Meditation, who hasn’t heard of it? I bet you did. Monks have known the benefits of meditation for a very long time. In fact, they sit for hours upon a day. This article explains the all the aspects you need to know to start meditating.
For as far as archaeologists know, meditation is over 5.000 years old. But it has only become more popular in the Western world over the last decades.
That’s because researchers in the Western World are only now discovering the scientific benefits of meditation. And the more scientific evidence we gain, the more us Westerners believe in the power of meditation.
What Is Meditation Exactly?
This is a very good question. You probably know it as sitting still and focusing on your breath. That’s pretty accurate, but there’s more to it.
The main goal of meditation is to get into a ‘thoughtless’ state of mind. While being in this state, you’re in complete happiness and peace. It takes years of practice to stay in this state of mind.
The Main Obstacle – Your Mind
Meditation is easy to do, yet it’s very difficult to master. The main obstacle that stands between you gaining the state of peace and happiness is your own mind. Yes, your own mind is what stands between you and happiness!
You’re not going to shut down your mind by switching the off button. But you can observe it. Through observing the mind you start seeing things from a different perspective. Meditation is being conscious of the present moment.
Meditating is a free way to live a healthier life. Many famous people practice meditation into their morning routine. Tim Ferriss has interviewed many high-performers for his book Tribe of Mentors. He noticed that many of them have one habit in common: they meditate.
If you want to become excellent in your field, you better start to observe high-performers. Besides, meditation is easy to pick up and you can do it everywhere. On top of that, science proves that there are many health benefits to it. Let’s dive into some of those benefits.
Research now shows that meditation might be the best way to release stress. Many forms of stress are unnecessary. This happens when you’re afraid of something that might happen in the future – fear. Or when you offer resistance to the past – non-acceptance.
The problem is that the mind often comes up with thoughts of things that can happen. Those thoughts are often horrible and amplified, while there’s only a very small chance of it actually happening. Do you recognize this?
With you meditate, you simply notice these thoughts and you learn to let them go. Letting go is also referred to as ‘bringing yourself back to the present moment’. In the present moment, you cannot experience stress.
With enough practice, you’ll see the benefits of meditation in your everyday life. You start to become aware of your own flow of thoughts. The amount of stress that you experience reduces over time.
The more you meditate, the more you start to notice that you gain awareness. While meditating, you become the observer of your body and mind. Instead of flowing with your thoughts, you become the observer of your own thoughts.
Observing your thoughts and feelings, helps you to understand yourself. Your self-awareness starts to increase. This will bring you more confidence, which then increases happiness.
Especially mindfulness is a good form of meditation to increase your awareness. You can read about mindfulness meditation down below in How Do You Meditate.
It’s not a secret that without stress, you feel happier. While you’re meditating, fear of the unknown about the future disappears. You’re in the present moment, where happiness arises. The more you practice this, the more you’ll be able to stay in the present moment.
Not only do you become happy, you also become more aware. When awareness increases, your happiness does as well. You’re gaining a new understanding of your own thoughts and emotions. This comes together with an increased feeling of confidence.
Meditation increases your level of happiness to higher standards. Of course, you need to keep practicing to reap its benefits. But the benefits are real and science now backs this up, so what are you waiting for?
Improve Your Relationships
Yes, meditation can even improve your relationships! The reason is that the most important relationship in life is the one with yourself. A good relationship with yourself becomes the foundation for all other relationships.
Meditation allows you to connect on a deeper level with yourself. You become more aware of how you think about yourself, people, and situations. With increased awareness, you can choose a different response in certain situations.
How Do You Meditate?
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. It’s important that you find a way that you can stick with long-term. There are different ways to meditate with each its own benefits. But if you find it difficult to stick with, you’re likely to give up.
It’s annoying when something interrupts you while you’re meditating. It’s easy to give up when you’re distracted. Of course, there are always unexpected things that can distract you. But you can limit the chance of that happening.
Be sure to meditate in an area that’s quiet. It’s difficult to meditate while there is a lot of noise going on around us. You can meditate somewhere in your house or outside. Ask yourself the question: what hours of the day are the best hours to meditate?
