What associations do you have when you hear the word “meditation”? Mindfulness, breathing practices, yoga, the lotus position, the life of Tibetan monks? Elements of meditation are present in the life of each of us: when we go to bed and try to free ourselves from thoughts, during stretching, when we follow our inner sensations, and even during meals, when we enjoy every bite we eat. What about improving the effectiveness and practicing meditation more consciously?
Principles of Meditation
Andy Puddicombe, the author of the book Meditation and Mindfulness, argues that meditation can help us in various areas of life: someone calms the mind with its help, others find a conscious approach to life, the ability to meaningfully live every moment, a way to improve relationships with loved ones and colleagues.
Before moving on to the practice itself, we clarify two important points:
- Regularity is important. Eliminate fatigue, quickly relax and fall asleep, and distract from problems, you can learn if you practice meditation every day.
- Meditation is not a set of strict rules. The position of the body, place, time, duration, and final goal can be chosen independently. The main thing is to be alone with yourself for at least 10 minutes.
Where do we start
- Position. For meditation, you need to choose a comfortable posture: sitting with a straight back, lying on a hard surface, at a table, while walking, playing sports or eating. The main thing at the same time is how to relax and be dressed in loose clothes that do not restrict breathing.
- Location. Before starting, make sure that nothing will distract you for the next 10 minutes. For the first practice, it is better to choose the same place – it will be easier to concentrate. You can turn on the timer, relaxing music, or light a scented candle.
- Breathe. Close your eyes and try to relax by focusing on your breathing. Inhalation – slow, through the nose, with a feeling of how the air fills the lungs. Exhale – just as slow, through the mouth, feel the air pass between the lips. Direct your attention inside your body, listen to it: where you feel cold, warm, pain, calmness.
- Attention. The main thing in meditation is to control your thoughts and not let them “roam”. You can focus, for example, on your physical sensations, breathing, some object or food, if you meditate at breakfast. Don’t scold yourself if thoughts run away from you: just try focusing again. Over time, it will be easier to maintain focus.
Knowing exactly what you are feeling at the moment helps you enjoy life more and live every second more fully. You can meditate at any place and time: on the street and at home, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in the evening after work, and the morning after waking up.
Several practice options:
A standard practice in which the emphasis is on breathing and the duration and depth of inhalations and exhalations can be chosen independently.
How to focus:
- Direct your attention inward and determine at what point in the body the inhalation and exhalation are felt most clearly.
- Watch how you breathe: superficially or deeply, long or short breaths, exhalations, and what sounds you make.
- Count your inhales and exhales to 10: one inhale, two exhale…
- Repeat the cycle several times.
After you learn to focus on your breath, try mentally scanning your body. Slowly move your attention from the top of your head to your ears, neck, chest, elbows, palms, fingertips, pelvis, knees, feet, and toes. What sensations do you experience in each part of the body? Warmth, heaviness, tingling?
Meditate while walking or running
How often during a run or walk are you so caught up in your thoughts that you don’t even have time to enjoy the present moment? Try to focus on the movements of your body: what sensations arise when you step, how fast you move, and what surrounds you (smells, colors, sounds, people). Just watch what is happening without thinking about anything.
Meditation while eating
Turn off the TV, put away your gadgets, and pay attention to the sensations that food evokes: aroma, taste, texture, heat, and cold. What feelings do you experience when you swallow food?
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To feel happy, it is important to realize how many positive events and reasons for joy are in your life. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and think about what you are grateful for in the world, your life, and yourself: the positive qualities of your loved ones, your achievements, a comfortable room, good weather, etc.
To make it easier to learn meditation, you can download apps for your smartphone. They contain ready-made practices and schemes (often in English), appropriate music, and a timer.
- Headspace is a service with life hacks on how to fill your every action with awareness: from cooking dinner to walking.
- Insight Timer is an app run by psychologists and neuroscientists at American universities. There is a built-in timer and tens of thousands of free meditations.
- Smiling Mind is another free tool that collects practices for adults and children, with options for group sessions.
To learn meditation, it is not at all necessary to sit in the lotus position and meditate on the meanings of the universe. The practice can be done anytime and anywhere to reduce anxiety, relieve stress, improve attention, and feel happy and harmonious. What do you think about it? Have you ever practiced or just want to try?