“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.”
– Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis
Meditation is scientifically proven to make you happier, healthier, more effective, more balanced, and way less stressed out. It’s like push ups for the brain, except it requires no effort, literally. However, it’s very possible you encounter frustration when you first try it out. Right up until this point in the day, or in your life for some, your mind has been a constant stream of chatter that you’ve identified with. This causes alot of resistance, frustration, anger, self doubt and such if we do not come to realise that we are not our thoughts. That we can choose to observe and not identify with the conditioned mind chatter.
When starting with meditation you may after a couple of tries, may even conclude, “I just cannot meditate! I’m not doing it properly and this just isn’t going to work”. However, that again is just mind chatter. Something led you to this article, so keep trying.
Meditation is the way to the emptying of thought. It is a disciplined practice of silence. It allows you to de-clutter your mind of distracting thoughts and negative emotions. Imagine a pond of water. You throw some stones into the pond and the water becomes murky. The ripples collide and overlap and you’re straining to see what lies beneath. These are the thoughts in your mind. Muddying the water and consuming your thought processes so frequently that you never make time to let the water be still, to be calm. You see, if the mind is muddy like a murky pond, the only way for us to really think clearly is to be quiet long enough to let the silt fall. To meditate.
“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.”
One of the beautiful things about meditation is there is no one, single way to achieve a meditative state. Exploring Meditation simply means to go within. This can be explored in a number of different ways, one of the most effective being a week long intense retreat based Vipassana Meditation, (but rarely do our modern working schedules allow for that). So here are some tips to help get you started with meditation:
1. CHOOSE A QUIET PLACE
Choose quiet and peaceful surroundings, this can make the meditation experience more enjoyable and relaxing. Avoid being able to hear a ton of activity going on outside your room or even to have music playing at first. These are distractions that you are better without, especially if you are a beginner in meditation.
2. SIT COMFORTABLY
Your posture makes a difference too. Make sure you are relaxed, comfortable and steady. Sit straight with your spine erect; keep your shoulders and neck relaxed, and eyes closed throughout the process. When getting started with meditation, you may experience some pain in your back or bum from sitting for prolonged periods. Watch the sensations arise and take away the label of pain, feel the sensation, and you’ll find the thoughts will pass.
It’s a common myth that you have to sit in the Padmasana (the lotus position) to meditate too, just sitting upright with your hands wherever most comfortable is suffice. Consider smiling slightly, a natural smile. Your smile relaxes all your facial muscles.
3. NOTICE YOUR BREATHING
As you breathe in, be aware that you are breathing in. As you breathe out, notice that you are breathing out. As soon as we pay attention to our breath, body, breath and mind come together. Every in-breath can bring joy; every out-breath can bring calm and relaxation. This is a good enough reason to sit.
When you breathe in mindfully and joyfully, don’t worry about what your sitting looks like from the outside. Sit in such a way that you feel you have already arrived.
4. TRY USING GUIDED MEDITATION
When getting started with meditation, I found it very helpful to use guided meditation videos online. Youtube offers various guided meditation techniques from beginners to more advanced that will help you find out what works best for you. Here are some example videos that may help:
5. MAINTAIN FOCUS
Containing the wandering mind is key. If you find yourself unable to control your thoughts, try asking yourself ‘What am I going to think of next?’ which is a surprisingly effective technique that halts the wandering. It also helps to focus on the breath at the start of the meditation. Acting as a simple reference point to maintain focus upon; you will eventually find yourself slipping into the gaps between thoughts, an ever expanding space of peace, you begin to experience pure awareness.
6. TRY USING ALARM CLOCK MEDITATION
When starting out, you may find your thoughts attempting to grasp onto time, ‘how long have I been sitting here?’ or ‘has it been too long now?’ …etc. If you’re struggling, try setting a timer for your preferred time, say for 10 minutes instead. Then meditate until the timer goes off. This way, you don’t have to wonder about how long it’s been, or how much longer you should meditate for. It’s like meditation on cruise-drive. Although I don’t recommend this to become habitual in your routine as it will become a distraction, just a suggestion for beginners.
7. SIT REGULARLY
If you sit regularly, it will become a habit. I guarantee that from the get go you experience some noticeable calming effects that seem to seep through into the rest of the day. But the real change happens with practice. So many false beliefs fall away. Even the Buddha still practiced sitting every day after his enlightenment. Consider daily sitting practice to be a kind of spiritual food. Don’t deprive yourself and the world of it.
Start the Experiment10 minutes for 10 days
“All life is an experiment, the more experiments you make the better” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We challenge you to get involved and explore through experience. Meditation is proven to help:
- Improve your sleep, energy and mood
- Increase your focus, memory and concentration
- Reduce your stress and anxiety
Take 10 minutes out to meditate for 10 days and let us know how you get on. Deciding for yourself, through your own experience whether meditation lives up to it’s reputation.
Are there any tips that have worked for you? What’s your experience with meditation? Do you have any words of advice and encouragement for other people getting started with meditation?
Thanks for reading.