In the past few decades, meditation has made its way into cultures all over the world. This ancient tradition, once only tied to different religious teachings, is now prescribed by physicians and practiced by many business professionals, scientists, athlete’s, politicians, military personnel and even students. Stemming from the Latin word “Meditatum”, meditation means “to ponder”. This practice is about learning who we are, altering consciousness, finding awareness, and achieving peace.
There are countless articles that identify the benefits meditation can have on a whole host of common health issues like high blood pressure, sleep disturbance, and anxiety. Studies confirm this practice can change the brain structure as well as our subjective perception and feelings. There are many neurological benefits such as increased mental awareness, cognitive function, and emotional control.
However, despite the growing popularity and research behind meditating and its many benefits, myths and misconceptions have prevented people from adopting meditation into their daily life. People object to meditation for many reasons including the time commitment, confusion on how to “do it right,” stigma, thinking you must quiet the mind, that it is only for religious or spiritual purposes and even thinking it takes years of practice for it to work.
But these myths are all wrong. There is not a correct nor an incorrect way of meditating. As a matter of fact, there are over nine different types of meditation practices and two different types of techniques. Not all of these are necessarily right for you, but once you learn more about them you will identify the one that works for you.
If you are new to meditation or are curious about the practice, here are some steps and tips that could help you learn how meditation can work best for you.
- If you’re breathing, you’re doing it right: The first thing you must remember is that there is no one way to meditate. It is a journey in which you will slowly learn what you like or need the most. Simply carving out the time to focus on yourself and attempt meditation is considered a success.
- Define a technique you enjoy: Open monitoring techniques includes focusing on anything that enters your awareness such as thoughts or sounds or feelings. These experiences are meant to be noticed without any reaction or judgement on your behalf. Mindfulness is a meditation that uses this technique. Focused attention techniques on the other hand, require you to focus on something specific. It could be your breath, a mantra, or a sound. Both techniques will have different effects and results.
- Experiment with different types of meditation: There are nine types of meditation, each might use a different technique – mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, progressive relaxation, loving-kindness meditation, visualization meditation.
It may help to know…
- Meditation provides benefits in as little as 10-15 minutes of practice and it doesn’t have to be done first thing in the morning. The immediate benefits from a meditation practice stem from it’s activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, coaxing the body into “rest and digest” mode. Your heart rate will slow, your respiration becomes gentler and your body begins to relax. Over time, with regular practice, cognitive function can improve including increased attention span and better emotional control and the added body benefits become more obvious. A common misconception is that this can only be achieved with a 30-minute session completed first thing in the morning, but research has shown benefits from shorter sessions are still present in people who meditate mid-day or in the evening.
- You don’t need to pay for an app to access guided meditations.
- Meditation apps can be a fantastic way to explore different styles of practice. Many apps now have a pay-to-play set up which can make it feel like it’s only for people who can or want to shell out the money. But there are still several free options available to you, whether with apps, on YouTube, or by listening to podcasts. For example, Headspace has a basic offering that is free and so does Insight Timer offering great content in a library that lets you sort by focus of meditation and duration of the session. Meditation Oasis has a podcast, website, and has recently launched their app, Meditation Rx, to provide accessibility to guided sessions.
- If you’re interested in going a step further and completing an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program – a blend of meditation, body awareness, and yoga– the full program with videos and guided meditations is available for free at https://palousemindfulness.com/
We’ve all had the experience of looking and looking for something – car keys, a cell phone, the cup of water we swear we just set down – only to have it right in front of our face or already in hand the whole time. Meditation is kind of like that. For decades science has been looking for a magic bullet to fix what ails us, improve our mood, help us sleep better, and boost our energy in the form of a shot or pill. And of course, we want it to be inexpensive, easily accessible, and not take up our precious time.
Well, look no further; meditation can do that, we just need to get in the habit. Happy meditating!