Are you interested in meditation but intimidated by its reputation? You’re in luck. You don’t have to be a perfectly fit, vegan, health guru to benefit from the practice of meditation. Many techniques don't require prior experience or training at all.
Benefits of Meditation
The practice of meditation is centuries old. It has long been known to ease both physical and mental pain. Here are a few of the known benefits it has to offer:
When people think about developing healthy relationships, they sometimes overlook one crucial dynamic: the relationship with one’s self. Meditation enables you to look within and improve your self-awareness. Self-inquiry meditation is one genre specifically centered on understanding yourself. As a result, you’re able to better connect with other people. Along the way, you can uncover the negative thought patterns you’re prone to and work to combat them.
When you meditate, the pituitary gland found in the brain produces endorphins. These are essentially feel-good hormones. Thanks to these endorphins coursing through your brain, your mind will physiologically find its way into a better mood and outlook. This benefit can be leveraged by channeling potentially dangerous emotions into meditation. It’s one of the healthiest ways to sort through something like anger that, if left unchecked, could prompt harmful behavior.
Sharpens Your Focus
No two brains are wired exactly the same. Cognitive functions like attention span and memory vary in strength from person to person. Still, meditation can help anyone strengthen these mental muscles. When you meditate frequently, you learn how to discipline your mind in a multitude of ways, enabling a sharper sense of focus. It’s normal to experience a wandering mind when you first begin the practice of meditation. But as you develop this skill, you will tangibly experience the sharpening of your mind.
This ability to concentrate on the specific task at hand is essential for all parts of daily life. If you’re able to tune out distractions and focus on what’s in front of you, you’ll find yourself more efficient in tasks at home and work.
Helps with Stress Reduction
Stress is inevitable. Thanks to modern technology and constant stimulation, people today might be more stressed than ever before. There are natural methods to eliminate stress without the negative side effects caused by medication. These strategies work to regulate stress hormones that can disrupt sleep, promote anxiety, and foster fatigue. Meditation is one of these natural remedies, that is good for both targeting the issue while brining broader benefits to your life, like increasing focus.
Battling an addiction can make you feel powerless. Choosing to fight an addiction is the first necessary step in overcoming it, but it’s only the beginning of the battle. There must be an underlying shift in belief and motivation in order to holistically face the challenge. Building willpower and self-control are a key part of the process.
Meditation is one method many people find helpful in reclaiming their agency over addiction or even just a bad habit. The self-awareness it brings can be helpful in identifying the triggers behind your addiction. If you’re facing a medical addiction of some kind, meditation alone will probably not be the answer, and you should seek help from your community and a medical professional. Still, meditation can make the process easier and give you the confidence you need to win your battle.
What Was Traditional Meditation?
Meditation has evolved throughout its rich history as a life-enhancing practice. For thousands of years, people have experienced the practice help them attain balance, peace, clarity and serenity. It’s a tradition that transcends many eras and cultures. This is part of its beauty. Still, it has undergone change and the kind of meditation we see today is often different from traditional methods. Here are a few of the key differences:
In the ancient days of meditation, people’s lifestyles were more naturally compatible with the practice. The world was less hectic and slower paced. People lived simpler lives, and found themselves with more time to sit, reflect, and meditate. When people lived in smaller communities without industrialism, it was easier to find a safe and quiet spot to perform the ritual.
In the past, meditation has carried strong associations with specific religious practices. Buddhism and Hinduism incorporate meditation as a crucial component of the religions, and these practices continue today in the modern age. Still, in many places around the world, individuals practice meditation without viewing it through any particular spiritual or religious lens.
Because of the ties to religion, the original purpose of meditation strongly pertained to spiritual enlightenment. Many believed, and some still believe today, that through meditation you can connect with higher powers. Juxtaposing this mentality, many today are primarily interested in the benefits meditation has to offer their stress-levels and chronic pain.
With this background in mind, let’s review some unique types of meditation you can try out in your own life.
Walking meditation is actually pretty straight forward. As inferred in the name, this method involves stepping outside and walking. Then, you slowly start to incorporate carefully directed thought patterns as your feet carry you. Start by focusing on the feeling of your feet hitting the pavement. Pay attention to the sensation you feel in your toes. Notice the way your body interacts with the earth as you step into the dirt. Continue along this train of thought, while also noticing the sounds of the wind and the environment around you.
When you find yourself tempted to return to stressful thoughts pertaining to your daily life, reject them. The goal is to be completely present, thinking only about your body and the environment around you. Because this technique only requires the time and space to move, it can easily be done anywhere.
Have you noticed the way children are able to dance and sing whenever they feel so compelled? This next method allows you to embrace your inner child, with dancing meditation. Move furniture around or get outside to create enough space for yourself. Find music you enjoy that inspires movement for you. While music isn’t necessary, it can be helpful in motivating yourself. Find your inner uninhibited child, and go for it! Don’t worry about appearances, just let yourself be free.
For about half an hour, simply dance as hard as you can. Completely let loose. While you’re grooving to the music and feeling your body move, it will be impossible to dwell on all your responsibilities and tasks to accomplish. The specific movements you choose aren’t important, the key is just staying in tune to your body’s desire. Move to the beat of your own drum.
If you thought dancing meditation seemed new and different, this next method is even more outside the box: laughter meditation. As you might imagine, this technique particularly lends itself to performing in groups with friends. Laughter cultivates laughter, and if you find the right people, it’s easy to build off of one another with this technique. The idea is laughter for the sake of laughter.
Find the strength to let out a deep, joyful laugh from within you. Once you get one laugh going, the others will easily find their way out. Before long, the laughter will feel extremely authentic and even unstoppable. Pay attention to the way your whole body shakes off its burdens in a belly laugh. The endorphins will do your mental state good, and the silly joy will entertain you.
The final technique to explore is progressive relaxation. This can be an effective method for releasing stress. It isn’t difficult and doesn’t require any complicated poses to learn. First, just put on some comfy clothes and place yourself in a relaxing environment. To set the mood even further, you could light candles for their soft light and sweet aroma.
If you’re feeling super dedicated to creating your vibe, make a cup of tea and rub on some essential oils. It’s important to consider the sounds and scents that help you feel calm. To start, find a quiet place to lay down. If you’re not on a bed, consider setting down some sort of mat or rug to lay on.
The meditation requires you to slowly envision each part of your body relaxing, starting with the top of your head. It’s a way to check in with each part of you. Imagine your forehead muscles relaxing, then your nose, your ears, and then your mouth. Move down your whole body. It’s ok to notice the way your body feels heavy, then contrast it by intentionally relaxing each individual finger.
Don’t skip over a single pinky finger, but instead give attention to even the little details. This is where the technique gets its name, as you “progressively” work down each corner of your body. Name every part of your body and actively concentrate on relaxing it. In addition to developing mindfulness, this practice will help you easily drift off to sleep.
These simple methods in practicing meditation are a great place to get started. Meditation isn’t just for gurus, it’s a helpful practice that anyone can benefit from.