We go to the gym to exercise our bodies. We stretch ourselves, we push, and we get stronger. Meditation’s sort of the same thing except for the mind. Like we train our bodies, we train our minds to develop more mental skills.
There are many different kinds of meditation out there, including some that lean more towards tradition and other towards the ‘new age’. Regardless of how you practice your meditation, what’s important is actually doing it.
The benefits to meditation are very real and measured in a multitude of scientific studies. Some researchers describe the benefits as a ‘relaxation response’. That is, an involuntary response reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system. A lot of the research on the subject has shared nearly a dozen proven short-term benefits:
- Lower blood pressure.
- Improve circulation throughout the extremities.
- Lower and regulate heart rate.
- Slow respiratory rate.
- Instantly lower anxiety.
- Lower blood cortisol levels.
- Reduce stress.
- Induce deeper relaxation.
- Generate more feelings of wellness.
There is also some evidence suggesting long-term benefits, particularly on immune system functioning and the brain. Understandably, some may get excited about the many benefits coming to them through meditation. The purpose of meditation isn’t to achieve these benefits however. The benefits are a by-product. Meditation has no goal – the goal, if any, is to ‘be present’. If one’s to achieve the calmness and inner harmony that they would like to have, meditation has to be done in a way that is selfless and without a sort of goal-driven approach.
How do I meditate?
If this is your first time meditating, here’s how you do it. Sit down or lie down, ensuring you’re comfortable. Close your eyes. Breathe naturally. There should be no effort in controlling your breath. Focus attention on the process of inhalation and exhalation. Feel it in your chest, belly, shoulders, and everywhere. Any time your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. A meditative process like this should take 2-3 minutes to complete. That’s all you’ve got to invest in to start.
In time, you may want to gradually grow your meditation period to up to 20 minutes. If focusing on your breathing does not catch the mind, other ways to meditate are to repeat a sound or mantra that may or may not have any sort of meaning to it, listening to a repetitive sound, or similar repetitions. This will help to focus the mind on a single point, whether that’s auditory or otherwise. By focusing and refocusing your awareness, your concentration improves and a calming state can be achieved. Left to its bare essentials, this is meditation.