A Quick-start Meditation Guide
In today’s society, mental clarity is a rare commodity. There are so many things that call for our attention, it can be hard to just take a breath and relax. Often, the sheer amount of input that comes at us can be overwhelming and cause problems. One source of this angst may be smartphones. In these modern times, you pretty much never see anyone without a screen in his or her hand or pocket.
Not only is excessively using your smartphone distracting, it is also dangerous to your mental health. Recently, the use of smartphones was linked to depression and anxiety among young adults. In a study conducted just last year, researchers found that excessive smartphone use correlated to symptoms of depression in the college-age participants. Participants also reported reduced sleep time and family interaction. It may be time to start unplugging for short periods of time and allowing your mind to refocus. One of the tools that can help you do this is meditation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mind-training technique that originates in many eastern religions. These practices are said to help develop concentration, clarity of mind, and calmness. There are several origin points for meditation in history, but the overall concept is the same.
Today, meditation is a part of several forms of health practices including Yoga, Tai Chi, Zen, Kung Fu, and other such practices. Since the mind is the control center for the body, it is important to keep it strong and focused.
After hearing about all of the different arts that use meditation, it’s easy to get confused about where to start. However, beginning a meditation exercise is very simple. In this article, we’ve created a short guide to help you start your path to mental clarity.
Getting Started with Meditation
While there are different variations of meditation, this guide will focus on concentration meditation. Concentration meditation is a type of meditation that focuses on a single point.
1. Find a Quiet Place to Meditate
The entire goal of meditation is to improve mental peace and clarity. Obviously, it would not make sense to try and meditate in a noisy area with lots of distractions. Good places to meditate include dimly light rooms, closets, and secluded wood areas. Basically, find a quiet place where you can allow your mind to relax. Oh, important rule, NO CELL PHONES.
2. Sit or Lie Comfortably
Being in a relaxed position is perhaps the most important step in meditation. It is nearly impossible to focus the mind when the body is tense and uncomfortable. Either sitting down or lying down will work for meditation, whatever your preference is.
This may sound like a “duh,” but this part is actually crucial. When meditating, your breathing should be relaxed, and allow your mind to open.
Interestingly, there are actually some different schools of thought on whether you should use breathing patterns for meditations. Some say that you should simply breathe naturally, and make no attempt to control it. Others, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, recommend using a 4-7-8 pattern to focus the mind. This pattern instructs you to inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
4. Focus Your Mind
This step is the hardest. With concentration meditation, there are several points you can use to focus. One of the things you can focus on is your breathing. Concentrate on the natural rise and fall of your upper body. Instead of controlling your breathing, simply allow it to be.
Other devices you can use to focus include mantras. Mantras are simple phrases that you repeat either aloud or in your head. In this manner, meditation is similar to autogenic training, which is a relaxation technique that uses the mind to create physical sensations in the body.
Further Tips and Insights
Although meditation is simple, it is by no means easy. For beginners just starting to take breaks from a day full of sensory overloads, it can be extremely challenging to focus. Most meditation experts recommend meditating for just a few minutes in the beginning. As you progress in your ability, meditate for longer and longer periods of time. For example, start with 5 minutes, then progress to 7 minutes, then 10, and so on. A good target time to aim for is 20 minutes.
There have been some individuals who have been able to (allegedly) meditate for multiple days without touching food or water. One such record is the infamous “Buddha Boy” who meditated for 96 hours without food or water. Although you may not want to be quite that extreme, it does suggest that meditation can be a powerful tool.
Training the mind is something that most of us forget to do. Unfortunately, we often suffer the consequences for it. People today are plagued by depression, anxiety, and lack of sleep. Fortunately, practicing meditation helps you combat against these conditions. So the real question is, what’s keeping you from getting started?