Meditation is one of the most discussed topics in our society for its many applications and benefits. This ancient tool is part of a greater concept known as mindfulness. Meditation helps us to decrease negative emotions, manage stress levels in a more productive and positive way, increase patience and tolerance, change or acquire a new perspective about life, and so much more.
One of the challenges we face when we want to create a meditation practice is answering the “what”, “how”, and for “how long” questions. Before we go deeper in those questions, it is important to clarify certain myths about meditation that can scare people off from starting. Below are the top three myths with brief explanations of what is true and what is not true.
Myth #1 – Your mind is supposed to be blank.
Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts from forming; it is about understanding how your mind works. The mind is in constant action but learning how your thoughts form helps to you to control them and not the other way around.
Myth #2 – It is for laid-back people.
Meditation is for everyone, we, as humans cannot go 24/7 for a long period without feeling tired or burned out. If we do, we experience periods of sickness with long time effects. Meditation helps to regulate our systems, allowing us to refill our energy and prioritize where our resources go.
Myth #3 – You need to have the perfect environment to sit down and meditate.
It is important to carve time out of our day to meditate. As you keep your meditation practice, you will find the benefits of having specific space and time to devote into your meditation very beneficial. However, it is not a requirement to start your practice. In fact, you can start meditating with eyes open, while walking, during meals, or when taking a shower. The important part is to start.
Now that we have clarified those common myths let us dive into the common questions.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice to discover a higher state of awareness and focus. It is part of creating mindfulness. There are many types of meditation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, metta meditation, vipassana meditation, yoga meditation, and many more.
How do we meditate and for how long?
Depending on which technique you decide to start with, they all follow some basic principles. Below is a 5-step guide.
- Find a place that calms you – Any place will do, it is important that the place you pick brings you comfort and you feel safe.
- Set a time limit – Set an alarm for 5 to 10 min in your phone so you do not have to think about it
- Body awareness – Using your breath, create a scan throughout your body and notice how you are feeling. You can meditate sitting, laying down, or standing up. It is important to listen to your body and whichever way feels most comfortable. Use props like a blanket, cushion, pillows, chair, etc.
- Breathe – Start your meditation with eyes closed and repeat in your mind “Inhale” as you inhale and “Exhale” as you exhale. Follow the sensation of your breath and become aware of where it goes in your body.
- Notice your thoughts – Let your thoughts take you wherever they need to; follow the journey without expectation or judgement. When you notice that your mind is wandering, go back to your breath.
The most important thing is to start and commit to the practice.