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Meditation. Many people are talking about it, and most of us have heard about it, but how does sitting still actually help us?
Actually, meditation is much more than just sitting still.
Meditation is a practice or exercise used to gain mindfulness. It is considered a spiritual practice with origins that trace back to ancient times.
The feeling of mindfulness (where the mind is completely free of any thought) is one of the most rewarding benefits of meditation for beginners and experts alike.
Throughout our day we experience a smorgasbord of sounds, mental chatter, doubts, frustrations, worries, excitement, plans, thoughts, daydreams, fantasies, and emotions—all of which we must process and make room for in our mental lives.
Studies have shown that meditation can help with learning, sleep, energy levels, stress reduction, some forms of pain, and can be pivotal in forming a personal spiritual practice.
Meditation poses a quiet release from the comings-and-goings of your daily life. It is a time for the brain and the mind to shut up. The optimal goal of a meditator is to find stillness, quietness, and what Buddhists call “presence.”
Being present means to be fully involved in what is happening in the present moment. Despite what many beginner meditators think, meditation allows you to be fully present, NOT completely turning off your mind.
One of the greatest aspects of a meditation practice is seeing how it can benefit your daily self-talk. By sitting with your thoughts in a passive state, you can literally watch what you are thinking. By doing so, you can develop the habit of thinking more positively and allowing yourself to become more present before making decisions.
For example, MLB pitchers take a deep breath before getting their signals from the catcher. The brain acts as a massive signaling agent, while the meditator must learn to become calm and centered, before transmitting the brain’s complex thoughts into useful actions.
It’s easy to learn to meditate, and its effects can be lifelong. The best times to meditate are immediately upon rising in the morning (your head is the emptiest just after waking up) and right before bed. Typically, meditation should be between 20 and 30 minutes, one or two times per day. However, many people have seen results in as little as 5 minutes per day.
To meditate, sit with your spine as erect and straight as possible and your legs in a comfortable, crossed position. Place your hands comfortably on your knees or in your lap.
Begin the process of quieting your mind through paying attention to your breath. Feel the breath move in and out of your lungs, become attuned to the process of breathing. As you breathe, you will notice your mind becoming either quieter, or much cloudier with constant thinking. This is normal, especially at the end of a long day. Sometimes it can take thirty minutes or longer to truly delve into a meditative state, even for experienced meditators.
As you continue to breathe, your mind will gently and easily relax, allowing your intuitive faculties to unfold. As you breathe, sitting motionless, your mind will begin to calm itself. Sometimes it will lead you into silence, and sometimes it will help you to journey deeper into perspectives about your life.
If you are looking for techniques beyond beginners meditation, try meditating using a musical instrument. You don’t have to be able to play well. Spend thirty minutes meditating on a specific note on the fretboard (if you play guitar) or repeatedly pressing a single key on the piano. This practice will help to aid you as you seek greater reserves of concentration and attentiveness to deepen your meditation practice.
Now, buy yourself a fancy meditation pillow, or use your floor and get started! It’s as easy as breathe in, and breathe out.