The most common way to meditate is by setting a duration for your session. 5 Minutes is a good duration to start with. Over time, work to 15 or 20 minutes per session for the optimal benefits. Feel free (highly encouraged) to experiment with sessions of over an hour.
Set an alarm for the duration of the session. Without this alarm, you repeatedly think about how long you’ve been meditating (even with an alarm you‘ll). This can ruin your session. If you set an alarm, you know that there’s a signal for when your session is over.
If you want to sit like one of the professionals, the lotus position (as in the picture) is for you. But if you’re anything like me, this pose is just outside your reach (read: completely out of reach).
Instead, you can choose for the half lotus or easy pose. If you don’t enjoy any of these poses, you can always sit with your knees on a mat. You can use a pillow between your heels and butt to support your weight.
If this is still not comfortable, you can always choose to sit in a chair or lie down on the floor. When you sit in a chair, don’t lean into the back part. Sit on the edge of the chair and sit upright with a straight back.
If you start to feel uncomfortable in the position that you’re sitting in, don’t worry. This is completely normal and will happen more often. Bring your attention to the area of discomfort. Most often this feeling vanishes when you bring your attention to it.
If the position becomes painful, choose for an easier position. Don’t beat yourself up over this. I used to change my positions twice when I started out meditating (I thought I could easily sit in the easy pose).
Styles Of Meditation
There are many different ways to meditate. Some ways may suit you better than others. This is why I recommend you to experiment with different kinds of meditation.
The following techniques are the ones that I had success with. But don’t let this limit you! Be sure to have a look around the web until you find a style that suits your preferences.
Mindfulness is a widespread form of meditation. When you’re mindful, you become the observer of your thoughts, instead of the thinker. This technique is great to become more aware of what thoughts are most dominant.
Sit down and set the alarm as discussed earlier. Now bring your attention to your breath. Notice the way you inhale and exhale, but do not try to control it. Experience the flow of your breath entering and then leaving your body. Also, notice the complete stillness between your breaths.
When thoughts arise, simply notice them and let go. Bring your attention back to your breath. You’re not your thoughts. You might find yourself drifting away from your meditation. As soon as you notice this, bring your attention back to your breath. Do this for the full duration of your session.
The more you practice, the faster you’ll become in bringing back your attention. You start to become the observer of your thoughts. Doing this increases your awareness.
Another way to meditate is through guided meditation. This means that you’re following instructions from someone else. This can be in a live group setting or through an audio program. There are plenty of guided sessions on Youtube.
Experiment with different guided videos on YouTube to find out what you enjoy. You can buy an audio program if you like this style of meditation.
Mantra meditation is similar to mindfulness. Instead of focussing on your breath, you take a word or phrase that you keep repeating. You can do this out loud, whispering, or in your mind.
‘Om’, which sounds like aum, is the most popular and relaxing mantra you can use. The healing effect of this mantra is great. This is because the frequency of the sound ‘Om’ is the same as the frequency in nature. This article on Basmati explains the power of ‘Om’ in a holistic but also neurological way.
Of course, you can also choose your own mantra. This can be a loving word or phrase. A mantra can be very personal. It can be a mantra to seek loving connections or a sense of security. Your options are limitless.
You can also use guided meditation in combination with mantras. This video uses the ‘Om’ mantra that you can meditate on.
Body Scan Meditation
This technique focuses your attention on a point in your body. With a body scan, you move your attention from one area to another within your body. It’s a great way to meditate.
You start in the same position as any other form of meditation. Focus your attention on your toes. Then move to the ball of your feet. Followed by the heel of your feet. Next is your shins, your calves, and your knees. Go all the way up to the top of your head.
Stay with every body part for about 1 minute (if you meditate for 20 minutes). Don’t worry about keeping track of the duration. Go with the feeling instead. You could scan one part for 5 minutes and only do the next part for only 30 seconds. It’s more about the intention of the exercise.
As soon as you notice that your attention drifts away, gently bring your attention back. When thoughts arise notice these. Then bring your attention back to your body scan.
Alternative Ways To Meditate
There are many other ways to meditate. Another popular form of Transcendental Meditation. With the Transcendental Meditation technique, you connect to the source of your thoughts.
Transcendental Meditation uses mantras that are thousands of years old. You can only learn those from a qualified TM teacher. I’ve not yet practiced this form of meditation, but if you’re curious, here is a resource with more information.
