When I was younger I always kind of looked at those who practiced meditation as “quacks.” I never gave it much consideration. Little did I know, meditation would become something I would strongly adhere to as I became older because of it’s variety of benefits.
Why meditate: I like to think more about the spiritual aspect of meditation than the physical benefits- though both are wonderful. Spiritually speaking; in the most superficial sense, meditation allows for the connection between the body and soul. This is done by bringing the mind, body and senses into balance. This connection is
important to our very sense of ‘purpose’. The goal of meditation is to heighten consciousness.. to awaken and recognize the soul, simultaneously allowing the soul to recognize oneself. Through meditation, we are open our minds to new possibilities, and we begin to hear our higher self. Meditation is not a religious endeavor, although the two may or may not go hand in hand– prayer itself can be considered a form of meditation. Through meditation individual’s may feel as ‘one’ with their surroundings- in other words, they obtain a deeper awareness that there is no difference between an object and an individual, they simply observe their surroundings without judgement, but with appreciation, accepting everything for what it is. Meditation is the journey to self-realization, allowing one to transform their mind, typically leading to a more positive experience, along with a deeper understanding and connection to our inner-self.
Throughout the day- and even during sleep, the mind happens on it’s own, generating thoughts whether one is consciously participating or not. Typically, this may result in unnecessary, unwanted stress. During meditation, the mind will continue to wander, yet the thought process is slowed down and allows for a ‘focused wander’ as you are only thinking about the present moment.. the “here and now.” This would be referred to as mindful meditation.. leading to a sense of peace, calmness, and security.
Physical/mental benefits: People often turn to meditation for the immediate, physical and emotional benefits, and there is good reason to. Neuroscientists believe that the mind has a “negativity bias” where we tend to focus more on the negative things than positive. Most of the time we are unaware of the neurological activity going on inside, which can lead to failure of recognizing when our bodies are stressed. Usually there is a physiological response from our bodies signaling stress- anxiety, panic attacks, “stress marks,” hives, etc. Meditation is very beneficial in the pursuit to overcome stress and negativity resulting in a multitude of physical and emotional benefits. Some of the most common benefits include:
- Increased concentration– this is a good one for us bloggers! My favorite part of meditation is pretending time doesn’t exist. With this perspective, there is no struggle to think creatively because everything you need comes to you naturally. Meditation results in a higher state of consciousness where the creativity is forever flowing. It also allows for a heightened ability to focus, and slows down the decline of our cognitive function due to aging and increases gray matter!
- Improved quality of life– through the reduction of stress, there are tons of resulting benefits- lower blood pressure, improved immune function, etc. that work to improve our physiological well-being. If you want to know more, Google it. There’s tons of benefits so I won’t cover them all right now because there is literally something for every system in the body. This article does an excellent job explaining the neurological aspect with lots of research to back up these claims!
- Decreased depression, and anxiety! I have met numerous people who have turned to meditation in order to cope with these two mental illnesses in particular. Anti-depressants aren’t for everyone, so meditation is their best alternative. I have turned to meditation for anxiety purposes and I couldn’t be more happy with my choice.
- Positive lifestyle– after meditation the tone is set for a good day because of the positive state of mind you are left in, which may lead to more positive interactions.
Tips on how to focus: Use a candle! Your mind will always wander and generate thoughts.. because that’s what it does. Meditation allows one to disengage from their stress-provoking thoughts, through focusing on only one thing for a period of time. This is what will lead to improved concentration in the future. You will be well-trained in taking yourself out of stressful situations, quieting the mind, thinking more clearly, and you can learn to focus solely on relaxation techniques. Focusing on the flame of a candle during meditation will bring the mind back into focus whenever it starts to wander. I particularly enjoy using a candle because it allows for an expansion of awareness leading to all kinds of insights. If you prefer to have your eyes closed, you can also focus on your breathing, or your heartbeat while shifting your gaze toward the third eye! Mantras also help- one of the most commonly used being “Om” — which also has various benefits in itself that I will talk about later on. Also, try not to focus on the outcome, simply focus on just “be”ing.
Finding TIME to meditate: You may think you don’t have the time to meditate, but there is always time. Meditation is one of the most important things a person can do. This should top any priority list, because in the grand scheme of things it won’t matter how fat your bank account is, or what material possessions you’ve acquired. What will matter is the connection you’ve acquired with your soul and spirit, and the consciousness you’ve gained. Once you give meditation a chance to work and you experience the benefits for yourself, you will always make time. Especially because you will anticipate that relaxing and peaceful sensation. Whether it is randomly during the day when you have an extra couple of minutes, in the morning when you awake, or at night before going to bed– just don’t lay down! You don’t always have to have long meditations, some days may be shorter than others when starting out. Just remember to keep an open mind and really give it a chance to change your perspective. I guarantee you will be glad you gave it a try. One thing I recommend is finding a way to make it part of your routine. For example, right now I like to do my meditation at night as a way to end the day on a positive note. After my meditation, I like to enjoy a nice steamy shower- it really allows for some intense relaxation and stress relief! Then after my shower, I will enjoy a delicious cup of hot tea (favorite brands are yogi and stash) to benefit my body. I love having tea because it leaves me feeling rejuvenated! It is the best way for me to keep myself in a relaxed, calm, and peaceful state of mind at the end of the night, completely taking the edge off from all the stress during the day, and completing my zen time!
How I do it: When I begin my meditation- either in lotus (sitting cross-legged), or corpse pose.. I take a few good deep breaths- inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth as a “Haaaaa.” This allows the physical body to go into a deep relaxation, while awakening the main energy points of the body- the chakras. With every exhale, I imagine the tension leaving certain parts of the body; first the face- the eyes, jaw, and mouth. Then the neck, the shoulders, arms, fingers.. and so on all the way down to the toes. I also like to start out by telling myself to be focused on the present moment, to be in the here and now, and that there is no such thing as time (so that I don’t begin to worry about all the things I need to accomplish). Additionally, that all my worries are “outside” in the external world, where I am leaving them, and taking myself out of for the moment.
When looking into a candle- vision blurred, I like to make comparisons between the candle and the human body to keep focused. How they relate, how the candle can be used as a metaphor for the human experience. Hence, my previous post: The candle and the flame.There are so many ways to go about these comparisons and contrasts, I try to keep mine more positive. Also, keep in mind that each meditation is different!
Once finished with my meditation, I take one last deep breath in and let it out, releasing all the tension and negative energy that’s leftover. Placing my hands together as if I’m about to say a prayer; I place them over my my third eye, bow my head and bring them down to my heart. This is to increase the flow of divine love– “we are all one when we live from the heart,” and it’s simply a gesture for the term “Namaste” — which is to show a deep form of respect. I like to use this gesture to show appreciation for this life and everything I have, and for allowing me to “be” and I thank myself– good self-esteem and confidence booster! Finally, I lean forward from the lotus position and place my hands on the ground- still together in prayer, connecting my body and soul with the heavens and the earth. At the end I like to affirm with myself (for anxiety reasons) that I have nothing to worry about, and that the universe always takes care of me. Whenever something goes wrong, there is always a reason, and everything usually falls into place for the better.