Have you always been a bit curious about the world of meditation and how you actually do it? Depending on what you have read, heard or seen, it sounds rather mysterious. Do you really just have to sit and breathe? Is there a way of learning how to meditate at home? Of course! I plan to demystify the process and help you get started on your meditation journey.
As a Christian, I was aware that there are some schools of thought that don’t agree with the practice of meditation, however, I am 100% confident that anything that induces stillness and clarity can only be good for my relationship with God.
What is meditation exactly?
Now, bearing in mind that many scholars over the years have had differences of opinion and indeed there are different types of meditation, I am open to my own definition being challenged! Meditation to me is giving your brain a rest. It is taking deliberate time out from your day to just be. There are many types of meditation but essentially you are aiming for being still and not following your thoughts.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Some benefits that I have found are:
- Reduced Stress – would you love greater peace of mind? I found this to be a key benefit and am much less easily upset or disturbed through the practice of meditation.
- Greater clarity of thought and ability to focus – do you try to do several things at once and don’t concentrate on any? You will be able to observe yourself and stop it!
- Improved creativity – do you wish you could come up with some good ideas or be better at problem solving? Meditation is hugely helpful with this.
- Improved memory (my colleagues may argue with this point, but I am no where near as dottery as I used to be!)
- Increased productivity – through meditation your brain can block out distractions more easily than those of people who don’t meditate.
- It’s free – and you can do it pretty much anywhere
- It feels amazing!
How do you do it?
There are many types of meditation but for the purposes of learning how to meditate at home, I would like to keep this fairly simple and share how I learned which was from the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Thanks, Hal for the lesson which is this:
‘Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. You can sit up straight on the couch, on a chair, on the floor or sit on a pillow for added comfort.
Sit upright or cross-legged. You can close your eyes, or you can look down at the ground, approximately two feet in front of you.
Begin by focusing on your breath, taking slow, deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth, and be sure to breathe into your belly rather than your chest. The most effective breathing should cause your belly to expand, and not your chest.
Now, start pacing your breath; in slowly on a count of three seconds…hold it in for three seconds then breathe out slowly on a count of three seconds. Feel your thoughts and emotions settling down as you focus on your breath. Be aware that as you attempt to quiet your mind, thoughts will still come in to pay a visit. Simply acknowledge them then let them go, always returning your focus to your breath.
Remember, this is a time for you to let go of your compulsive need to constantly be thinking about something. This is a time to let go of your stress and take a break from worrying about your problems. This is the time to be fully present in this moment. This is often referred to as just being. Not thinking, not doing, just being. Continue to follow your breaths and imagine inhaling positive, loving, peaceful energy and exhaling all of your worries and stress. Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the moment. Just breathe…Just be.’
Is it that easy?
No! It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Thoughts will come, especially when you are trying this for the first time. I find that even now, for the first 10 minutes my thoughts or so my thoughts keep coming. I am learning to deal with them much better now though, by putting them on a mental conveyor belt (think Yo Sushi!) and watching them go. When I get towards the end, I don’t want to stop – the peace and silence is incredible.
Another recommendation for beginners in addition to (or instead of) Hal’s method, is the use of the Headspace app. They have quite a number of beginner’s guided meditations that you can start for free AND they start from 5 minutes long which is ideal. The other thing I love about Headspace is the animations they have showing how your mind works and how meditation helps. This is a short example. It always makes me smile.
There are lots of other guided meditations you can find on YouTube. If I am in a hurry, I love this one by Deepak Chopra. There are all sorts of meditations for everything you can imagine – including meeting your future self! They all have their place but they don’t replace the silent meditation that you would do on your own.
What other types of meditation are there?
Other types of meditation include:
- Transcendental Meditation – this apparently has had massive success with people suffering from PTSD and is a ‘mantra meditation’ (each individual is given their own mantra). I did look into it at one time but you need to take classes and it’s quite costly so I didn’t pursue it. However, The David Lynch Foundation (yes, David Lynch the film director) is a charity that has been set up to help veterans and schools to be educated in TM methods. Russell Brand is a fan of TM. He describes the use of the mantra as being like giving a child something to play with while you have important work to do!
- Natural Stress Release – this is also a mantra meditation alleged to have similar benefits to TM (although it is unrelated). However, everyone gets the same mantra. It costs a fraction of the price of the TM course at only $25. (I am not an affiliate, but can recommend this course as I have it myself.)
- Focused meditation is where you pick an object or sound and literally focus on it. It could be a candle or a sound, but the idea is that when your mind wanders, you bring your attention back to the object or sound.
- Metta Meditation – this is described as a ‘loving kindness’ meditation where you direct love first towards yourself with these words ‘May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease’. Then once you feel warm and loving, you turn your thoughts to someone else and wish these same thoughts. This apparently comes from a Buddhist practice – I think it’s rather lovely, especially in these very difficult times. (I had never heard of this until doing a little research for this post!)
I have to admit, there was a time when I thought people who meditated were just a bit strange – harmless but strange! Now I know that the priceless activity of giving your brain a rest is life-changing and I’m so glad I found it.
Do you enjoy meditating? Have you experienced challenges (like your mind refusing to shut up)? Have you just read this post and decided to give it a go for the first time? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.