If you haven’t found your favorite way to meditate, or if you’re hungry for more, click here for 31 ways to meditate.
What To Expect?
The million dollar question: how do you feel after meditating? Honestly, the first time sucks. Meditation is simple yet difficult, especially when you’re just starting out.
But don’t give up. Your first session is like your first day at work. You’ve never done it before. That’s why I recommend starting slowly for 5 minutes every day.
Every week you add another minute until you get up to the desired duration. My goal is to do 20 minutes of meditation every day because I see most of the benefits at this point. Feel free to try it out for yourself and determine your own goals.
In the beginning, you’re likely to get frustrated. That’s completely normal. Meditation isn’t going to be easy in the beginning. It becomes easier over time, but feelings of frustration can always arise. Instead, understand that it’s part of the journey. Don’t let the frustration carry you away.
When you start to become frustrated, notice this. Let the frustration go and bring your attention back to your meditation. A feeling of calmness appears when you bring your attention back to your breath. Despite the fact that you felt frustrated seconds ago.
You may find yourself thinking about the duration of the session. How long have I got left? Again, notice the thought and let it go. Bring your attention back to your meditation.
Maybe you start to feel restless in your body. Don’t ignore it. Instead, bring your attention to what feels uncomfortable. If it keeps persisting, change your position to a more comfortable one.
If you’re in pain, notice what sort of pain it is. If it’s discomfort, bring your attention to the place that is painful. Keep your attention there until the pain disappears. Then bring your attention back to your meditation.
If the pain doesn’t disappear or is too painful, choose a different position. There’s no shame in doing this. Don’t be stubborn with yourself but listen to your body.
How To Win The Meditation Game?
If you’re meditating you’re already a winner. The rewards you reap come with every minute that you meditate. As soon as you stop meditating you stop reaping the rewards. See this as building a muscle in the gym.
Bring Back Your Attention
The flow of thoughts keeps coming all the time. You’re never able to shut it down completely. Focus your attention on your meditation. As soon as thoughts arise, notice these. Then bring your attention back to your meditation.
Keep doing this again and again. Do this every single session. When you start meditating, you notice that your mind is wandering most of the time.
Consistently bringing back your attention is how you develop the meditation muscle. The more you practice this, the better you become. The better you become, the more you’ll enjoy it.
Don’t Set Expectations
This is a mistake I made myself. Reading too much about meditation without taking action, led me to this mistake. I expected too many things that could happen.
Instead, don’t expect anything from meditation. If you need some expectation, expect that it’s going to suck. But remember, if you keep going, you’ll notice unexpected changes.
Make meditating a habit. Go into your session every day with the intention of having a strong session. Keep bringing your attention back to the meditation when your mind wanders. Soon you’ll reap some of the great rewards that meditation has to offer.
With meditation, you try to get into a ‘thoughtless’ state. In this state, the future and the past do not exist. A feeling of peace and happiness arise.
Science is starting to prove the many health benefits of meditation. A big benefit is that you decrease the amount of stress in your life. Another one is that you gain more awareness and it makes you happier over time. Do you know that even your relationships benefit from meditation?
Before you start meditating, reduce all possible distractions. Sit comfortably in a quiet area. Set an alarm on your phone so you don’t have to think about the duration of your session.
There are different ways to practice meditation. None is better or worse than the other. You’ll have to experiment with different styles to find out what suits you the best. One of the most popular styles in the Western world is mindfulness meditation.
Don’t expect to be an expert. There is a reason monks meditate hours upon a day for years. Most of the time your mind keeps wandering off. Don’t get frustrated with this.
Every time your mind wanders, observe it. Then bring your attention back to the meditation. Don’t judge any thoughts that arise. Keep bringing your attention back. Do this consistently. This is your path to mastery.
If you do this daily you start to see some massive benefits. That’s exactly why you should practice this first thing in the morning.
Share Your Experience
If you’ve meditated before, how was your first experience with meditation? If you’re new to meditation, why not try it? Share your experience down below or message us on Facebook. When you share your experience, you’ll start to realize that you’re not the only one. As a community, we can share our favorite tips and trick. Let’s grow together!