Welcome to this simple guide on how to meditate! What images spring to mind when you think of the word meditation?
Probably some mountain top in the Himalaya or a Tibetan Buddhist monk sitting in full lotus living simply while the world rambles on. Books, audio guides and other items on how to meditate usually have such images on their covers, and that’s because they appeal to us – they’re mysterious and intriguing.
Both of these things images be accurate, but meditation is so much more than that. It’s a cutting edge tool that can be used in the hectic fast-paced world we live in to help you bust stress, enhance mental clarity and thought processes, and give you a deep inner calm.
If you say you don’t need those things, you’re bluffing. You don’t need to head to the Himalayas to learn how to meditate, you can do so in your own bedroom or office.
I’m going to teach you how to meditate in this article. Make it a daily practice and you will literally see your life transform before your eyes. Meditation will quite literally change the structure of your brain and alter how you see the world around you.
How to Meditate – A Little Background
Meditation has been around for a very, very long time. It’s not some passing fad and it isn’t a “pop a pill and get better” solution. It takes a little time and practice to get the hang of, but once you do, the floodgates of reward will open and you will begin to experience the benefits. Learning how to meditate is something that will pay dividends in every area of your life.
Like all good things, you have to work for it.
The first recorded instances of formal meditation were in the early Hindu and Buddhist texts, hence it is most associated with these two ancient philosophies. It probably came out of India and spread to China and Japan, although nobody knows for sure. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that as this practice spread throughout the world, it changed and evolved into many different forms. This means there’s something for everyone and you’re not stuck with only one technique.
I first discovered meditation when I was travelling in Australia and studying Buddhism. I decided to enter a retreat and stayed for three solid months deep in the forest with Theravada Buddhist monks, building a temple, going for bush walks, living alone in the forest and meditating daily.
While this was without a doubt one of the most enriching experiences of my life, like all things it came and passed. Nevertheless, the practice of meditation is something I took with me and have kept utilizing to this day.
Benefits of Mediation:
The benefits of meditation are many, but a short list would be as follows:
Greater mental clarity. When you meditate regularly, a mental fog will lift that has been unknowingly clouding your mind for years. Your perception, cognition and recall will all speed up and become crisp and clear. You’ll begin to feel like you were under the influence for a long time and you’re just now starting to sober up.
Enhanced memory. When I get into deep meditation, memories from years ago which I could barely recall in a full waking state come back to me with crystal clarity. I can see every feature in someones face, recall every room of my old house and how it looked, and piece together the chain of cause and effect that has run through my life very easily. People, places and things that are buried deep down in my subconscious mind come back to me easily. I enjoy a lot of these memories and benefit from the enhanced recall in my working life.
Emotional breakthroughs. Many times we could liken meditation to cleaning out the drains under the sink. Some things are going to surface that we don’t necessarily want to realize or deal with, but it’s good to get them unplugged and move on with our lives. You may not even realize you have pushed some issues and emotions away until they surface during meditation, but the longer you run from them, the more they will hold you back. Deep meditation on a regular basis will lead to emotional breakthroughs, that’s a guarantee.
A deep calm. Finally, meditation will take the hard edge off life. If I meditate in the morning, my day flows. I feel relaxed, at ease and able to handle whatever comes up. I also feel a lot more focused and can complete whatever tasks I need to with much less stress. The mental clarity, greater recall and feeling of wellbeing combined make for a powerful force in working towards goals and taking on daily life.
How to Meditate – Actually!
As I said previously, there are many meditation techniques. I am going to cover the three main ones here. If you’re wondering how to do meditation, these three simple techniques are the most common starting points.
Vipassana –Vipassana meditation involves sitting still and watching your breath.
What the hell is the point of that, G? I can hear you ask.
Firstly, it builds concentration and self-discipline. Most people, myself included, could use more of both of those.
Secondly, it collects your conscious attention and focuses it on one thing, draining attention from the constant stream of nonsense which runs through your mind all day long. This results in the calm, happy sense of wellbeing you will experience after some practice.
Thirdly, it leaves your mind in a calm, alert and focused state. This has obvious benefits in any other area of your life like reducing anxiety.
