It has been more than ten years since I started meditating. I didn’t really know where to begin at first. All I knew was there is something to this meditation thing I had heard about, and I wanted to try it for myself. So I started by sitting down with my eyes closed, counting my breaths, and waiting for something to happen.
Although I enjoyed this experience for a while, it didn’t really get me anywhere. After some time I realized that this approach was not enough. I was not going as deep into myself as I wanted to. I then decided to take classes so I could learn how to meditate properly. This was a life-changing decision that led to what is now my daily meditation practice. My next step was to teach other people how to meditate, so I studied the mechanics of meditation to understand how it works.
If you do an online search you will see there are many benefits to a having a regular meditation practice. Even by sitting down regularly and doing breathwork, you will most likely experience some of these for yourself. For this post I will share only three benefits, which I personally find to be among the most practical effects of meditation.
This is one of the most obvious reasons to meditate. In today’s high tech fast paced world, many people no longer take time for introspection. We keep ourselves too busy to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. As a result, stress and stress-related health problems are at an all time high.
Here is an entry level technique you can use to lower your stress levels. This technique only takes a few minutes per day. If practiced regularly, this will bring down your overall stress levels.
As you learn to control your breathing, you will in time find it easier to control your heart rate. This will bring balance to your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart problems in a high stress environment.
Here’s what you can do:
Set aside 15 minutes per day and make a commitment to yourself to maintain this. 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening would be even better, but do what you can to get started.
- Make sure you are sitting comfortably in a quiet place. Put your phone on silent.
- When you are ready, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- After a few breaths like this, you are ready to do the exercise.
- Slowly count to four as you inhale. When your lungs are full, pause for a moment, and then count to four as you exhale.
- Try to breathe slower on the exhale, and push all of the air out of your lungs each time.
- Repeat this for 15 minutes.
You can set an alarm if you want to, but try to use a sound that will gently bring you back into the room rather than shock you back into your body.
After a few weeks of doing this regularly, you should notice a significant reduction in your stress levels.
Improve your focus
After meditating regularly for a couple of weeks, you may find that you are able to sustain your focus for longer, whether you are performing a simple or complex task, having a conversation, or even watching a movie. This is an intermediate application of meditation that overflows into your everyday life.
When you are comfortable with the above breathing technique, you are ready to take your practice deeper. Start off by doing the breathing exercise for a few minutes, and then focus on emptying your mind. A good way to do this is to imagine a still pond with no ripples, or a river that flows through your mind and washes away your thoughts.
If your mind is busy and your thoughts keep popping up during this time, that’s okay. This is normal. The goal here is not to empty your mind completely, but to bring your mind back into focus when you get distracted. With practice this becomes easier and you will be able to keep your mind still for longer periods.
When the thoughts come into your mind, bring your focus back to the water. The pond will absorb your thoughts, or the river will wash them away. Keep bringing your focus back to the water. Try to do this for 15 minutes at a time.
This technique of emptying your mind makes it easier to focus on a single thought or image, which brings us to the next benefit of meditation: setting goals.
Create your own reality
This is an advanced application that if used regularly, will bring much joy and freedom into your life.
When you have mastered the breathing technique and have been using the water technique to focus your mind on a single thought, you will have created the space to bring something new into your mind (and into your life).
Decide on something you want to bring more of into your life. This could be a goal, an object, an experience, or a feeling. For example, you may want to feel more confident, or earn more money, or have more happiness in your life. Set your intention to focus on this quality during your meditation.
Sit down comfortably and spend some time doing the above techniques. Focus on your breathing to relax your mind and body, and then focus on the water to empty your mind. You are now ready to do the magic.
Bring your intention to mind. Imagine what your life would look like and feel like if you have this thing in your life. Really feel it, and allow this experience to flow through your body. Your brain can’t tell the difference between real and imagined emotions, so go wild here. As you focus on what you want to bring more of into your life, be excited. Allow your joy, passion, and excitement to flow through you.
Imagine what your life will feel when you have achieved this goal.
After a few weeks of doing this, you will begin to experience more of this quality into your life.
Of course you will still need to plan and take action steps to turn your desires into something tangible. This technique will ensure you have the best software installed to get the job done efficiently.
Where to begin?
In closing I’ll share a few tools and resources to get you started.
You may find it easier to meditate in a group environment. Meetup.com is a great place to find meditation groups in your area.
I have created an album of ambient music that can serve as a meditation aid. Each track is 15 minutes long, which makes it easy for you to keep track of how long you are meditating without having to think about it or set an alarm. Download or stream it here.
Now you’re all set to meditate.
What is your favourite technique? How often do you meditate? Why do you meditate?
Feel free to share your meditation experiences in the comments below.