An Introduction to Meditation
If, only a few years back, you would have said you’re taking out an hour to meditate, many people you know would have believed you were going mad. How times have changed. Now, everybody knows about the advantages and meditation and need a bit of the action. Understanding about meditation and practising meditation, however, are two quite different things.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a predetermined period where we sit and observe the contents of our thoughts. It may also be a means in which to induce specific modes of consciousness or trance states, through intense concentration and/or breathing methods. The purpose, if there can be said to be one, would be to have the ability to concentrate the mind effortlessly on one point of focus, thereby eradicating all negative thought forms and fostering an outstanding sense of well-being. The ultimate outcome of meditation is one where the mind-made theories ‘here’ and ‘there’ evaporate, leaving the sole state of overall connectedness or ‘now’ (known as Samadhi from the Hindu/Buddhist customs).
There are as many kinds of meditation as there are cultures that practice it but it’s sufficient to know right now that it can be a very valuable exercise. With sufficient effort, the effects can be life-changing.
Benefits of meditation
With meditation, you’ve got the excellent problem of trying to locate something which isn’t a benefit. The simple fact is, regular meditation sessions are downright great for you, especially if you suffer from high-stress degrees, anxiety or depression. Here are the top benefits you can expect from continual practice:
Less depression and anxiety
If you suffer from either anxiety or depression you should be aware that regular meditation was demonstrated to be as effective as antidepressants in addressing the effects. 1 study, in John Hopkins University, looked directly at the effects of mindfulness meditation on stress, depression and pain. The results came back that meditation was ‘moderately effective’, scoring 0.3. That doesn’t seem so great at first but consider that the strongest antidepressants also enroll 0.3. Suddenly, things seem a lot brighter.
The researcher responsible for the analysis, Madhav Goyal, suggested that meditation has such a profound impact on negative mental states as it’s a sort of ‘brain training’. Instead of just sitting there doing nothing, which is what most people today think of when they think of meditation, regular disciplined practice was more about the gradual uncovering of consciousness, which contributes to an automatic reduction of negative thought patterns.
For centuries, meditation has been used as a pathway to transcending the private self and now science is proving it. 1 study, based at Yale University, found that constant practice of mindfulness meditation reduces action from the Default Mode Network (DMN), that’s the portion of the brain responsible for ‘me’ thoughts. As activity in the DMN reduces, normally, happiness levels increase and we’re capable of becoming more selfless in our interactions with others. Whether the growth of happiness is down to less self-consciousness or not is uncertain, but the benefits of consistent practice are evident.
A Decrease in anxiety and anxiety
A study undertaken at Harvard found that, after eight months of meditation, there was noticeable increase in the hippocampus, that’s the area of the brain which governs our ability to learn and remember things. Interestingly, there were corresponding decreases in the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for fear, stress and anxiety, meaning our capacity to feel out of control was significantly diminished. In a follow-up study the mind researcher, Sara Lazar, discovered that these changes in the mind directly linked to positive changes in mood and arousal. The end result is that science has proved that meditation makes us feel better as time passes. Cortisol is a compound that represents our own bodies chemical response to stress, elevated levels of the hormone massively slow your bodies ability to burn existing fat stores, therefore by proxy meditation may actually give rise to a thinner body.
Increased concentration and focus
Ask anybody who sits in front of a computer all day long — from time to time, maintaining concentration is quite tricky. This isn’t only a problem for children, either. Countless adults struggle each day with lapses in attention and concentration, which may negatively impact their work and everyday lives. It’s a joyful thing to report, then, that even only a fortnight of mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve our ability to focus. When we consider that one of the primary goals of most types of meditation is to cultivate ‘one-pointedness of focus’, it should come as no surprise that improved concentration is one of its advantages.
Reduced effects of aging
Several studies, including one flagship research at UCLA, has found that the aging mind is better maintained in meditators, over non-meditators. Participants in the study who had been meditating consistently for 20 years have been proven to have more gray matter volume throughout their mind, compared to people of the same era who did not meditate. Despite the fact that the older meditators were demonstrated to have more pronounced loss than younger meditators, this is still something to think about as we continue to get old.
Insight and clarity
Another unsung benefit of regular meditation is that many find it unlocks a channel of creativity and inspiration. By way of instance, meditating on a company challenge or name or the essence of your next big project can frequently be just what you will need to clear the space which permits the response to ‘pop’ into your consciousness like from nowhere. I would not expect this to happen overnight but as you develop the ability to clear your mind you will notice more and more that you’re touched by inspiration and benefit from serendipitous conditions.
Types of meditation
There are 3 forms of meditation that appear to be the most frequent amongst practitioners. The first one is to use the breath as a guide. The second is to use a word or mantra, repeated during the meditation, to concentrate the mind. The third is to concentrate on something external, like a candle or deity, which generates the identical state of concentration with time. Which way is best? Not something I can reply here. Like exercise and eating right, the ideal sort of meditation is the one which is right for you and your situation. Take, for instance, the instance of Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he was building his own company as a young man he started to feel overwhelmed at the sheer number of items he needed to get done. Recommended by a friend (Frank Zane) to attempt Transcendental Meditation, he embarked on a yearlong practice, comprising 20-minute sessions of repeating a mantra. After a year had passed, he discovered his anxiety had gone.
How to meditate: A simple technique to get started
Among the simplest ways to start with meditation is to ‘follow the breath’. It requires no external thing or ambitious yoga postures. All you will need to do is be aware of your breath flowing in and out of your body. From the Buddhist civilization, this is called vipassana meditation.
Here are the steps:
Pick a serene environment
A significant part of starting and maintaining a successful meditation practice is to pick the ideal environment from the start. Find a nice quiet place where you won’t be bothered and find somewhere comfortable to sit. You don’t need to sit back on the ground if you don’t need to. Sitting straight in a seat will be fine, provided you can maintain consciousness, not fall asleep halfway through!
Begin by becoming comfy and breathing deeply
Close your eyes and direct your attention to the inflow and outflow of breath from your nose. Feel the atmosphere in your nostrils. Stay with this and do not force anything. Let mental and emotional content come and go as it pleases. As you go on you may feel yourself becoming calmer and calmer. Obviously, the mind will wander at some point. Gradually bring it back to the breath for the rest of your allotted practice and bear in mind that there’s no wrong or right way to do this. It’s all about the experience and what you get from it.
Be (and remain) conscious
As your practice proceeds begin to sense your awareness. Observe your consciousness and how conscious you are, regardless of your comparatively calm state. The experience of pure consciousness is much-prized from the art of meditation and the more you are able to cultivate it the more peace you will feel inside.
Finish the session peacefully
Do not finish your session by jumping up and rushing off to something else. Permit the calm and tranquillity to flow naturally to the rest of your day and you’ll end up acting more decisively, without the psychological conflicts that typically crop up throughout the hustle and bustle of a hectic day. This manner, you can your meditation with you wherever you go.