When done correctly, meditation can be a way of dealing with stress, anxiety, or to simply relax. Practicing meditation regularly can help to increase concentration, and bring a general feeling of happiness for oneself. Several scientific studies have yielded results, suggesting that frequent meditation can help strengthen our immune systems, reduce blood pressure, and keep hormone levels stable. Although there are many benefits, most people who begin, struggle and give up after short periods of time. So what can we do to help increase the success of our meditation sessions?
There are a several things that can be done prior to meditation, which can help the experience. Prepare by stretching your muscles. This allows you to relax more easily, improving circulation, and makes sitting more comfortable. Try to make the environment you plan to use clean and tidy. The phrase “a tidy house is a tidy mind” has some wisdom, as less clutter is more relaxing and can provide less distraction. Using the same room or area each time you meditate, may help you enter the correct state of mind. Some prefer to use candles or incense to create an atmosphere most suited to their own method of relaxation.
Ensuring you are comfortable is important when preparing to meditate. Traditionally, sitting on a cushion, with legs crossed in the half lotus position is common. This is not mandatory however. Usually it is most important to balance your weight and keep muscles relaxed. As a beginner, I recommend closing your eyes to prevent any visual cues from acting as a distraction, but many are able to meditate well with their eyes open.
When beginning meditating, try to breathe in a focused way. When exhaling, clear all of the air from your lungs, before pausing and filling them up completely. Try to be aware of your breathing pattern without focusing on it too intensely. Doing so will slow your heart rate, allowing you to concentrate more clearly on forming a calm inner self.
While meditating there are a number of different practices which can be undertaken. Some repeat a mantra, such as a phrase or collection or words which act as a point of focus. The stereotypical mantra to use is “Aum” of Hindu origin, but others which are common are “Sat, Chit, Ananda” (Existence, Consciousness, Bliss”) and “Om Mani Padme Hum” (Jewel in the Lotus). Simple visual objects can be used as points of focus, these should be placed at around eye level so while meditating there is no straining required to keep focus. Using a small flame can be a good example as many find them engaging for extended periods of time. Visualization is a method which involves creating a scene or place within the mind from where a calm state of mind can be reached. This place may be available for use each time you meditate, allowing for revisiting and exploration.
The overall purpose of meditation, is to bring relaxation and calm to your mind and body. It may be frustrating if success is not easily met, but it may take lots of practice to sustain periods of focus. Don’t worry if this happens, the best technique is to keep to a regime suited to yourself.
Image from Flickr Creative Commons by Sebastien Wiertz