Meditation is the act of gently centering your attention to create a deeper state of relaxation and awareness. Practiced consistently, meditation yields many positive benefits such as inner harmony and better health. While there is a spiritual side to meditation, you can practice meditation solely for its practical benefits as well. Read on to find out how.
Preparing for Meditation
The following points are some helpful suggestions for you to get the best benefits from your meditation sessions. While they apply to most people, they are guidelines rather than rules. Some of the suggestions may not be feasible for or feel comfortable to you due to your preferences and experiences. Meditation is supposed to make you feel relaxed and comfortable. Adapt and adjust the suggestions where necessary to achieve this state of being.
-Make Meditation Part of Your Daily Routine
In order to enjoy continuing benefits from meditation, make it a part of your daily routine. Only when meditation becomes habitual for you will its benefits become a part of your life as well. So it helps to set aside a specific time each day for meditation. I personally prefer to meditate right after I wake up after a good night’s rest. This allows me to begin each day with clarity of mind. But other times of the day that are conducive and convenient for you are fine as well.
-Eating, Drinking and Meditation
Because meditation slows down your metabolism, avoid the consumption of food 2 hours before your session. Also avoid stimulants like coffee, tea or cola drinks 2 hours before you meditate. The goal of meditation is to calm you down, so taking stimulants would be counter-productive. However, a small glass of fruit juice, milk, decaffeinated coffee or tea occasionally is alright.
-Creating Your Personal Meditation Space
Create your own personal meditation space. Choose a quiet and conducive atmosphere which will help you to relax. It could be a room or some corner. You could also use aromatherapy, although it is not necessary, to get into the mood. After you have created your meditation space, stick to it. Over time, due to association, you will discover that your meditation space creates a feeling of harmony in you whether you are meditating or not. It will become a calming refuge from the cares of the world.
In order to gain the most from your meditation, take steps to minimise any potential disturbances. As far as possible do not allow anything or anyone to disrupt your meditation session. Switch off your mobile phone and take the telephone off the hook. If you have kids, make sure they have something to do. Explain to the people around you that you do not wish to be disturbed unless there is an emergency.
Ideally, the lighting in the room should be low to make your meditation experience pleasant. Most people who practice meditation avoid the extremes like bright lights or complete darkness.
You may sit on a chair or the floor depending on your preference. Your chair should be comfortable with a straight back to prevent yourself from dozing off. Alternatively if you feel more comfortable sitting on the floor, that is fine too. There is no need for any complicated posture. What matters most in both cases is a comfortable position that you are able to maintain effortlessly for the duration of your meditation.
During meditation it is best to wear loose comfortable clothing. Avoid tight fitting clothes where possible. It will help if you take off your shoes and loosen all tight fitting clothes before meditating.
-Keeping Track of Time
Have a small clock nearby to time your meditation. It may be best not to set the alarm as many people find it too startling. Instead peek at the clock occasionally to keep track of time.
-How Long Should You Meditate?
Most people meditate for 20 minutes at least once a day. The ideal would be twice a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. Ideally your meditation should be at least 15 to 30 minutes, but you should try out various times for yourself to find what is right for you. In all things, moderation is the key. I personally prefer to meditate for 20 minutes.
Things to Bear in Mind When Meditating
Attaining inner harmony through meditation requires a gentle and receptive manner. During meditation, do not force yourself to focus. Just relax and let things flow naturally. When thoughts appear in your mind or when your mind starts to wander, remember that this is natural. Do not judge or criticize; remain detached. Observe your thoughts in a passive manner and gently guide yourself back to your meditation.
-Managing Discomfort During Meditation
If you feel any physical discomfort during your meditation, try your best to ignore them. This is just your mind’s way of distracting you from your meditation. But if the discomfort is unbearable, scratch the itch or change your position slightly so that you can return to your meditation. You are not practicing the more vigorous forms of meditation like the Zen monks or Yogis, so you don’t have to master distractions the way they do. All you are trying to do here is to relax and create inner harmony. Just be comfortable and return to your meditation as soon as possible.
-Managing Interruptions During Meditation
If you are interrupted during your meditation due to emergencies or otherwise, do not jump up to respond immediately. Your body is in a deep state of relaxation and jumping out of this state is akin to getting up immediately from a deep sleep. Instead, give yourself a few moments to respond. Let the person know you will come out in a minute or so. Then get up slowly and stretch. If it is possible, return to your meditation after settling the matter to finish the remainder of your session.
While meditation is a beneficial activity for most if practiced correctly, there are exceptions. If you find meditation unpleasant in anyway, don’t do it. Wait a day or two and try again. If you still feel uneasy or find that something is wrong, do not meditate. Always follow what feels right and comfortable for you.
While there are many forms of meditation out there, I prefer breathing meditation for its simplicity. Ensure that your back is straight and your head is facing forward. Position your hands and feet in a comfortable manner. Before you begin, stretch or sit for a short while to get into the mood for meditation.
Once you are ready, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. Breathe as you normally would. Be aware of each breath as you breathe in and out. Be aware of the sound of your breathing. Visualize each breath as it flows through your body and out again. When breathing has become the only thing on your mind you are now ready for breathing meditation.
Now as you are breathing, count each breath as it leaves the body. Count ‘one’ in your mind, then as the next breath leaves your body, count ‘two.’ Carry on until you reach the count of ‘four’ before beginning at ‘one’ again. Keep counting your breaths in this manner for the duration of your meditation.
-Managing Distractions During Meditation
Thoughts are bound to appear in your mind during your meditation. You will also find your mind wandering after awhile. Do not let this affect you. This is a natural part of the meditative process. Whenever you find your mind wandering, look at the thought, acknowledge it and then let it go. After this, gently return to your counting beginning at ‘one’ again and continuing. The aim is to learn to centre your attention gently with a minimum of effort. As you gain greater control over your mind and thoughts, you will become more aware, relaxed and composed.
-Returning to The World
After you have finished your meditation, sit for awhile with your eyes closed. Slowly allow your mind to grow accustomed to your everyday thoughts once more. The process should be like waking up from a deep sleep. After a few minutes of adjusting, open your eyes slowly and get up.
-How Should Each Meditation Session Go?
There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ meditation session. Each session will be a unique experience compared to others. Some sessions will be calming and peaceful while others may be difficult due to your wandering thoughts. But this should not bother you too greatly since the discipline of setting aside some time for meditation each day will have a cumulative effect on your life. Therefore, each and every session is important. As you meditate, you will experience moments of peace, calm and awareness. These moments will grow in duration as you become more experienced. But above all, do not strive after these moments or try to influence your meditation in anyway; just go with the flow. The best way to experience meditation is to meditate.
For me, breathing meditation is the simplest way to meditate. It is also a good introduction to meditation for most people. Try it out for a few days to see if it suits you; if it does continue with it. If it makes you uncomfortable for any reason, stop. You may want to try other forms of meditation out there which may be better suited to you and your needs. For those who wish to learn another practical form of meditation, I recommend The calm technique: meditation without magic or mysticism by Paul Wilson.