I’ve taught hundreds of people how to meditate and there are some common questions that many people ask. Meditation and mindfulness have become so popular and there is definitely a lot of information out there. Based on my own practice and experiences, here’s what I think it’s helpful for you to know about meditation and mindfulness:
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a name given to the many techniques that turn your attention inward. There are many types of meditation- each one asks us to engage or focus our attention. You’ve probably heard of these: visualization, contemplation, walking, chanting, watching your breath, silent mantra meditation, and mindfulness. There are many others.
Meditation techniques have been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation was originally practiced so one could deepen their understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. Though meditation may be spiritual for some, the practice is not necessarily religious in nature. Meditation is now becoming mainstream, probably due to the high amount of stress our modern day lives can create. It is practiced by millions of people around the world.
Meditation is not about forcing our mind to be quiet; rather it’s a process to rediscover that quietness that is ever present. Behind the mental chatter, there is silence, pure awareness, which is not disturbed by thoughts of the past or concerns about the future.
Meditation can be easy if you are taught correctly. It is not about stopping thought: that would be impossible. Meditation is going beyond or transcending thought to find the quiet that is already there.
Whichever type of meditation you choose, done correctly, it allows your body to reach a naturally occurring rest state. According to research, this rest is different from sleep. It is much deeper, and at the same time, you are more alert.
Many people meditate to experience inner peace and to find meaning and purpose in their lives. For a growing number of people, perfectly healthy people, meditation is used as a means of stress reduction.
Ask yourself the following:
Do your thoughts never stop?
Are your thoughts based on old, habitual ways of thinking?
Do you have difficulty coping with the stress in your life?
Do you want to feel peaceful and calm?
Do you have health issues?
Do you just want to feel better?
Do you ever feel so lost in your thoughts that you are missing out on the present moment?
Do you struggle with cravings for drinking, eating, shopping or other things?
Do you want to be creative, less distracted and more focused?
Do you want to look and feel younger?
If you answered yes to any of these, it may be the right time to learn to meditate.
Meditation is recommended by almost every health professional because it provides a proven way to give your mind and body a rest and to reduce stress. A mind is a powerful tool that has a huge impact on the health of our bodies as well as the quality of our lives.
Millions of people are now meditating and research has demonstrated the physical, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual benefits of meditation. In a world where stress is the new “normal” people are becoming increasingly inspired to learn to meditate.
Research has demonstrated the benefits of meditation in many areas:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Reduced levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline
- Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
- Improved immune function
- Decreased anxiety, depression and insomnia
- Enhanced concentration, memory and the ability to learn
- Improved creativity and problem-solving skills
Perhaps the greatest gift of meditation is the sense of inner calm and peace it brings into your daily life.
Types of Meditation?
There are thousands of meditation techniques, and all of them were appropriate for someone, somewhere, at some time. There are many subtle differences in the rules each meditation tradition advocates, but these are just guidelines of what worked in a given situation. They are not carved in stone.
I was personally drawn to a method that included a number of techniques that are based on ancient practices and current research but are not aligned with any particular spiritual or religious beliefs. I wanted to practice a method of meditation that was simple, effective, and universal.
That was the main reason that I decided to become certified to teach the Simple, Easy, Every, Day Meditation taught at the McLean Meditation Institute.
The Simple, Easy, Every Day Meditation™ or SEED Method includes breath awareness meditation, body awareness technique, heart-centered breath, self-inquiry practice, silent sound (mantra) meditation, mindfulness practices and peace finder practices.
This powerful yet simple meditation method can be learned in as little as three hours and is a perfect method for anyone- whether you are a beginner or want to get back on track with meditation. Anyone can learn to meditate. If you have a thought, you can do it and you don’t have to change a thing- not your diet, your religion or beliefs- nothing.
How to Meditate?
Although you can get excellent information about meditation from books, and other online sources, it really is helpful and important to have a qualified, experienced teacher to act as a coach. Meditation is a natural process and isn’t that complicated when you know what you’re doing and how to do it.
I wasn’t comfortable attending some classes as the spiritual underpinnings threatened me and I just wanted to learn to meditate without having to feel uncomfortable with that component. I also wanted to learn about the what, when, where, why and how of meditation and most of the classes just guided me.
I have found that most people that I coach want to learn why they are meditating and how it relates to their own life. Everyone’s different and meditation is not a one size fits all type of practice.