Meditation seems like the cool thing to do these days. Every workout app has videos meant to have you relax, re-center, and be mindful. Sounds of babbling brooks and gentle rain are often in the background. But what exactly IS meditation?
Although its the new buzzword in relaxation, meditation techniques have been practiced in one form or another for thousands of years. Whether its transcendental meditation or some other style, meditating has several health benefits, including stress reduction and decreased anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. But while many people believe meditation can help them, many others are afraid to try because they dont understand what its all about or how to do it correctly. What if you cant clear your mind? Do you have to sit still for hours? Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about meditation, including why people practice it and how to get started with your meditation practice today!
1) Before You Start
Its important to remember that meditation isnt a competitive sport. The goal isnt to surpass others or even match their abilities, and you dont have to be good at it. No real skill is required to get startedonly the desire to learn. The point is not to master a certain style or technique but rather to notice what happens when you sit quietly, deliberately paying attention to your breath and thoughts. You can do that whether you manage it for 20 minutes or five. So, ease in slowlytheres no need to run a marathon from day one.
2) The Benefits of Regular Practice
Regular meditation practice has been proven to improve overall physical, mental, and emotional health. It helps to decrease stress, alleviate anxiety and depression, manage chronic pain, improve sleep…the list goes on.
Regular practice also improves our abilities to focus and anchor our ever-wandering attention, which is valuable for everyone from athletes to students to entrepreneurs to CEOs. Some studies suggest that meditation can even slow (or reverse) aging by increasing telomerase activity (who doesnt like the sound of that?). The point is: Theres not much you cant improve through regular mediation practice! The benefits of meditation also increase with regular, sustained practice over time.
3) How to Get Started
It takes time to form a meditation habit. If youre thinking about incorporating meditation into your daily routine, start slowly. Sit every day, even if its for a short period. Intentionally dedicating this time of quieting is a true gift! Morning is often preferred because it sets the tone for the day, and for some, the mind may be calmer than it is later in the day.
Its helpful to find a relatively quiet place where you wont be disturbed. It can also be beneficial to use the same site each time because the association of that place can help you settle into your meditation more quickly. Pick a spot, pick a time, and start.
4) How Long Do I Need To Meditate?
The most important thing to remember is that meditation is not about clearing your mind; instead, its a way to focus and train your attention. We all have excess mental activity: thoughts coming and going, emotions, random associations, and more. By learning how to focus our attention better, we can learn to let go of what we don’t need and hone in on what we do. If youre just beginning a meditation practice, you might want to experiment with the length of time you meditate. You might choose to meditate for just five minutes once or twice a day and increase the time by five minutes until you reach a length of time that you can commit to daily.
Deciding in advance the duration of your site can help support your practice. For many, a reasonable time frame is between 15-45 minutes. If you sit each day, youll gradually experience noticeable benefits (e.g., less reactivity, calmer) and be more inclined to increase your sitting time.
5) How Should I Sit When I Meditate?
A good posture for meditation makes your meditation easier. It enables you to sit comfortably without any distractions. Similar to finding a meditation place, you can experiment with different postures. One posture is not better than another. Sitting in a chair is acceptable, as is sitting in a cross-legged posture. The important thing is to respect your body and do your sitting, standing, walking, or lying down meditation in a way that balances relaxation and alertness.
That said, here are some helpful tips for sitting posture:
- Sit in a way that allows the spine to be upright and relaxed, following its natural curves.
- Allow the shoulders to relax back and down.
- Place the hands on the thighs or in the lap (perhaps resting on a small cushion or towel) and allow the arms to relax.
- Allow the back of the neck to lengthen and the chin to tuck in slightly. Relax the face; allow the brow to be smooth, the eyes, jaw, and even the tongue soften and relax.
6) Is it helpful to practice meditation with other people?
Yes, absolutely! As in most things, the more, the merrier! Joining (or creating) a group to meditate with other people regularly is tremendous support for your meditation practice. It can make sense of belonging and having company on the path of awakening, and the shared wisdom of a group can be of great benefit.
Meditation is so much more than a fadits a great adventure that, like all great adventures, will have trials and tribulations. Restless thoughts, a restless body, emotions coming to the surface…remember, its all normal. When it comes to meditation, you are not alonemany people have come before you on this path of love and wisdom and are walking beside you now.
Are you interested in joining a like-minded community to pursue meditation together? Have more questions about your meditation practice? Join Coven Cloud today and meet up with your people all over the world. Share your journey in a safe environment of respect and learning.