Whenever you think of meditation you probably picture a monk in robes, sitting full lotus on a bed of nails while hitting gongs and chanting mantras.
However, meditation at its core is not about mysticism. It is a practice for people who want to unlock the full potential of their mind, body and life. Meditation is all about being mindful and in the moment. Simply focusing on the breath and being aware of your body and surroundings. It is a mental exercise for focusing on the now.
Start off by either sitting or lying down in a comfortable position, making sure the spine is straight and aligned. I like to sit with a meditation cushion underneath me because it takes pressure off of my legs and spine, preventing them from falling asleep or fatiguing. If you need more info check out my article on the benefits of meditation cushions here.
The breath is the tool to achieving the state of being in the present.
It is tremendously important to breath in deep all the way down below your belly button. Breathing in with your nose then slowly and completely exhaling our through the mouth, releasing every ounce of tension in your body. Keep a steady rhythm of breath to achieve maximum relaxation.
The ultimate goal of meditation is to have the mind blank and free from thought. However, that is very hard to achieve for beginners so it is encouraged to focus on one specific thing, such as the breath or music to help quite the mind of thoughts.
However, "trying" to clear the mind of thought and meditate “correctly” has the opposite effect. You begin to get nervous and wonder why you don’t feel relaxed even though you’re trying so hard to. Instead of “trying” to quite the mind I simply suggest being aware of your thoughts. The key is not to try to do or be anything. Accept what is, focus on your senses and be in your body and the thoughts will slow down.
A fantastic visualization exercise that I love to do is imagining myself sitting on a rock in the middle of a river.
Every thought that pops into my head is written on a log, when I notice that the thoughts are there I simply watch the logs and thoughts flow by without giving any one of them special attention. Your immediate reaction will be to judge the thoughts or try to get rid of some thoughts or grab and hold onto others. Just simply watch them float by and your mind will begin to quiet down with fewer and fewer thought logs flowing by.
This is a very helpful exercise to do especially when one is beginning their mindful journey.
It is important to practice daily even if it is for just 5 minutes. If you miss a day it is easy to fall out of the habit and relapse completely. Some people take their practice to a whole new level and practice doing everything in their life mindfully, treating it as a lifestyle instead of a practice.
Start with just 5 minutes a day and once that becomes easy then slowly start adding 1 minute a week to your regime. If you start building the time too fast, then you risk burning out and giving up your daily practice all together. Remember this is a marathon not a sprint. Mindfulness is a lifestyle,
You will soon realize that just 5 minutes a day can make a tremendous difference in your life, brain, body, perspective on life and general happiness.
Then you'll realize that the nail sitting, gong banging bald guy is actually on to something much bigger.
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