Meditation is one of the most powerful ‘self help’ tools available today and is available to anyone. All meditation asks for is time and an open mind and in return you will benefit in so many different ways. It is incredibly straightforward and perhaps that’s where a lot of doubt comes from – is this all it really is? Meditation is simply turning our awareness inside and being present in the moment. We need to practice regularly in order to feel any real benefits and it can be used for so various things from relaxation to opening up our hearts and to finding the truth within.
People come to meditation for a number of reasons – they feel let down by life, they want peace of mind, they feel overwhelmed by life etc. Stress, anxiety, depression, isolation, alienation are all reasons people turn to meditation and thankfully, with regular practice, meditation can actually help.
The key to meditation is directing the awareness inside and this can be done in four different ways through concentration, receptive awareness, contemplation and cultivation.
We can increase our awareness through concentration usually on an object, mantra or symbol and this helps us loose our sense of self where our focus is on the object entirely. We could practice receptive awareness which requires us to expand our awareness and look beyond the world of appearances and question what life is all about. Contemplation helps us utilize what we have learned from concentration and receptive awareness by exploring how our mind works and how we have become the person we are and how we can change. Lastly we can cultivate an open loving heart and learn compassion, gratitude and appreciation and this can help us become the person we wish to be. A happier, more joyful and compassionate being.
When we come to meditation we should make it as individual as possible to ensure we feel motivated to practice regularly. We should not feel pressurized to sit a certain way because we have been informed this is how it is supposed to be done, but sit in a way that is comfortable for you. I even meditate in bed at night – lying down.
Furthermore if you find a practice that works for you then stick to it. I love using breath awareness as it helps me relax and focus my awareness and quickly calms my mind. I meditate in the evening after the kids have gone to bed – which has now become a habit and I always do it in the privacy of my bedroom too, where I feel more relaxed and ‘away’ from the noise of the rest of the house. Getting into a routine is crucial for making the practice a regular thing in your life and to take advantage of the benefits of meditation.
Also incorporate mindfulness into your daily life and use it when doing the ‘boring’ tasks of the day – it’s surprising how less tedious the chore becomes and how more happier you become doing it! Mindfulness is simply living in the ‘here and now’ and experiencing what is going on now – from the sensations in your body, to what you see, hear, smell and feel. When you wash the dishes – be there in the moment – how does the water feel on your hands, how are you standing, what sounds do you hear? How often have you eaten lunch and not actually ‘tasted’ what you have eaten?
Mindfulness is another form of meditation and it involves living in the here and now – bringing our awareness into the moment in order for us to enjoy our ordinary everyday life. Too many of us live our lives either in the past or in the future. Living in the past means we miss out on so much in our lives at this moment in time. We miss out on our children, our happiness, taking enjoyment from the simple things in life like nature and the changing of the seasons. By living in the past and reliving old hurts or holding on to anger and frustration we constantly feel those emotions in the here and now and miss out on so many positive and wonderful experiences in life.
Others live in the future, planning and wishing for their life to be bigger and better than it is now – without ever benefiting from the joy of living in the moment. Children are shunned as mummy spends her days imagining how life will be if only she won the lottery or had a bigger house. How many of us have looked back on our lives and realized just how much we have missed out on because we chose to live in the future? So many people I know comment on how they never really spent the quality time with their children when they were younger and how much they regret it now. We cannot get that time back – it is so precious – so live life now and enjoy those wonderful moments with the children, with your partner because that is what life is. Furthermore living in the future creates a wealth of anxiety too, looking at the if’s and but’s and omitting again to look at what you already have.
The simple practice of mindfulness helps us to become more aware of the moment and cultivates our awareness and concentration. Using mindfulness on a daily basis has many beneficial effects which I personally have noticed and you will too after a relatively short time – and they are being more calmer; being more aware and appreciative of our surroundings which brings more enjoyment and happiness into my life too; being less judgmental; being more aware of people’s needs and hence making us better friends/mothers/partners etc.
Whatever your motives are to come to meditation – ensure you make the practice your own and you will get the most out of it. If new to it – maybe visit a teacher or as I did- buy a few books and give it a try. What have you got to lose? We all need a way to relax and meditation is a wonderful relaxation tool with extra benefits too!
There are many more benefits of mindfulness and meditation too, if practiced on a regular basis, many of which I have benefited from.
- Meditation Benefits
There are many other benefits from regular meditation practice. The various physiological benefits are :
1 Decreased heart rate
2 Lower blood pressure
3 Reduced cholesterol levels
4 Muscle relaxation
5 Deeper slower breathing
6 Reduction in the intensity of pain
7 Increase in alpha rhythms – brain waves that correlate with relaxation and increased awareness
8 Stronger focus and concentration
Not to mention the psychological benefits of meditation which are:
1 Less emotional reactivity – fewer mood swings and intense negative emotions
2 More happiness and peace of mind
3 Enhanced creativity and self actualization
4 Reduction in anxiety/stress/tension
5 Heightened perceptual clarity and sensitivity
6 Feeling of relaxation and calmness – being in control
7 Awareness of the present moment
8 A feeling of being more balanced, centered, grounded
9 To connect more deeply with yourself and others
10 Relaxing the body and calming the mind
If we consider all of the above it is a wonder that more people don’t meditate. Perhaps people still view meditation as something ‘alternative’ or ‘spiritual’ as opposed to a wonderful way to live life. Even simply used for a method of relaxation – the benefits of meditation are phenomenal.
Not only does meditation offer such a wide range of physiological, psychological and emotional benefits but it can also help us to overcome many obstacles and negativity in our lives which are holding us back or keeping us in a negative frame of mind instead of opening up our hearts and enjoying life fully. There are many things that meditation can help us overcome, some with specific meditations and others with just the regular meditation practice.