The very word meditation connotes a sense of calm, but for a first-time practitioner, actually trying to meditate can seem strange and rather awkward.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of this deep-thought practice, what even is meditation? And what the heck is the point of it, anyway?
What is Meditation?
Before you close your eyes and trail off, here’s a simple definition of what you’re getting yourself into. Meditation is the act of refining your attention and awareness for better clarity, enhanced emotional stability, and an improved ability to attain instant calm.
Why We Meditate
Meditation isn’t just a blend of chants, ohms, and a few deep breaths. A regular meditation practice reaches deep into the inner workings of your brain and helps to promote neuroplasticity, or changes in neural pathways and synapses located in your brain. It's quite literally mind-boggling—a few minutes of mental cleansing per day can physically rewire you to be happier, more focused, and calmer.
Many that practice meditation report that they’re less reactive—meaning, there’s more space between their thoughts and taking action. Here’s what this can look like: a person that doesn’t meditate might have an over-the-top outburst when a waiter accidentally spills some wine on their white shirt. But in a parallel universe, the same person with a regular morning mediation routine may notice that the spill formed into the shape of a heart (cue in a smile).
In a nutshell, meditation is about the act of seeing clearly. It allows for a better connection to yourself and those around you, and allows you to cut through the clutter and hone in on things you were really meant for. If you’re leading your life making fear-based decisions—like keeping the job you hate for monetary security or staying in a relationship rut for fear of being alone—meditation can reverse your focus to open doorways to achievable passions.
In its essence, meditation will allow you to slow down, focus more, and be more of who you are instead of letting chaos consume you. Plus, science shows that meditation actually lowers cortisol (your stress hormone) production, slows age-related brain atrophy, and can mitigate depression and anxiety.
Steps to Mindful Meditation: The Basics
- Turn Down the Volume: Put yourself in a peaceful environment. Shut your electronics off, dim the lights, and relax in a clean area without distractions.
- Be Comfortable: Ditch the heels and skinny jeans. When you meditate, wear something cozy and slip into lotus or half-lotus position. Aim for a balanced, tall posture.
- Meditate Early and OFTEN: You can meditate at any point in the day, but meditating immediately after you wake, every single day, can help to make it a habit. Moreover, regular practitioners find that it’s best to meditate at the same time every day.
- Start Small: If you’re new to meditating, start with two minutes a day for a week. Gradually up your time quota until you can successfully meditate for 10 minutes per day.
- Focus: If you feel your mind start to wander, don’t worry. But do try to reel it back in by focusing on a calming mental image, like a lily pad in the middle of a pond or a wave making its way across the ocean.
- Mantras: If you want to, try to repeat a mantra to help you focus. This involves repeating a sound or word over and over until your mind goes quiet and you enter a meditative state.