What if you knew that there’s an activity (so to say) that has a miraculous impact on your well-being? That changes the way your brain functions for the better, and makes you more resilient and more capable of dealing with your emotions? That is suitable for everyone and costs… nothing? And also lets you in on a spiritual journey?
I’m pretty sure you already know what it is. But the real question is, do you do it? Do you meditate regularly?
This article comes as a sort of bridge between what I have been doing professionally for over ten years now and the fact that I have been meditating with a certain regularity for almost the same number of years.
I see so many people starting to feel better in so many ways – gaining self-awareness and consciousness. They sleep better, breathe better, and even look better (!). That might come as a surprise;) But there’s more – as you will see later on in the article. Please remember, though – if you’re suffering from depression or other mental health conditions – consult your psychotherapist or psychiatrist before starting with meditation.
“The mind is the last unexplored continent on Earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams.”
People have been practicing meditation within and outside religions for thousands of years now. This is one of the common denominators for all the main monotheistic religions and various philosophies out there. Buddhists do it, Jews do it, Christians do it, and Muslims do it too. To name just a few.
We live in times where values become blurred, oftentimes we care a lot about our possessions, about our careers, but do we take good care of ourselves? I don’t mean buying new stuff, going to the hairdresser. I mean taking care of our true self, our values, our dreams, and of the powerhouse of it all – the brain.
The truth is we are so distracted it might often be the most difficult thing for us to be here and now. We’re so BUSY. “Busy” is this glorified name for all the craziness in our lives. It’s not helpful to watch everyone around us as busy as we are. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A study from Harvard says that we are lost in our thoughts over 47% of the time. That’s astounding if you think about it. It could very well be that half of our life we’re not even here!
How is meditation going to help?
Thousands and thousands of pages have already been written on the subject. One thing is certain – it is high time you tried it. No matter if it’s 5 or 30 minutes, if you’re lying down or sit facing the wall – it’s time for you to stop what you’re doing and just be. And breathe. And clean your head. And it does happen just like that.* (*Please keep in mind that there are many traditions of meditation, it might be – and often is – a part of a deep spiritual journey, but in this article I’m focusing on a mindful practice that’s not connected to any religion or spiritual goal)
One of the best definitions of meditation is by Jon Kabat-Zinn – the author of the book by the same title as this article:
“Meditation is complete, unbiased attention to the current moment.”
Neuroscientists have been researching the brain and its response to mediation from the second half of the XX century. Our brains are literally our bodies’ ‘engines’. No matter if we’re active, asleep, or resting – we always have some level of electrical activity in our brain.
It’s been proven that when we meditate, there’s more of the lower frequency waves active – Alpha and Theta. We associate the Alpha waves with the feelings of relaxation, while Theta waves are found during daydream or our falling asleep.
And it is just at the moment of mediation. But there are long-term effects as well. Even though we’re learning more and more every day, we still don’t know a lot. I will not bore you with more details on the brain waves and the activation of certain areas of the brain. If you’re interested in details how the brain reacts to meditation – there’s plenty of research for you to dig into:)
What I will do though – I’ll share here the list of the:
proven benefits of meditation
In case I’ve managed to convince you to try 🙂 Here we go – meditation:
- reduces stress and anxiety, could complete with the anti-anxiety pill?
- increases self-awareness
- enhances memory
- lengthens our attention span
- improves sleep quality
- reduces/controls pain
all the different ‘how to’s
One of the best things about meditation is that there’s no one way of doing it right. It’s up to you to decide what position suits you, and what time of day is right for you. Do it however you like, however long you like, just do it often and regularly. Best – every day. When you start, you’ll see it gets into your daily ritual quickly.
Meditation is a skill. One that you can master through everyday practice.
A short introduction to meditation:
This an introduction to get you started – to offer you a perspective – but again – you can choose whatever setting you like – it’s not one size fits all kind of policy:
- Make sure you’ve found yourself a comfortable place. One you can go to where nobody will disturb you.
- Turn off the sound and vibration of your phone – or switch it to plane mode.
- Experience your thoughts – they will come and go without our involvement.
- You don’t need to sit cross-legged, you don’t have to face the wall, burn incense or listen to any music or mantra.
- All you have to be is be in the here and now:
- In a comfortable position. Whether it’s sitting in a zen-like position or on your chair, lying down (watch out though – this one is really known for putting you to sleep;). If you’re sitting, you may want to join your hands – in a ‘cosmic mudra’ – right hand over the left hand, thumbs touching each other around in the area around the belly button. Or put your hands on your knees – find a way that feels good.
- Do not close your eyes completely – you can pick a point in front of you and turn your eyes in this direction – eyelids half-lowered. (Or shut them completely, or keep them open – you do you)
- Do not forget to breathe and try to do it naturally. It actually may help, especially if you’re a beginner – if you count your breaths. 1 to 10 or backward. Additionally, it’ll keep you in the present.
- Pay attention to what emotions or sensations in your body arise, just acknowledge them and move on.
- The point is not to think about anything deliberately. Do not plan your dinner, or go over a recent fight again and again. If those thoughts appear, simply notice them with a curious mind but stay focused on your breath and your counting. If you don’t entertain the thought, if you don’t go into detail, it will go away.
- It doesn’t matter how long you’re practicing. You can meditate for 5 minutes a day or go on for half an hour. You’ll know as you go what feels right for you.
Is there anything you need to start?
That’s the beauty of the whole process. You don’t need absolutely anything to meditate – just you and your head are plenty enough;) But if you really want to, certain apps may help you start. Both are available for iOS and Android.
It turns out they are a great help to many people who wouldn’t otherwise start.
Do you meditate? Are you new to meditation?