or a tree or a field. If you find yourself listening to what someone is saying in another room, try to tune it out. That’s all you’re trying to do here – tune out all the things that normally crowd your mind, and just be still with a quiet mind.
Once you get comfortable with breathing and clearing your mind – you are meditating! There are actually two kinds of meditation – mindful meditation and mantra meditation.
Mantra is the type you’ve heard of where people repeat a single word in their head (such as “om”) while they meditate. This helps to give you something quiet to focus on, while still allowing you to completely clear your mind.
Mindful Meditation is mediation where you focus on one of your senses or your breathing or even the thoughts going through your head, and but you do so without judging yourself – instead just letting thoughts and feelings flow freely in and out of your mind. You can decide whichever one works better for you.
- Don’t forget to repeat. New habits are hard to instill, and even more so when you aren’t sure about something new you are trying. But you probably won’t feel the benefits of meditation from just one session. Try to do it every day for a week, and then see how you feel. If you think you might be starting to feel a bit of a sense of calmness, promise yourself another week to keep working on it. If you can, increase the amount of time you spend meditating – as much as 20 minutes each day if possible.
Of all the many benefits to meditating, the favorite one I’ve read about is that it extends your life! Something so simple and calming can have so many positive effects on both your physical and mental well-being AND extend your life! Why not give it a try?
If you have tried meditating before, let me know how it worked for you. And, if you try it now, be sure to report back with your results. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!