How to meditate? The Definitive Guide

How to meditate?

Meditation is the act of achieving total peace, slowing down, and transforming one’s mind. Doing so allows you to understand and control your state of mind, and therefore meditation is often recommended for anxiety and to improve overall mood.

Meditation goes back to nearly 5000 BCE, beginning in the Indus Valley. Indian scriptures show meditation from about 3,000 years ago as well. Meditation was introduced to the western world, specifically the United States, in the early 1900s.

In the 1960s, it gained great popularity and it fit the theme of that era. Other cultures and religions interpret the particulars of meditation differently. Judaism includes a meditative field of study, as well as modern meditative practices.

Islam has two forms, one that is more reflective and one that is more spiritual and mystical. Buddhism is perhaps the most well known for its inclusion of meditation, with multiple forms to reach the end goal of Enlightenment.

Why Should I meditate?

Some Christian acts, like monastery practices, are also considered to be meditative. All of these forms of meditation have differences in how they are carried out or practiced, but all share the goal of reflection, connection, and control of the mind.

With such a rich history across the entire world, it is clear that meditation has been effective for countless groups and people, for many centuries. You may have never meditated, or you may have tried and felt you failed, but meditation can do many things for you.

You may not even realize all the benefits that practicing meditation can give you.

Why should I meditate?

If you have interest in learning to meditate, you may be wondering what exactly it can do for you. That depends on what goals you set. Meditation can be used for spiritual goals, like increasing empathy and building self-knowledge.

Understanding yourself is a great way to learn to understand others, and spirituality in meditation does not have to be religious. Spiritual reflection can also increase satisfaction in relationships. Meditation is also beneficial for your mind. Willpower can be increased through meditation, as well as your ability to focus.

Meditation can also improve cognitive function, and increase the gray matter in the brain. Anxiety, stress, and depression can be helped through meditative practices, and these things affect both your mind and physical body.

Physical changes that can be reached through meditation include a reduction in pain, lower blood pressure, reduction in heart attack risk, and an increase in immune system function.

Spiritual, mental, and physical benefits often tie together as well- one example is increasing positive body image and helping sleep problems. You may find that meditation benefits you in areas you did not plan on changing.

Meditation

The reasons to meditate differ from person to person, and you may not know what you want to achieve right away. Meditation will allow you to reflect and ponder upon what things you want to change, and you can then include those in your goals.

It is clear that meditation has actual benefits, despite many people having the misunderstanding that meditation is purely a religious thing. One can use meditation as part of their worship, but that is never required. If you are interested in meditation, you will want to learn different techniques and forms. It’s not quite as simple as sitting and being quiet, but that can be part of it.

How to meditate?

There’s not one specific way to begin learning how to meditate, but one common way is that of Buddhist origin. Extensive information can be found on Buddhist meditation, so it is a great way for beginners to start meditating.

The basics of this form of meditation may take some learning, but it will soon become second nature as you practice. Remember, nobody is perfect at first. Meditation is not a competition; so do not worry if you don’t think you’re doing it completely correct.

You should be doing it to improve yourself, so having an optimistic outlook will help.

Positioning

Buddhist meditation includes the commonly known position of sitting with crossed legs. The hands are then placed together and held under the navel. The back should be straight but also relaxed to prevent tension.

best meditation pose

Something that you may not consider is the position of your tongue, but Buddhist meditation specifies that the tongue should touch the back of your teeth to prevent excessive salivation or dry mouth.

The chin should be slightly downwards, and the eyes should be half open and looking down the nose. Finally, the shoulders should be level and the arms should be held away from the torso.

That might seem like too many rules for something that’s supposed to relax you, but following them can help build a routine, which can be meditative in itself.

There are reasons for each and every part of the position as well, whether you choose to believe them or not. When the legs are crossed, it is believed that this reduces thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.

The hands being placed how and where they are is said to help concentration, as well as to symbolize the union of method, wisdom and soul. The straight back is to allow energy to flow freely and to promote a clear mind.

