To many, meditation conjures up images of Buddhist robes, Tibetan singing bowls, incense, candles and a whole host of other potentially expensive pieces of paraphernalia. To others, it represents a faddy new age culture, and a repackaging of ancient eastern spiritual practices for the Western hipster market.
Image courtesy of Sanuja Fernando, via Flickr
But in fact, there is nothing “new age-y” or hokum about meditation. It is simply a way to become more in harmony with the natural state of your body, and attain more control over yourself. Whether you choose to believe in the Eastern concepts of the bodhisattva or of Nirvana is up to you; but using meditation as a stand alone method can still work wonders for your health.
The mental and physical control that can be acquired by effective meditation can help with a myriad of life problems, including combating various addictions – such as smoking and alcoholism, or compulsive disorders – assisting with weight loss and fighting stress. Below are a few tips to help you get started.
Make a Plan
Meditation is easy and relaxing, but your approach to it must be more rigourous. In order to achieve the best possible outcome from your meditation, you must make regular meditation a habit, and in order to cultivate this habit you must set yourself regular times to practice.
Setting specific times for your meditation is the best way to cultivate the habit. Image courtesy of Ori Lubin, via Flickr
Meditating twice a day is best if possible, so assign yourself ten minutes when you get up and before you sleep to practice meditation. After a few weeks of this it will become a natural part of your routine.
Choose a Place
It might be tempting to save time by sitting up in bed and meditating first thing in the morning. Try to avoid this. Instead, get out of bed and move to a comfy chair, preferably outside your bedroom. Choose a quiet place, free from distraction and not somewhere that you would usually sleep or work in.
A comfy, relaxing space, perfect for meditation. Image courtesy of Mikael on Flickr, via Flickr
Sit in a relaxed but upright position with your arms folded on your lap and breathe deeply before you begin your meditation. Ten minutes spent meditating is good for beginners. As the process becomes more natural you can try longer meditation sessions until you find a time-frame that suits you.
Prepare Your Body
To get the most out of your meditation you need to make sure your body is in the correct physical state. Try some light stretches of the arms, legs and back, to make your body as relaxed as possible. This will make it easier to maintain effective meditation for longer.
Stretching prepares your body for meditation. Image courtesy of Dubus Regis, via Flickr
Avoid stimulants – such as coffee or vigorous exercise – directly before you meditate, as these can prevent your body and mind from achieving the peace it requires for effective meditation.
Trial and Error
There are no right and wrong answers when it comes to meditation, and no set course to take. Instead, try different methods until you find one that fits. Many practitioners of meditation will recommend the relaxed and upright pose simply because it is the easiest and most likely to achieve results, but you may prefer lying down or sitting in another relaxed position.
Some might prefer listening to music when they meditate, while others prefer silence. Image courtesy of Stacey Catherine, via Flickr
Maybe you prefer listening to soothing music rather than meditating in silence, or maybe you like to meditate with your eyes open as opposed to closed. Do whatever feels most comfortable to you; this way you are more likely to persevere and achieve the desired results.