Here at Daily Mediate we get asked a lot about how to meditate, and where to start out when you want to turn your life around with meditation. To answer that question we need to start by asking another question: “What is meditation?”
When trying to find an answer many people turn to stereotypical associations like hindi yoga men in lotus pose, a monk sitting in monastic silence, or meditation retreats.
It doesn’t have to be all that complex, though. In essence meditation is all about the everyday inner workings of your mind.
The best definition on meditation we’ve come across is:
“It is the restraining of the mind to a single act, state, or thought.” – Aleister Crowley
Despite the fact that this definition on meditation was written by the controversial figure Aleister Crowley, it sums up the essence of meditation beautifully with the words “restraining of the mind”.
But why restrain the mind? Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it?
One thing you might have discovered yourself about your mind is that it is very prone to distraction, and easily wanders off. It doesn’t always want to concentrate, focus, or let alone be silent. In fact, it is estimated that a human being has on average over 50,000 thoughts per day!
So once we realize this, that the mind has a tendency to wander and get distracted, isn’t it only natural that to make the best use of it we should try to restrain it to a single act, state or thought?
And in this act of restraining the mind, we are able to accomplish an act, attain an altered state of consciousness, or focus entirely on a thought or stream of thought.
With that said, let’s get back to how to meditate.
From Buddhism to Christianity, Mindfulness and Zen… We see that most every meditation tradition have exercises that involve focusing on the breath.
It is one of the easiest (if not -the- easiest) way to start meditating. For two simple reasons:
- The breath is always there for you to focus on
- It sits at the core of our being, and makes for an instant inward focus
Let’s get started with a breath meditation exercise, right away.
Simple Way 1: Breath Meditation Exercise
- Simply sit down, relax, and take a deep breath.
- Put your full focus and attention on your breath, and notice how it feels when you breath in. Hold it shortly and breath out again.
- Wait a short while before breathing in again, and repeat for as long as you’d like – but aim for at least 10-15 minutes.
Don’t worry too much about how long to breathe in/out and hold. If you need something to aim for, try counting to 4 for in and out breath, and 2 counts for holding and releasing breath.
You will notice that it get’s easier to meditate longer with practice, but to begin with just try and see how 10 minutes feel. If it’s too long for you, don’t be afraid. With time you will be able to meditate longer.
Simple Way 2: Mantra Meditation
A mantra is a word or phrase, which when repeated (in silence or out loud) functions as an object of concentration.
While it can be viewed simply as a type of meditation exercise, others view it as also embodying some aspect of spiritual power.
Here are some mantra examples:
- “Om” or “Aum”. Said to be the sound that created the universe, and with numerous meanings.
- “I am that I am”. Was the response God used in the Hebrew Bible when Moses asked for his name.
- “Love is the only miracle there is”. A mantra by Osho.
- A mantra can also be any focus or affirmation you want to have for your meditation, like “My curses will become blessings”, “Never complain; never explain” or simply “I am enough”.
Simple Way 3: Guided Meditation
As with most things in life, some guidance goes a long way. There a plenty of guided meditations available, both online (free and paid), and for sale in shops. You can also make your own by recording your own guided meditation instructions, or have a friend make one for you.
You can quickly get started by a YouTube search for guided meditation.
To help you further with your meditation practice, I will share below a few areas and tips and resources that might be of benefit to you.
Other Meditation Techniques
Some people find that other types of meditation techniques like a mandala, meditation music, mindfulness, breathing exercises, visualization techniques, or simply being in nature, can be just as effective.
Our goal is to rid our mind of unwanted mental disturbance, feelings, thoughts or bodily distraction – and we are doing so by restraining our mind away from that and towards a chosen act, state or thought.
Increase In Meditation Research
There has been a dramatic increase in meditation research over the last 10 to 15 years. And with the recent meditation popularity, due in large to mindfulness being embraced by the field of psychology, even more studies have emerged.
Studies have shown that meditation has a large number of benefits, from stress reduction to increased concentration and to treat depression.
Meditation benefits include:
- Reduce stress
- Treat depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase performance
- Boost your career
- Deal with ADHD
- Make you happier
- Increase concentration
- Strengthen your immune system
- Eliminate anxiety
- And much more
While you would not find a tibetan monk playing a CD with meditation music in his temple, music is a part of many religious traditions. Some people swear by it in their daily meditation routine, and some people prefer silence.
Whatever your preference is, meditation and relaxation music can be well worth some listening to see if it suits you.
Meditation tools can be anything from a chair to sit on, to a yoga mat, an hourglass or alarm clock for time keeping, meditation cushions or clothing.
Whatever your preference, there is plenty to choose from.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Meditation can have immediate effect, but only has long lasting effect if you practice it regularly.
We have found that daily meditation gives by far the best results. And you don’t need to do more than 20 minutes per day to feel the effect.
Part of the reason why we created Daily Meditate was to inspire people to keep their meditation going, daily. It can be (quite literally) a lonely endeavor, so hopefully our community can be helpful for you on your path.
Mindfulness has recently gained much popularity, much thanks to having been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn as a psychological concept and embraced by the field of psychology.
This type of meditation focuses on being attentive, aware and non-judgmental. It can also be adopted as a lifestyle with the aim of bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
It has it’s root in Buddhism, but is taught as a practice independent of religion.
So, that’s it! We’ve answered what meditation is, by focusing on the idea of “restraining of the mind to a single act, state, or thought”.
Then we shared with you a simple 3 step breath meditation exercise to get you started meditating. We also covered two other ways to meditate, and several other topics related to how you can get started with meditation today.
With that, we wish you a happy meditation adventure, and invite you to leave a comment with any feedback, questions or suggestions.
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