Positioning the head in the way specified is to prevent mental excitement. Having the eyes half open prevents too much mental excitement as well, and not closing them fully prevents mental sinking. Level shoulders and elbows held to the side allow air to flow freely.

From all of that, you can see how meditation involves the consideration of little details and the meanings behind them. When you meditate, you are free to ponder upon many things and their meanings.

Once you have the positioning correct, you should learn how to breathe effectively, which is important in itself and in all forms of meditation.

Breathing Meditation

How you breathe is a large part of the act of meditation. Meditative breathing also includes visualization, a key part of the process. When you breathe out, you should visualize that has the bad thoughts leaving your body and mind.

Breathing in should be thought of moving blessings and inspiration into the heart. These thoughts will help build positivity and will help you relax physically. The next part of meditation focuses on the reflection of kindness and empathy.

Loving Kindness Meditation

This can be done on its own in many ways, or as part of Buddhist meditation in the traditional form. You should make a firm, positive decision before you start. Examples include that you will appreciate all living things, you will acknowledge the kind things people do for you, or that you will show your love to those that matter to you.

This is your goal for this form of meditation, and it should be what you focus on. After breathing meditation, your mind should be clear and ready. Making this positive decision will give your mind one specific thing it should focus on. You should keep this thought in your mind as long as you can without forgetting or straying from it.

Should you wish to include some form of spirituality in your practice, you can choose to dedicate these positive thoughts to others.

This kind of meditation can be done as part of a longer meditative routine, or throughout the day as you find yourself thinking negatively. You do not have to sit cross-legged on the floor to think positive things- taking a moment for yourself is also meditation.

Transforming Meditation

Many people meditate to transform themselves in one way or another. Over time, the act of meditation allows the mind to be more calm and peaceful. This is a transformation in itself, but that mindset opens the door for further improvement.

When you are not focused on negative thoughts, stress, or anxiety you can more easily find positive aspects in every thought and situation. When your mind is in a positive state, you will find that your physical wellbeing is improved and that you are considerably happier. There are two forms of transforming meditation, analytical and placement.

Analytical

This type of transforming meditation includes contemplation of meaning and reaching a conclusion or specific state of mind. You may find you constantly think about what a situation meant, or what you should be doing.

These thoughts can be processed through analytical transforming meditation. Focusing the mind on considering all the possibilities of reasons or meanings will eventually lead you to find a conclusion. Once you have found this conclusion, you should focus on it.

Placement

This is the next step. You should find your conclusion and then keep focusing on it as long as it takes for you to accept it and become comfortable. This can be particularly helpful for anxiety and stress. Once you have found the cause of your problem, focusing on it allows you to truly understand its significance and to consider solutions that will be positive.

You do not need to put too much pressure on yourself to understand everything, and you should take a rest if you find yourself becoming unsure or tense.

Modern Meditation

In the modern day, there are more stressors and troubles than ever. Distractions with technology, difficult work, and unhealthy diets are just some examples. That is not to say that meditation is insignificant.

Rather, meditation is easier than ever. It is simple to get information on meditation instantly and in great depth. Researching on your own will allow you to discover different techniques and forms than just the ones listed here.

You may find that something in particular just seems to fit, or that you find it more effective to change specifics in your routine. What exists in terms of meditation instruction should be taken as a suggestion, not as an absolute.

Meditation is a personal journey, and you should achieve that however you see fit.

Although technology can be a source of stress for many, it can also be used as a tool to help you meditate. You might find that your reliance on technology means that starting meditation with assistance will be easier at first, or that it is the way that will work for you all the time.

Online Meditation

The Internet is a great resource for learning about meditative practices, but it also has numerous tools to help you meditate as well. There are countless websites with guides and timers. If you get distracted easily, having a guide can help you to stay focused.

Timers can prevent you from becoming impatient or stressed about time. There are also websites and apps that provide calming soundscapes, which can help you ignore outside distractions during your meditation.

Meditation can also involve yoga, and there are many online classes and instructions for doing so. This can be very helpful if you are fidgety or cannot keep still for long. Yoga will also help you achieve physical improvement alongside meditation.

