Meditation for beginners
Meditation can be hard to embrace in our fast paced, technology driven world. It requires so much stillness, quiet, and concentration that many people think it’s not even worth it to try. However, meditation has been shown to change the brain in a way that makes it easier for you to access a better state of emotional health.
What Exactly Is Meditation?
Buddhism places great value on the practice of meditation. According to the religion, it is the greatest thing you can do for yourself as it’s the best medicine for sorrow, fear, anxiety, and other ailments that commonly afflict the human condition. Meditation is essentially a means to transform the mind. Regular meditation helps you learn the patterns of your mind and helps you find a clearer, less negative way of living.
Now How Exactly Do I Meditate?
The first step is to set a good attitude towards meditation. Much like setting a tone of friendliness towards another person, we garner the ability to feel acceptance when we feel friendly or kind towards something. If you can’t accept the idea of meditation, it’s going to be harder to achieve a meditative state. Remember that there is no “right way” to meditate; let your practice be what it is on any given day.
Set a time that’s best for you to meditate. Morning is usually the best time because you’re fresh from sleep and your mind isn’t overloaded from a day at work or school. However, if you can’t consistently practice in the morning, it’s best to choose another time of day where you’re usually able to devote some uninterrupted time. Next, choose how long you want to meditate. A shorter duration of time is easier to devote yourself to when you’re just starting out. Dedicate a space to your practice. Make it peaceful and fill it with things that bring you peace and contentment.
As you sit in an upright, comfortable position, embrace your “natural presence” which is just recognizing what is going on around you and accepting any feelings or experiences without judgement or resistance. Let what is be what it is. Awaken all of your senses, listening to sounds within and outside of your body. Feel the air on your skin and the breath moving throughout your body. Select an “anchor” that you can bring yourself back to as your mind wanders. The breath is the easiest anchor as you can draw yourself to the sound or sensation of it. Set an intention for that day’s practice. Do you want to calm anxiety? Bring joy to your day? As your mind settles, it will embrace this intention and allow you to be in the moment.
Benefits of Meditation
Previous studies have shown that meditation changes the structure of the brain and its benefits aren’t just from a state of relaxation. Participants in the study had MRIs done two weeks before and after they participated in an eight week meditative workshop. The MRI images focused on areas of the brain where meditation-caused differences were seen in earlier studies. After the workshop, the images showed differences in grey-matter density in places in the brain like the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. Decreased grey-matter density was seen in areas of the brain that are responsible for decreasing stress, anxiety, and depressive disorders.
The neuroscientist on staff for the study stated that, “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.” Participants reported that they felt significant improvements in their memory, sense of self, stress levels, and ability to feel empathy for others.
Meditation may take a while to master but the results are immeasurable in overall mental and emotional well being. If you’re experiencing significant amounts of stress, suffering from depression, or want to sharpen your mental focus, partaking in a regular meditative practice may be just what you need.