Updated: Mar 9
The new 'Mindfulness' movement has made meditation the trendy thing do right now but meditation has been around for thousands of years. Almost all religions advocate some form of meditation and quiet introspection but lately scientific research has added proof that meditating is not just good for the soul but it's also good for our physical health. Meditation reduces high blood pressure and stress. It improves brain function and lowers the risk of heart disease. Answers to questions and solutions to problems also come to you more easily when you let go of resistant thought.
Despite the many benefits, most people I know don't have a daily meditation practice, either because they don't know how to meditate or they feel they don't have enough time to meditate. There are many misconceptions about what meditation actually involves so I thought I would clarify a few of the myths before going through a simple meditation.
I have to stop all thought
We are thinking' beings' so stopping all thoughts is very difficult to do. The initial objective is to slow down and calm our thoughts so they are positively focused and are of benefit to us. If we slow things down deliberately during meditation instead of thinking in a confused, default way we can use our thoughts to sooth ourselves when we're feeling disconnected, unhappy, unworthy or worried and we can eventually control how we react to external situations. Solutions to problems often come to me once I've finished meditating perhaps because I've created a little space in my mind for it to come through.
People who meditate are 'wacko' and shut off from the real world
Many successful people meditate, Oprah Winfrey, Eva Mendes, Jennifer Aniston, Richard Gere, Sting, Billionaire Ray Dalio, Bill Ford (Ford Motors), Larry Brilliant (former Google Director) to name but a few. So you'll be in very good company.
It's easier to be focused and balanced when meditating if you're in a quiet location with no disturbances. The problem arises when we have to participate in the real world again. Some people like to hide themselves away for long periods of time but the key point of meditation is to connect to your true self and become stable so that you can participate easily in the real world, facing all situations whilst remaining balanced. When dealing with real-life situations and people your meditation practice should allow you to think and react with more clarity and positivity.
I don't have time to meditate
An ideal daily practice should last about 15 minutes but even 5 minutes a day will have an impact. You can meditate anytime. First thing in the morning really sets your day off to a good start. You can set your morning alarm 5 minutes earlier or sit up for a few minutes before going to bed. Meditating in the evening also ensures a peaceful sleep. I often meditate as soon as I get home from work. It de-stresses me, helps me to unwind and allows me to positively interact with my family instead of subconsciously taking out my work anxieties on them. You can even meditate on the way to work if you walk or commute by train or bus. Of course, meditating whilst driving is a big no-no. However, listening to a positive affirmation CD when driving is great!
Once you have your daily routine you can even do additional 1 minute meditations throughout the day with your eyes wide open and no-one needs to know! You just slow and deepen your breathing as you turn your thoughts inwards to connect with your higher-self just for a minute or so, whilst repeating something positive like 'I am peace'. I find this simple method really helps me to cope with stressful situations.
A SIMPLE START
Regardless of what your doubts may be the best thing is to try it. Just make a start and see how great it feels to take time out of our hectic lives and allow our mind and body to release all resistant thoughts, stress and worry.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, meditation can take many forms so long as it causes you to focus and relax. So you can sit in silence, chant, colour in a mandala, pray or look at a candle, it really doesn't matter as long as if during and after you feel uplifted, calmer and lighter.
This is a simple meditation you can try that I like to do in the evening but it can be done at anytime.
Sit in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. You can play some relaxing music if you have it. (Meditation music can easily be found on YouTube). Set your alarm for between 5 and 15 minutes. The first step in calming the mind is to focus on something that has a consistent sound and motion like your breathing.
With your eyes closed direct your attention to your breathing.
Slow your breathing down to a comfortable pace and breathe a little deeper than normal, in and out through your nose as you relax. Feeling heavier in your body, let your shoulders drop and relax.
Focus your attention inwards. Focus past your physicality and connect with your soul.
Remember who you really are.
Remember that you have peace, love, happiness, power and wisdom within you. There is no need to search for these things outside of yourself in external things, situations or people. They are all already within you. As you breathe in and out, very slowly and silently repeat the phrases 'I am peace' 'I am love' 'I am happiness' 'I am worthy'
Feel how powerful and wise you are. If other thoughts arise, let them pass gently through and return your focus to your breathing. Repeat 'I am peace. I am love' Relax here for a few minutes then, when you are ready, start to become aware of your surroundings.
Become aware of your body and in your own time take a few deep breaths, open your eyes and slowly stretch your body back into the world.
If you enjoyed this meditation or would like to share how mediation has helped you please leave me a comment.
If you'd like to delve a little deeper into the scientifically proven health benefits of meditation, then this article by Positive Psychology is a good place to start - 5 Health Benefits of Daily Meditation According to Science.
For those who prefer to listen to, rather than read a meditation below is a 15 minute guided meditation video by one of my favs Jason Stephenson. I love his calming voice!