Meditation is an activity that asks the practitioner to put their body and mind into a relaxed and focused state. People that meditate regularly report increased awareness of their feelings, thoughts and emotions, a stronger focus and concentration, as well as increased happiness and positivity.
Meditation is most commonly associated with East-Asian philosophy and religion. But more and more people are approaching it in a secular (non-religious) way. You don’t have to subscribe to any beliefs or religious groups. Just take time to practice the basic exercises in your own home.
There are quite a few different approaches to take to meditation, but fundamental principles are shared across many meditation styles. One of the most important among is the goal of removing negative, unhelpful or distracting thoughts, and quietening the mind possibly aided by having a strong focus on something.This clears the mind of distractions and prepares it for more advanced forms of meditation.
Any negative thoughts you have – when you are irritated by being stuck in a traffic jam, by co-workers that gossip behind your back, being upset about procrastinating – can be said to crowding your mind causing your focus to be weak and wander easily. Quietening the mind reduces stress and strengthens your focus.
Some meditation traditions ask you to reduce all of your attention to sensory input – seeing, hearing and touching, so that you can focus on what it is that observes this sensory input. The part of you that is constantly judging, comparing and measuring everything that you come into contact with.
If you start thinking of contorted Yoga positions as being necessary for meditation then you are not quite correct. Most meditation practices just require you to sit in what is for you the most comfortable position. The only reason that sitting cross-legged is seen to be the way to meditate is because many meditation traditions come from cultures where chairs are not commonly used. If you wish you can even lie down to meditate as long as you are well rested so that you do not accidentally fall asleep. The fact is that you can do certain kinds of meditation even while engaging in activities such as walking and jogging or while playing a musical instrument.
But for your first forays into meditation its best to start with a position that will allow you to relax and focus, easily. Whether sitting, standing or lying down, your back should be straight but not tense, make sure you are not slouching.
You should mediate somewhere as quiet as possible, such as your living room if there is no one around or your bedroom. You can use an exercise mat or cushion if you want to sit on the floor. It’s important for you to have silence around you so it’s a good idea to unplug or switch off your phone. You could light incense or nice smelling candles but be aware that the pleasant smell might distract you from what you are trying to focus on.
Once you are ready, choose something to focus on, maybe your belly as you are breathing, the sensation of air flowing in and out of your mouth or the sensation of you heart beating. Something that is continuous and repetitive. Remember it might be handy to set an alarm for the amount of time you want to meditate so that you don’t have your mind wondering how long you’ve been meditating.
If you only spend 5 to 10 minutes a day practicing this kind of meditation you will soon experience the psychological en physiological benefits. If you want you can make the use of resources like guided meditation MP3s or meditation courses to aid your learning.