Meditation on the Go

There are also apps and mobile websites you can use to help you to meditate when you are at work, on vacation, or even during your daily commute. These often include short routines that involve reflection and breathing exercises, which may be greatly beneficial if you find yourself getting anxious throughout the day, such as before a presentation at work.

Using your mobile device allows you to find a way to meditate wherever you are, and often for only a few minutes at a time.

Meditation Classes

Meditation is for personal benefit, but it can be done with others as well. Attending a meditation class can help you find motivation and avoid distractions, as meditation will be the only thing happening in the class environment.

These classes can also include yoga. Yoga and meditation studios understand that people work and have different schedules, so there will generally be a time that will work for you. Some studios offer special lunchtime or after work classes as well. If you have more time on your hands, you can attend a weekend course or retreat. These are great to really learn how to meditate, recover from and cope with stress, and to come back in a better mindset after the course or retreat.

Classes are also offered for children of different ages. Whilst they may not go into the same depth and symbolic meaning that an adult class would, kids can still learn from it. A hyperactive child may benefit by learning to calm their mind and body, a shy child may find more confidence after reflecting on their self-worth, or a child who has gone through some hardship may find ways to think positively again.

Meditation classes can be offered as a way to find a space and set time to meditate, or they can have specific purposes. Dealing with insecurity or learning more about Buddhism are some examples of special meditation classes you may be interested in.

Breathing for meditation

Meditation Summary

Everyone feels stressed sometimes (or all the time), but that does not mean it has to be that way. Unhealthy coping habits like emotional eating can lead to future problems and even more stress. Sometimes the best way to fix something is by doing nothing at all.

That is meditation- stopping your involvement and obsession with outside stress and taking a few moments to reflect and understand. Meditation can be used to help with emotional issues, like stress and anxiety, but it also has physical benefits.

It can increase the amount of gray matter in your brain, reduce blood pressure, lower heart attack risk, and promote a better body image. Meditation is often thought of as being a religious or spiritual thing, and it absolutely can be but it does not have to. Many religions, such as Islam and Judaism, include meditative practices.

Spirituality can also be seen as a completely separate entity from religion. It can mean your outlook, wellbeing, and sense of self. Meditation can also help with that.

In today’s world, it can seem like there is never any downtime and that things always need to get done. In reality, there is always time for meditation.

That might involve you sneaking in a few minutes of reflective thought or breathing exercises during your lunch hour, sitting and pondering issues and their solutions for longer, or completing extensive routines that also involve yoga.

The most well known way of meditation is that of Buddhism, which includes the cross-legged position people often see. Many specifics apply to that type of meditation, but they are not rules. You can use them to build something that works for you or challenge yourself to see meaning in each little detail of Buddhist meditation.

Meditation may come to you immediately, or it may take some time to find what works for you. There is no such thing as “perfect” meditation, but effective meditation should be your goal. The effect it has is up to you.

How to meditate:  The Classic Way?

Whether you choose to meditate in the classic Buddhist way without the religious aspect, use technology to help guide and assist you, or attend classes in a group to motivate yourself- meditation is an accessible and adaptable activity.

If your religion includes meditative practices, you can start to follow those or adapt them to your needs, or even incorporate the idea of religious spirituality into any form of meditation.

You can find spirituality without religion through meditation, by building your sense of connection with yourself and the world. Even if you just try meditation to lower your blood pressure, for example, you will also see mental benefits. The goals you set for meditation are likely to change as you learn and practice over time.

Anyone can meditate in any of the countless ways out there. In a world driven by technology, hard work, and stress it may seem counterintuitive to take any time to do nothing at all. As you practice and begin to see the benefits of meditation, you will see that taking that time is just as beneficial as working hard.

Learning how to reflect on yourself and your experiences, and how to turn those into positive thoughts and actions, is an important life skill. SO make sure you learn how to meditate, even at beginner level.

Meditation is a great teacher, no matter the school of thought you follow.

Sources used in this article:

https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/what-meditation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/meditation-modern-life/201307/overview-meditation-its-origins-and-traditions

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/14/meditation-mind-body-spirit_n_5291361.html

http://how-to-meditate.org/

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