Meditation is a technique that allows the mind to settle down and experience awareness at its deepest level. It is non-religious and therefore it can be practiced by individuals of any faith or background including those who have no religious or spiritual beliefs whatsoever. Meditation is a widely researched practice and millions of people all over the world use meditation as a tool for self-development.
Meditation draws the attention quietly within, allowing thoughts to be witnessed rather than identified with. Meditation can be likened to exercise. Just as the body needs exercise to be optimally healthy, the mind needs meditation to be at its optimal functioning. Similar to exercise, any amount of meditation is useful, however, in order to see real changes, one needs to maintain a consistent practice. Even if practiced for only a few minutes a day, the more consistency one brings to meditation, the more quickly one will see positive results.
The benefits of meditation are documented and include, but are not limited to: higher attention span, improved memory, a reduction of stress hormones in the body, more positive mood, greater creativity, increased patience in tolerating distress or frustration, improvements in communications in relationships, and an increase in academic performance.
• Learning to let go of thoughts — to not resist them and to not purposefully follow them.
• Surrendering the need to understand, analyze, and evaluate.
• Increasing the level of conscious awareness.
How we handle thoughts in meditation and outside of meditation is different. Outside of meditation the meaning of our thoughts is important, but during meditation, all thoughts are equal. There are no right thoughts or wrong thoughts. There are no positive thoughts or negative thoughts. There is only either a presence or absence of a thought.
1. Begin my choosing a quiet place to sit comfortably. Cross-legged or in a chair works just as well. Your back should be straight, but not rigid. Rest your hands in your lap on your knees. Face ahead, chin slightly tucked in. It is helpful to close your eyes.
2. Start with bringing your attention to the present moment and your surroundings. Hear the sounds in the room where you are sitting.
3. Next, scan your body and tell yourself to relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
4. Notice the movement of your breath. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. Pay attention to sensations of the incoming and outgoing breath, without trying to control anything. When you notice your mind wandering, gently return your attention to your breath.
5. Do this for about 20 minutes. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Wait several minutes before standing up. Next, scan your body and tell yourself to relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
• Do not set an alarm, just sit where you can see the time by briefly opening your eyes.
• Release worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
• Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
• When distracting thoughts occur, try to not engage them and return to focusing on the sensation of your breath.
• Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes can interfere with the body’s ability to fully relax.
Q: How often should meditation be done?
A: Any amount is useful, but ideally, twice per day for 20 minutes at each sitting.
Q: What time of day should meditation be practiced?
A: Anytime is fine, however it is recommended in the morning upon waking, after washing one’s face, using the bathroom, but before eating breakfast. In the evening it is recommended at least 2 hours after dinner.