Unlike some of the other spiritual and holistic practices, mainstream culture has adopted meditation. Meditating is no longer just for hippies and psychics on the fringe of society. Now, doctors recommend meditation for a host of different problems, from anxiety to problems sleeping.
For that reason, more people are exploring the power of meditating and the health benefits of the practice. These new faces might be wondering: what is meditation? How do you start meditating? What benefits can I expect?
Ahead, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started meditating. Whether you’re new to the practice or a seasoned veteran, you can likely learn something new here.
The Benefits of Meditation
Sitting down for your first meditation session can be a bit overwhelming. In theory, sitting still for ten minutes and clearing your mind sounds easy. Once you try it, though, you’ll find yourself looking at the clock and realizing that ten minutes goes by incredibly slow when you aren’t doing anything.
In our current society, meditation is harder than ever – which also means it’s more important than ever. Everyone is constantly occupying their time with something, and it’s difficult to disengage the first few times completely. For that reason, we’re starting with the benefits you can experience. Fight the urge to quit by reminding yourself that your life will get better if you keep going.
Once you start meditating, one of the first things you’ll notice is your attentiveness. Researchers have conducted multiple studies on the relationship between meditation and focus, and almost everyone shows a relationship between the two. One study even concluded that short-term meditation could even have a noticeable effect on how focused you are throughout the day.
A Better Mood
Once you start meditating, you’ll also start to notice that you’re in a better mood on a daily basis. Things that used to annoy you roll off your shoulders, and you don’t focus on all of the negative things in your life.
Meditation brings you closer to living in the moment. You aren’t thinking about all of the things you should be doing or something stupid you said earlier in the week. While you meditate, you just are. It’s like a reset button for your mind, especially once you start increasing the amount of time you spend meditating.
People who regularly meditate often report that they wake feeling rested and energized. This occurs for two reasons. The first is that once you start meditating, it’s much easier to fall asleep. Some people have trouble blocking out all of the noise in their head when they try to go to bed. If you regularly meditate, you know how to shut those voices off and relax, leading to less tossing and turning.
The second reason meditation makes you feel more rested is because it might reduce the need for the same amount of sleep. One study suggests that those who meditate don’t need as much sleep as the rest of the population. Meditating can bring the mind to an altered state of consciousness, much like sleeping does. The two states aren’t identical, but they are similar enough to reduce the need for long nights of sleep.
Best Meditation Techniques for Beginners
Once you start looking into the practice, you’ll realize that there are many different ways you can go about meditating. If you want to know the best way to meditate, you’ll likely get a different answer from everyone you ask. Some meditation techniques, like Reiki meditation, are too complicated for beginners to jump right into.
Remember that even though these techniques seem simple, they’ll still require practice. You won’t be able to have a mental or spiritual breakthrough the first time you sit down for a session. Remember the benefits you’re working towards and stick with it until you see your progress.
Mindfulness meditation can net some of the most beautiful results in all of meditating. It’s the favorite practice for many, and one that researchers have focused on heavily. The goal of mindfulness meditation sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done: live in the moment.
Many people will recommend you sit cross-legged with a straight back. While this will be the best position, you can complete this practice virtually anywhere. The best mindfulness meditation will have you living in the moment without judging what’s happening around you. Watch the trees sway and hear the birds sing without analyzing the situation. Experience the moment as it was meant to be experienced.
When practicing this form of meditation, focus on your breathing. Your breathing is the constant anchor to the present – always there and never changes. You can meditate with your eyes opened or closed. The goal is not to be completely free from thought. Thoughts will pass through your mind but do your best not to cling to them.
If you feel your mind drifting, just go back to your breathing. If you can, view your thoughts objectively without expanding on them. If you’ve closed your eyes for less distraction, open them and see the world around you. Once you get to a place of serenity, you’ll start to see your surroundings – and even yourself – in a different light.
Transcendental is another popular form of meditation. Researchers have studied this technique thoroughly as well as it relates to altered states of consciousness.
Those who practice this technique regularly recommend that you meditate for 20 minutes twice a day, but that’s unrealistic if you’re just starting. There are multiple apps and online resources that will help you get started down your transcendental meditation path, and these will all start you out with five or ten-minute guided meditations.
Transcendental meditation will have you mentally reciting a mantra that gives you peace and clarity. Instead of focusing on your breath, you’re centering your mind with a phrase. Anytime your mind starts to wander, keep it in check by bringing it back to the mantra.
Most people practice transcendental meditation cross-legged with their eyes closed. While this is the best position, you need to be comfortable with the technique to work. If you feel better lying on your back, start this way.
When you reach the peak of transcendental meditation, you’ll likely feel that you are drifting somewhere between a sleeping and awake state. You’re drifting in a place of pure serenity, and your physical body feels more like a vessel than something attached to consciousness.
Mantra meditation is similar to transcendental meditation, though it’s more structured which can be easier for beginners. You don’t need to come up with a powerful mantra yourself, as there is already a long list from which you can choose.
To start, repeat the mantra aloud during your first few sessions. Once you’ve got it down, lower your voice until the mantra is completely mental. Eventually, the mantra will repeat itself in your head without you even focusing on it, which will bring you to the state of internal listening.
Mantra meditation can be powerful, and the structure is easy to grasp for beginners. From there, you can focus on bettering yourself or finding your spiritual awakening.
While spiritual meditation is linked to religion, you don’t have to be a religious person to practice spiritual meditation techniques. You don’t need to have read any Hindu scriptures or believe the stories of the Bible, but it does help to feel the power of the universe around you.
Spiritual meditation might take a backseat to the above types of meditation to start, but after a while, you’ll start to get the sense that there’s something else out there. You can call it “God,” “the universe,” or any other name – but it’s something beyond our comprehension.
If you already have that sense, spiritual meditation will help get you in touch with our universal consciousness. It’s tightly associated with prayer, but it’s not about asking for things you want.
First, bring yourself to a state of meditation through whichever practice you prefer. Now, turn your attention inward and outward. Present your true self to the universe; free from ego and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. Stand or sit with your arms open and head toward the sky. Feel the consequence of everything that has happened to lead to your current moment. Live purely in the present and open your mind to all possibilities.
From this state of mind, it’s common to have an overwhelming feeling of truth and understanding. You might even feel as though you’ve received a powerful message from God or the universe. Spiritual meditation offers some of the most powerful experiences you’ll find in practice.
Start Meditating Today
Meditation is like going to the gym in a lot of ways. You’ve taken your first step by doing some research – like buying a gym membership – now all you have to do is go. In the grand scheme of your day, blocking off 10 to 20 minutes for meditation seems like nothing. You still have to find the time and stick to it, which is the toughest part.
Don’t worry if you don’t experience anything profound during your first handful of sessions. It will take a while to get there, but once you do there is no better feeling in the world.