Ohmmmmm my goodness!
Perhaps you’ve heard about meditation over the years and have some preconceived ideas about it. You may even have family or friends who practice meditation on a regular basis and you’ve wondered what it’s all about. We thought we’d demystify it a little bit, and give you some suggestions for getting started on your own mindfulness journey.
For starters, meditation isn’t really about sitting cross-legged and “thinking about nothing”, or concentrating on just one word, image or thought. In a nutshell, meditation is simply taking a few minutes out of every day to sit quietly in whatever position is most comfortable for you, and letting yourself be in the present moment without thinking about anything other than where you are and what you’re doing right then and there: sitting quietly, breathing in and breathing out. It’s a way to slow down, reconnect with your body and quiet your busy mind.
According to Project Meditation, there are a number of different kinds of mediation practices (including transcendental meditation, prayer, Zen meditation, Taoist meditation, mindfulness meditation, and Buddhist meditation), but they all have the same end goal, which is to “lead to a mind that is quieted and free from stress by the use of quiet contemplation and reflection.”
Meditation is non-sectarian. You don’t have to belong to a specific religious organization to participate in meditation, nor is meditation meant to “convert” you to another religion. While it’s true that meditation is practiced in many religions including Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism, anyone can meditate regardless of their religious beliefs.
What can meditation do for you, besides giving you a blissful break from the busyness of your day? Meditation has been scientifically proven1 to:
- Help overcome stress
- Boost your creativity
- Improve digestion and lower blood pressure
- Help overcome anxiety, depression, anger and confusion
- Decrease perception of pain and improve cognitive processing
If you’re brand new to meditation, it might be a good idea to do a little research and find out if there are any meditation courses in your area. While ultimately meditation is a personal experience that can easily be done at home alone, it can be helpful to be taught the techniques by someone who has a regular meditation practice and understands the benefits and challenges it can present to beginners. A little coaching and one-on-one encouragement always helps!
If you prefer to figure it out on your own, there are lots of free resources available to novices online. For a free audio course that will give you the basics of meditation in five days, visit Fragrant Heart, a website that also has a huge list of free, short guided mediations for relaxation and stress relief.
UCLA Health has a free 6-week guided meditation course, as well as a 5-minute breathing meditation meant for beginners.
Free Meditation has a great list of meditation experiences available on their website, including meditation for children, music therapy and free 10-part meditation course.
Give meditation a try. Maybe it won’t be for you—and that’s perfectly fine—but on the other hand, maybe it will literally change your life. You have nothing to lose, but you may just gain a more serene mind!
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