A Meditation Story
When I first heard about meditation I immediately dismissed the idea. I was (and still am) happy with my faith and my relationship with God, so why would I need to meditate?
Well, meditation kept appearing in my life. When a colleague offered a free, four week course on meditation for beginners I decided to try it.
At the time, my four children were 8, 6, 4 and 2. At least one child seemed to get up in the middle of the night each night and I was tired! I was busy working full time and with my obligations at home. Self care at that time was taking time to shower as well as praying in the car each morning on the way to work. I was tired and struggling to figure out where meditation would fit into my life. I made the commitment to do it for the duration of the course and I was able to make it work most days.
By the end of the four weeks, I was so glad I had made the time. It would be wonderful to say that I meditated regularly from that point forward. The reality is that I stopped shortly after the course concluded. It was months before I began again. Now I meditate on a regular basis. What it is all about? Keep reading!
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a quieting of the mind. It is a way to silence the inner chatter (and external noise) and just be. Meditation is a practice that anyone can use to become more mindful. While some religions teach meditation, it can also be done independent of any religion. By focusing on only one thing, it trains your brain to focus your attention.
Meditation also allows you to observe your feelings in a judgment free way. This can help you better understand your feelings in addition to raising your awareness level. Practicing meditation on a regular basis contributes to mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully engaged and present in whatever is happening at the moment.
The best way I have ever heard it described is this: when I pray, I talk to God. When I meditate, I listen to God.
Why Should You Meditate?
Lots of research has been done on the benefits of meditation. There are numerous positive reasons to meditate. Below are a few key reasons.
1. Find inner peace. Meditation helps you live in the present, rather than in the future or the past. When you live in the present you are able to focus on what is important in life. A little perspective goes a long way in helping you realize what really matters. You are also better able to react to life’s circumstances because you are focused on what is happening now.
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2. Reduce stress, anxiety, depression, pain. Often, a wandering mind can focus on negative thoughts. Meditation can alleviate some symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and pain by strengthening the area of the brain that is correlated with self-awareness and attention. People who meditate regularly often report being happier. In fact, meditating for 30 minutes each day is reported to have similar effects to antidepressants.
3. Become responsible for the state of your mind. Take a break from the mental chatter and calm the mind. Many of us have an almost continuous train of thoughts. Meditation allows you to slow down your thoughts and train your brain to focus more on the present. This certainly helps you relax. Just think of it as taking a break from the world around you.
4. Learn more about your true self. Once the chatter of your mind quiets down, you are able to know who you really are. It is then that you can find your life’s purpose.
5. Get better sleep. Mindfulness meditation (noticing feelings, thoughts and sensations in a non-judgemental way) is recommended for those who suffer from insomnia. It helps to calm and relax people before they go to bed. People who meditate before bed report getting more sleep as well as better quality sleep.
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How Do You Meditate?
The wonderful thing about meditating is that there are so many different paths to take. You may like a guided audio meditation, or you may read something and meditate on it. Meditation on your own, along with other forms of meditation, are also possibilities. It is likely that you may explore many types of meditation and use different ones for varying purposes. Whatever form you use is correct; relax. There is no wrong way to meditate, all ways are correct.
The following recommendations will help you start your meditation practice.
1. Concentrate on one thing at a time
- Focus on your breath
- Focus on a mantra, or specific words such as “So-hum” or “I AM”
By focusing your attention on just one thing, you are able to block out other thoughts. When thoughts creep back in, observe them non-judgmentally, then refocus on your breath or mantra.
2. Start Small
Start with 5-10 minute sessions, twice a day. Build your way up from there. Like any other new skill, meditating takes practice. You are building stamina each time you meditate. If you’re having a hard time concentrating, notice that and forgive yourself. Move on. You will realize that as you meditate more, it is easier to enter a deep, meditative state. Your meditations will likely increase in length. Each person is an individual and it is recommended that you go at your own pace. Trust your instincts.
To reap some of the benefits mentioned above, such as relief from depression and/or anxiety, research suggests that you build up to thirty minutes of meditation a day. A half an hour of meditation may even prevent these symptoms in those who are currently free of depression and anxiety.
When Do You Start Meditating?
So when should you start? My recommendation is that you start as soon as possible. I remember being hesitant about the time spent in meditation each day. When I started meditating I had four kids ages 8 and under and was working full time outside the home. I was hesitant to spend even 20 minutes meditating every day. I remember thinking that there were so many other things I could be doing during that time! When you feel that you have no time to meditate is likely when you need it the most. The benefits of meditation are often felt within weeks of starting.
Choose whatever type or types of meditation work best for you. I remember thinking I was doing it wrong when I first started out. There are so many ways to meditate that as long as you are taking some time alone to slow down your brain, you are meditating. Whichever meditation you choose and the length of the meditation you choose is always correct for you. This is one activity that you are always doing correctly, no matter what.
Meditation is really an investment in yourself and in your overall wellness. When you are prioritizing your own happiness and well being you are putting your best self forward for everyone else in your life!
How can we help you begin (or strengthen) your meditation practice?
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