The practice of meditation has been popular in Asia for thousands of years, but lately its popularity in the US has seen a huge spike. This is partially due to the publicity from the 2013 Huffington Post article that profiled meditation as a common practice among some of the world’s top executives (see the article here).
Are you wondering whether meditation is for you? It is! Don’t get sidetracked by these common myths:
“I’m not good at it – I can’t stop thinking and clear my mind!”
Meditation isn’t necessarily about trying to stop thinking. It’s about being intentionally mindful and quiet, allowing your thoughts to focus and move with your guidance. Instead of trying to think of nothing, consider moving your mind toward choice, consciousness and peace. Don’t worry about being “good at it,” that’s not the goal.
“I don’t have the time to just sit around.”
First, you can start with just two or five minutes a day. It is not a huge time commitment. More importantly, research has shown that a meditation practice improves focus and productivity, thus potentially adding time to your day by allowing you to complete things more quickly. Finally, this small time commitment can improve your general health, leading to better food choices and sticking with exercise.
“It’s just for religious or new age practitioners.”
While meditation is common in several religions, as a practice it is completely non-religious. It is a mental exercise, and has been tested and reviewed repeatedly by science. As a mental practice, it’s been shown to improve ailments like high blood pressure, ADHD, and PTSD.
“I don’t know how.”
That’s the best part! It’s very simple. Here are the steps for a basic meditation:
- Pick your location carefully, with a focus on calm and relaxation. Turn off all electronics (if you want some very quiet music, choose calming music without lyrics).
- Wear very comfortable clothes. If you feel restricted clothing, it can be distracting.
- Sit somewhere comfortable and quiet. Sit cross legged if you can, or sit comfortably if not. Stretching gently can help with this, as well. Sit up very straight, keeping your spine straight.
- Close your eyes.
- Take 5-7 deep, slow breaths. Then just return to your natural breathing, don’t worry about controlling or changing the pace.
- There are several types of meditative practices. The best for beginners is to focus on your breathing. You don’t need to change or control it, just stay focused on the breath going in and out of your body. If it helps, imagine a flower or coin just above your navel, rising and falling with your breath. The visual can help with the focus, especially for a beginner.
- Don’t give up! If you get distracted, just try to refocus. If you get stiff, just stretch gently and try again. If you miss a day, just resume your practice the next day.
Meditation is relaxing and rejuvenating, but it takes practice! Don’t get discouraged or give up, the benefits are boundless. If you feel particularly frustrated or unsure, there are also meditation classes that could help you get started or support you in your practice.
Enjoy the journey!