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Why is it important? Meditation, when practised regularly, has many health benefits including the following:
- Stress reduction
- Improves sleep quality
- Improves immune system
- Decreases blood pressure
- Helps lower blood cholesterol
- Helps manage anxiety and depression
- Increases self-awareness
- Increases attention span and focus
- Increases memory
- Increases emotional wellbeing
- Helps manage addictions
- Helps manage pain
- Helps achieve altered states of consciousness
- Improve creative thinking
I was introduced to meditation as a child by my parents so I really was a beginner! However, I wasn’t told why we did it or given great instructions on how to practice meditation!
It was a passive meditation style where I would just sit down cross-legged on the floor in silence and breathe. While the method was not sophisticated or easy for an 11-year-old, but it was simple. It taught me how to become comfortable with sitting still in this way for longer periods of time. I discovered the benefits of paying attention to my breath as well as practising a great deal of patience.
I also learned early on to be comfortable with the sound of silence and started to become aware of this beautiful sense of calm that I felt inside my mind and body and in the space around me from meditation. This is this first step, meditation for beginners made easy. Sitting still.
As I grew older through the rollercoaster teenage years and my twenties I would move away, and come back to meditation in waves depending on how life was going.
I had many friends from different backgrounds and cultures and some were interested in joining me in these relaxation techniques including meditation and yoga.
Whatever I was experiencing at that point in time, emotional, physical or mental challenges, or an exciting, fun adventure I always found solace in returning to awareness of my breath. I loved experiencing that wonderful sense of calm despite what might be going on around me in my life.
I was a really normal teenager and young adult, I liked to go out with friends, dancing, shopping, chatting about the fit guy in our class, but I was always the ”calm one”.
As I went on in life, getting married, having children, moving abroad, I have always found uses for meditation.
Breathwork and visualisation helped me through many different experiences, from giving birth, managing grief and heartbreak to physical illness. I find meditation continues to support me in my daily life with 4 children!
I have come to understand that daily meditation and mindfulness practise not only helps me stay in this calm state but also helps me bounce back from challenges and so maintain this calm and joyful state of being. In short, meditation has helped me become incredibly resilient. I am forever grateful for these tools.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a skill and so it can be learned and practised and improved. Meditation is about becoming more self-aware and slowing down by observing and identifying your thoughts and feelings as well as your sensations in your body, without judgement and only with patience, kindness and love for yourself.
Mindfulness is often associated with meditation and is about encouraging the ability to be in the here and now and fully experience the present time.
Common misconceptions around meditation
- It’s difficult and boring!
- It’s hard to sit still
- It’s hard to focus on my breathing
- It’s hard to stop thinking or feeling
- It’s only for religious or spiritual people
- It’s only for people with mental health problems
- It’s only for people with health problems
- I’m not stressed!
- I don’t have time to sit down
- I find it difficult to relax
- I experience challenging emotions when I do relax
All of the above are common responses and feelings. It is normal to experience resistance to something new and as with all new activities, it feels challenging and overwhelming in the beginning.
The mind likes to chatter this way focusing on the negative aspects and most people have experienced that self-critical, annoying, mean voice from time to time or maybe even daily highlighting any lack of self-worth, self-belief, self-confidence or motivation when faced with a new challenge.
This is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness by observing these thoughts and feelings with patience and kindness.
We all have a choice, make decisions from fear or from a place of excitement and faith. We can choose to stay stagnant or choose to grow. Anyone can reap the multiple benefits of meditation.
How to get started with meditation?
The easiest way to start meditation is with a teacher either in person or online, who can see which method might suit you and your lifestyle best.
There are many different forms of meditation from passive to active meditation. Some teachers might focus on breathwork, others on visualisation.
You might prefer moving meditations in the beginning if sitting still is a big challenge for you which include walking meditation, yoga and qi gong with a focus on breathwork. It is a good idea to identify why you want to meditate.
What is your intention? Are you looking to reduce your stress levels or increase memory or energy for example?
The best way to start with meditation is the one that motivates you best to meditate daily.
Tips for success with meditation
- A good attitude and a positive mindset. You want to do this. You can do it! Remember your why, this is your intention.
- Start small. 3 minutes in the shower if you can’t find time for more.
- Get it done early in the day so it’s done.
- Develop a routine. Meditate first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed.
- You don’t have to close your eyes and sit still with a candle or live in a cave. You can bring awareness to your breath while waiting in a traffic jam, or notice how the water feels as you shower. You can meditate anywhere!
- It’s more comfortable to sit for longer periods of time (15 to 20 minutes )on a cushion with your hips raised higher than your knees.
- Choose a dedicated space to meditate in and leave your cushion there as a reminder.
- Meditate a little bit daily without expectations. To enjoy being present.
Common questions about meditation
- What is the best type of meditation? The type that encourages you to meditate daily. You will find the best way for you!
- How long do I have to meditate for? 1 minute every day is better than 30 minutes once a week. A short, daily meditation practice which you can slowly increase to around 15 minutes is a great start.
- How can I stop my distracting thoughts or feelings? Don’t try to stop them, just observe them, accept them, breathe and let them go. I like to say this if I experience an emotion: “Sadness is here, sadness is gone.” As for physical sensations like a numb foot, itchy chin or runny nose, it’s ok to change position!
The last thing to know about meditation
- Meditation has lots of health benefits. It’s almost more appropriate to ask ‘why wouldn’t you want to try to meditate?!’
- Meditation can be difficult in the beginning and most of the resistance comes from your mind.
- Set an intention. What is your why? Decide and choose to meditate.
- There is no goal or aim apart from trying to experience being in the present moment.
- There are many different forms of meditation and the best way is the one that works best for you.
- Daily short meditation is better than nothing!
- Meditation is a skill so take the time to learn and practice it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ (Rumi)
- Don’t hesitate, meditate!
Thank you for reading! If this information was helpful to you in some way, please spread the love, share it on facebook or Instagram and help someone else!
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