A beginners guide to meditation

Over the past few years I have been learning and understanding the benefits of Meditation. It still feels to me its a bit taboo, and a lot of people still feel strange when you bring it up or still believe it’s a bit woowoo. I think we have still a while to go before it becomes part of everyone’s everyday life, but at least we’re becoming more conscious about it- it’s a start right!

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What is it?

Meditation refers to a state where your body and mind are consciously relaxed and focused.  Practitioners of this art report increased awareness, focus, and concentration, as well as a more positive outlook in life. 

Meditation is most commonly associated with monks, mystics and other spiritual disciplines.  However, you don’t have to be a monk or mystic to enjoy its benefits.  And you don’t even have to be in a special place to practice it, it can be done anymore.  I used to do it on the tube in London sometimes, once you realise no one’s really watching you and it just looks like you’ve got your eyes closed, then why not?! Perfect way to shut out the noise and start your morning off in a better state.

Although there are many different approaches to meditation, the fundamental principles remain the same.  The most important among these principles is that of removing obstructive, negative, and wandering thoughts and fantasies, and calming the mind with a deep sense of focus.  This clears the mind of debris and prepares it for a higher quality of activity. 

The negative thoughts you have – those of noisy neighbors, bossy officemates, that parking ticket you got, and unwanted spam– are said to contribute to the ‘polluting’ of the mind, and shutting them out is allows for the ‘cleansing’ of the mind so that it may focus on deeper, more meaningful thoughts. 

What do you do?

Everyone does it differently, there is no right or wrong. Some practitioners shut out all sensory input – no sights, no sounds, and nothing to touch – and try to detach themselves from the commotion around them.  You may now focus on a deep, profound thought if this is your goal.  It may seem deafening at first, since we are all too accustomed to constantly hearing and seeing things, but as you continue this exercise you will find yourself becoming more aware of everything around you. 

There is an astounding amount of guided meditations out there now, so many apps that offer them which I think is great. I tend to like the ones on Youtube, which are free. I have quite a busy mind that sometimes I find it hard to focus so I like the guided ones as I have a voice to listen to, instead of complete silence where my mind starts thinking of everything I could be doing instead.

I generally like the sit cross legged with my hands facing up rested on my legs so I am open to receiving anything. Some people like to lay down (but I feel like I’d just fall asleep that way), but whatever is generally comfortable for you. If the position allows you to relax and focus, then that would be a good starting point.  While sitting or standing, the back should be straight, but not tense or tight.  In other positions, the only no-no is slouching and falling asleep. The aim to be be relaxed with your body open. Loose, comfortable clothes help a lot in the process since tight fitting clothes have a tendency to choke you up and make you feel tense. 

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If possible, the place you perform meditation should have a soothing atmosphere.  It may be in your living room, or bedroom, or any place that you feel comfortable in.  You might want an exercise mat if you plan to take on the more challenging positions.  You may want to have the place arranged so that it is soothing to your senses, being outside in nature just gives it a whole new experience.

Silence helps most people relax and meditate, so you may want a quiet, isolated area far from the ringing of the phone or the humming of the washing machine. Putting in headphones might help to silence out any noises. Pleasing scents might help too, so stocking up on aromatic candles isn’t such a bad idea either. 

The monks you see on television making those monotonous sounds are actually performing their mantra. This, in simple terms, is a short creed, a simple sound which, for these practitioners, holds a mystic value. You do not need to perform such; however, it would pay to note that focusing on repeated actions such as breathing, and humming help the practitioner enter a higher state of consciousness. If you have a busy mind like mine, just focusing on your breathing helps to calm your mind and body.

The principle here is focus.  You could also try focusing on a certain object or thought, or even, while keeping your eyes open, focus on a single sight. One tip I got from a monk at a course I did once, is to put your tongue at the top of your mouth. This will help with not getting a dry mouth. If you were to do meditate in a group setting you’d be surprised by how many people cough, which can sometimes cause distraction in the middle of a relaxing moment.

One sample routine would be – while in a meditative state – silently name every part of your body and focus your consciousness on that part. While doing this you should be aware of any tension on any part of your body.  Mentally visualize releasing this tension.  It works wonders. 

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My experience and some science

I started doing meditating a few years ago when I was extremely low, I really needed to try and relax and think more positively. I remember the first times I did it (and sometimes now if I’m stressed) I just cried because my mind was just not used to being still! And this wasn’t something I have ever noticed before, I never realised how busy everything was up there in my mind. It actually took a long time to be able to just stop even for 5 minutes without thinking of anything. So if that’s your experience too, I want you to know that’s normal, just keep persevering.

Many people, like myself, find meditation through tough times which I believe that’s something trying to tell you it’s ok and there’s a way out. But, it’s important to make sure you do it even on the good days, because it will just make you feel even more in a good mood that you thought you were.

After any meditation I do, I always feel lighter and fresher, ready to show up as just me and ready for whatever the day brings. Even just having that benefit is enough to want to do it. Life ain’t so scary after, which is why its recommended to do this at the start of your day.

In all, meditation is a relatively risk-free practice and its benefits are well worth the effort (or non-effort – remember we’re relaxing). 

Studies have shown that meditation does bring about beneficial physiological effects to the body.  And there has been a growing consensus in the medical community to further study the effects of such.  So in the near future, who knows, that mystical, esoteric thing we call meditation might become a science itself! 

I’d love to know if your experience with it, and if you have any questions please get in touch x

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