For the uninitiated, meditation may seem like a relatively strange thing to do. Why would one subject themselves to sitting cross-legged for long periods while doing nothing? For others, meditation might even seem intimidating, subjecting oneself to their inner ‘head noise’ may not sound overly appealing. However, a regular meditation practice can become a place of peace and refuge and a way to reduce everyday stress and anxiety.
What is Meditation?
There are various forms of meditation. For this article, I will concentrate on mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a mental practise that involves relaxation, focus, self-enquiry and the cultivation of awareness. It may be helpful to think that meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body.
Meditation is a learned skill that can be used to train our awareness of the present moment. Despite the commonly held belief, the ‘aim’ of meditation is not to stop yourself from thinking, on the contrary. It is the practice of noticing when you are thinking and learning to ‘co-exist’ with the thoughts as opposed to resisting said thoughts or actively trying to force them away.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment in a non-judgmental way. That is, maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment without criticism.
What is the Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation?
In short, mindfulness is the practice of non-judgemental, present-moment awareness. Meditation is an action. Meditation is the formal practice of developing ‘awareness.’ Whereas mindfulness is a state of mind. Mindfulness is a necessary component of meditation.
How Long Should I Meditate For?
If you’re a beginner, two minutes a day is a good start. It is better to set yourself a realistic goal rather than some goal that you will probably miss. By setting yourself an attainable goal, you’ll likely be inclined to continue and establish a daily meditation practice. However, if you miss your goal, the chances are high that you’ll discontinue the practice.
So, start with two minutes. If you’re comfortable with two, then gradually increase the time as you continue to get comfortable with, and establish, your daily practice.
When Should I Meditate?
One can meditate at any time. However, the morning is often considered to be the best time to meditate as the mind is generally refreshed and quiet. By meditating in the morning, it can help set the tone of the rest of your day, calm and mindful.
It should be noted, if you’re aiming to set up a routine, you should aim to meditate at the same time every day.
Where Should I Meditate?
You can meditate anywhere. However, if you intend to establish a meditation practice, it is best to set yourself a clearly designated space; this can be in your bedroom, living room or n the corner of your office.
When meditating, it is preferable to sit. You can sit on a chair, a cushion, or cross-legged on the floor; whatever you feel most comfortable doing. It should be noted that it is not ideal to meditate while lying down as one is prone to fall asleep (unless that is your aim).
What Should I Wear?
You can wear anything at all. However, it is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing that will not bother you. It is also handy to have a blanket to drape over you if it’s cold.
How do I Meditate?
The practice of meditation is not overly difficult. In fact, learning how to meditate is relatively straightforward. However, it does require discipline to reap the befits.
Below is a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
- Take a seat – Find a place to sit that feels safe, calm and quiet.
- Set a time limit – It can help to choose a short time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
- Notice your body – Notice how your body feels against the chair or cushion. Notice any aches or pains. Notice any need to fidget.
- Follow your breath – Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out, and as it goes in.
- Notice when your mind has wandered – Your mind will wander, it’s what minds do. Your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you notice this, in a few seconds or a few minutes, simply return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind – Try not to judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back to the breath and start again.
As we establish a regular meditation practice, mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment – thoughts, feelings and physical sensations will come more naturally. The practice of sitting in meditation will cease to be a ‘chore’ and will become a welcome ‘time out’ from our busy schedules and our active minds.