Meditation is the practice of being more mindful. Scientists estimate we have on average 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, many of them random and unconscious. With so many uncontrolled thoughts, it’s no wonder we worry and stress! Meditate at least 10 minutes a day, and you’ll find your troubles and anxieties melting away.
Meditation becomes a useful tool towards helping calm the mind and relaxing the body. By being mindful of our thoughts, we also learn to relax the harmful muscular tension in our bodies that over time causes headaches and backaches.
It does take many hours of practice before one starts noticing the appreciable benefits of meditation. In the beginning, it is hard for most people to sit for more than a few minutes and monitor their thoughts, on top of that figuring out what exactly it is they have to do.
I should know. I had many of the same struggles. When I first started, I couldn’t sit for more than 5 minutes before my mind wandered all over the place. My mind was so scattered, I would quickly forget the very reason I was sitting there.
Today, we’re going to tackle just this and help you to get into the habit of meditation quickly.
Benefits of Meditation
Being mindful, achieved through the practice of meditation, has a host of benefits. For instance, it helps you dismiss random thoughts without judgement.
Oftentimes, these thoughts seem to come out from nowhere and without our even being conscious of them. Many of them hurt us. For instance, your thoughts could very well make you feel undeserving and inferior. Another way to put this is “feeling not good enough.”
So, you end up playing it safe. You end up taking the easiest route, making it safely from the cradle to the grave in one piece.
Your self-talk crops up when you venture into new and unsafe territories, keeping you in your comfort zone. It may even be as sinister as you taking yourself out of the game before you even start. In other words, you reject yourself before others have a chance to reject you.
Meditation also helps you be more focused and apply a laser-like concentration to the task at hand. Ever left your house in a hurry in the morning, minutes later trying to remember if you turned off the stove and closed the garage door? Being more mindful helps!
Another great benefit of mindfulness is living more in the moment. Living in the moment is when we feel the most alive. You start noticing the small stuff, like birds chirping outside your window on a cool spring, cloudy day. Suddenly, you notice the piece of music you have as accompaniment to the sounds of nature.
Much more than this, you become personable and engaging when you interact with other people. When you stop judging them, you start to connect with them.
All this is within your grasp, but only when you decide to dedicate yourself to daily practice.
- Find a quiet place, free of distractions.
- Sit comfortably. Avoid laying down on your back as this will only put you to sleep. The recommended way for most people to sit is upright on the ground, legs crossed, and optionally with a cushion under your tussie. If you have back problems, find your legs falling asleep or just in general numb and tingly from sitting in this position, then it’s also alright to sit upright in a chair. Comfort is the most important thing as this is key to how long you are able to meditate.
- Next, concentrate on your breathing as you slowly relax every muscle in your body
- Starting from the top of your head and working down to your toes, focus on relaxing your muscles.
- The muscles in the top of your head.
- Your jaw.
- Stop grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw shut.
- Let your shoulders drop away from your neck.
- Relax your arms.
- Unclench your hands (if they are in fists).
- Let your arms drop to your sides.
- Double-check your hands again.
- Let your upper legs fall towards the floor.
- Relax your butt muscles.
- Moving down to your toes, are they loosely or tightie?
You should always be doing these checks each and every time you settle into your meditation routine.
Monitor Your Thoughts Dispassionately
When you find your thoughts wondering, focus on your breathing. This helps center our minds on one thing and only one thing: Being mindful. When our thoughts wander, simply nudge them away without passing judgment either way. It is in the gentle dismissal of our thoughts that we learn over time to dissociate negativity from our thoughts.
Judgment causes us to take sides and partly concentrate on the negativity. When you find yourself feeling emotional, focus on your breathing. Soon, you will find them as nothing more than passing thoughts.
It is honestly this simple! There’s nothing magical or difficult about it.
With enough practice, you will soon find yourself freeing your mind from your body. It is that disconnect that lets you live in the moment, free of the aches and pains and limits imposed by your body.
You become free. Through daily practice, you will find yourself much more able to focus on everyday activities. You will also discover an inner calmness and peacefulness. A lot of the random thoughts you used to have will seem to have vanished. In actuality, you have learnt to subconsciously dismiss them without passing judgment of any sort.
How Often Should I Meditate?
I would suggest meditating 10 minutes daily, especially when you are first starting out. Any more and it may quickly become counter-productive, especially when your mind constantly races from all the distractions in you environment.
The type of meditation taught here is a form of vipassana. Basically, it’s acknowledging both your positive and negative thoughts and feelings. When we try to run away from the dark side of our lives, they tend to grow until they overshadow our lives. Vipassana acknowledges these dark moments of our past and present, accepting them without judgement.
Too often, what we resist persists. We get more of the same because this is the Law of Attraction at work.
How we do this is goes back to allowing a thought, whether good or bad, to come into our minds. Then, we dismiss them gently without judgement.
Despite our best attempts, sometimes it is hard to completely remove all noise from the environment. If you find outside noises, such as traffic or your neighbors distracting, you can do several things. You can wear headphones and play white noise, in essence masking out the noise. You can also incorporate these sounds into your meditative sessions. Of course, you also have the choice of dismissing these distractions without judgement.
As an example, when you hear your neighbor revving up the engine of his car, simply dismiss the thought: “That guy across the street is so inconsiderate. Everyone in the next county can hear him!” If you find yourself already saying it, then acknowledge the response with, “Thank you for sharing.”
If you find yourself shivering from the morning cold, then either wrap a blanket around you or run a space heater to keep warm. The same goes for if you are feeling hot. Sit on a cooling pad or turn on a fan. The key factor has always been the same: Create a distraction-free and comfortable environment.
Sometimes Your Body Acts Up
If you find new sensations, such as pain and discomfort cropping up, it’s important to acknowledge your body: I thank you for letting me know. (Note: Of course, if you believe that what you have warrants a visit to your physician, then by all means go! Let the doctor heal your body while you work on healing your mind.
As an example, from time to time my acid reflux acts up. This often comes as a result of some random negative thought to which I’ve reacted. I’ve learned to recognize the sign for when my mind is stressing my body. Often, it’s air constantly surging out of my throat, along with a general discomfort and heaviness in my chest.
It might take me many hours to finally catch on. When I do, I meditate, acknowledging that some thought I had hours ago triggered a massive chain-reaction that is now the discomfort in my body.
That’s the other thing, Even people who have meditated for decades still struggle with their thoughts from time to time. It’s perfectly alright. Just promise me one thing: Be kind to yourself.
Meditation has a cumulative effect. Much like exercising, the more frequent you do it the better the benefits. It took me two weeks of constant and deliberate practice at 10 minutes a day before I started noticing the effects. Once you are able to control those random thoughts, you will find yourself better able to focus for long periods of time. You will find more fulfillment and happiness.
True peace is finding tranquility and fulfillment in a chaotic world.
I encourage you to follow the steps outlined in this article and begin the consistent practice of meditation today. Start by finding a quiet place and get comfortable. Next, consciously focus on relaxing every part of your body, starting at the top of your head, working all the way down to your toes.
Concentrate on your breathing as a means to stop the distracting random thoughts that invariably come. When these thoughts do come, dismiss them as neither good or bad. They just are.
With enough practice, you will soon develop a focus which surpasses the majority of the population. You will find yourself much more able to concentrate on whatever it is you are doing to the exclusion of all outside distractions.