Meditation is one of the simplest things you can do – yet it can have profound effects.
It’s a mental state that’s very similar to the deep peace you experience sitting in front of a lake or ocean. listening to the sounds of the waves, and thinking nothing in particular.
During this state, you’re not thinking about the past or worrying about the future – but totally absorbed in the beauty and wonder of the present moment.
To meditate is to deliberately seek to bring on this state of complete mental calm and quiet, which can help reduce stress, promote health and healing, and enhance your quality of life.
The key to meditation is the way you react to your mind’s ramblings. It’s as if you’re sitting by a river, watching pieces of wood float by. During a non-meditative state, you might pick up a piece of wood and examine it at length. But in meditation, you don’t pursue any of the thoughts that occur – just let them float by.
It’s important, though, to realize how very difficult it is to quiet the mind – so you must never feel that you’ve failed. Generally, the mind is flooded with random thoughts – it runs around like a dog without a leash. Simply by watching the progress of your thoughts, rather than getting lost in them, you’re meditating, because you’ve detached yourself from your constantly churning mind.
Some instructors say it isn’t even necessary to quiet the mind. The main goal is to not take any of the distractions too seriously. Meditation should be a time of enjoyment, like listening to beautiful music or watching the sunset.
It’s easy to get started.
- Pick one or two time-slots each day. You can start with three to five minutes.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place. If one isn’t available, you can practice anywhere – sitting at a desk, or even in a doctor’s waiting room.
- Sit up or lie down and close your eyes.
- Just be aware of your thoughts and sensations
You might not notice any benefits from meditation at first. The key is to continue to practice regularly. Eventually, you will notice that meditation becomes easier and that you are beginning to achieve a quieter mind.
Don’t try to concentrate or control your thoughts.
When you begin to meditate, it isn’t necessary to do anything. Just notice where your mind goes. You don’t have to stop your thoughts. Just let them pass. The main goal is to expand your attention – to become more alert or aware.
Techniques that can help to quiet your mind.
For thousands of years, meditators have used both sound and breath to help them while meditating. One kind of sound is called a “mantra,” which in Sanskrit means “a tool of thought.” You can pick a sacred word – like “Amen,” “Shalom,” “Allah,” “Jesus,” “Abba,” or “Hallelujah” – and focus on that.
If you find yourself distracted, gently bring your attention back to the sacred word.
Or you can focus on an external sound. There are many meditation tapes and CDs that have been scientifically developed to slow down the brain’s rhythm to help you relax.
To use the breath, you start by taking a few deep, cleansing breaths, and then simply pay attention to your inhalation and exhalation. For some, it helps to count the breaths. As you exhale, count “one.” Continue counting each exhalation until you reach ten. If you forget to count, simply notice and then begin again at “one.”
Final Thoughts on Getting Started
The primary goal of meditation is to achieve a state of peace. So it’s important to be gentle with yourself. It is difficult – even for those who have meditated for many years – to still the restless chatter of the mind. Don’t judge or criticize yourself. Be patient.
You may no immediately experience the effects of your effort. But with time and practice, you will notice that meditation becomes easier, you enjoy it more, and it has become a useful tool to help you achieve greater relaxation and calm in your life.