Vipassana can be done in a quiet place at room temperature where distractions are not likely. You should ideally set aside thirty minutes per day for the practice (I didn’t say this was going to be easy), and practice at the same time every day in order to build an unbreakable habit. Just cross your legs, close your eyes, begin to focus on your breathing and every time you are distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
When you first begin this will be nearly impossible. Your mind will be running off in 100 different directions and you will find it very difficult to focus. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, just bring your mind back and slowly you will begin to gain control over it.
It’s a discipline like everything else, and disciplines take time to master.
Zazen – This is my personal favourite kind of meditation. Zazen involves sitting still in a peaceful place and paying attention to everything around you.
Your eyes can be either closed or focused on a single spot on the floor. Whatever you choose to focus on should be a static object, and should not be moving or distracting.
As you begin to relax and breathe in and out, pay attention to everything around you, for example what you hear. The car passing by outside, the ticking of the clock, the little voice in your head telling you something negative. Just observe all of it, the trick in Zazen is to do nothing, and this is one of the hardest things of all for a mind conditioned to constantly work, study and be on the move.
A zen master once shouted at a Western student “Don’t just do something! Sit there!” I think this highlights the difference in thinking and the conditioning of the average western mind.
After thirty or so minutes of this you will be in a different mental realm. Zazen never fails to make me feel extremely alert, calm and aware of my surroundings. I feel like I have lightning fast mental processing abilities after a Zazen session, and the usual mental chatter is quiet, if not mute. I can then focus on whatever task is at hand.
Remember, pay attention to what’s going on in your surroundings, your body and your mind. Do not be distracted by or get involved in any of it and do not resist any of it. Just let it be, notice it, and let it go.
This practice is initially very hard but with time it will become easier. I can safely say it is one of the most challenging yet life changing things I have ever learned. Even if I don’t meditate for quite a while I can quickly and easily drop into the Zazen state after years of practice, and I instantly regain the benefits.
Walking Meditation –Lastly, for those who don’t have the time, inclination or ability to sit still for thirty minutes and practice sitting forms of meditation, walking meditation is an option.
The good thing about this is that it can be used in conjunction with either of the above two forms. You can walk while practicing Vipassana, or walk while practicing Zazen.
For the sake of example let’s say you are walking and practicing Zazen. As you walk, pay attention to everything going on around you. I find it good to walk in a quiet area such as the woods or an area with little traffic, because while you’ll be hyper alert to your surroundings, it’s easy to get lost in this state for some time.
Notice the birds singing in the trees. The cars passing by. The chatter of people in the street. The sounds and feelings of your own feet hitting the gravel. Smell the flowers, the freshly cut grass the fresh air. The coffee brewing in the street cafe.
During this practice I have literally noticed things that have been around me for years but I never paid attention to before. I began to notice pieces of art and statues in my old city which I had never seen in all the years I had lived there because I was so wrapped up in my own mind. Maybe I’d seen them once, forgotten them and moved on, but I’d never really paid attention to them.
I will say this about walking meditation before brining this article to a close. It has many of the same benefits as sitting meditation, but in terms of pure power it cannot replace it. Sitting meditation will drop you down into a beta-state (the beta brain state, not the beta-male state!) and allow you to take absolute control of your own mind much faster. You’ll also gain the benefits associated with meditation much faster in sitting practice.
Nonetheless, walking meditation is worth it as either a supplemental practice or if you can’t sit for any reason.
Meditation will change your life. That’s a promise. Even simple meditation for beginners, rather than a deep daily practice will have hugely beneficial effects.
You don’t have to take my word for it, you can research on Google or Bing and find the countless devotees and practitioners of meditation who will tell you more about its benefits and explain in greater depth how to do it.
As already stated, it won’t be easy, but then neither is anything worth doing. Working out, building a successful business, changing negative thinking patterns and creating a great life worth living are all hard, but they’re all worth it. Meditation is no exception and will enhance all of those other things you are working hard towards.
Ultimately whether or not you decide to saddle up and go on this adventure or not is up to you. I just know I’m glad I did.
I wish you luck. If you feel this article has been beneficial and you think your family, friends or online community would also benefit, please do share using the buttons below. It will also enhance my SEO and google ranking, so it’s a way to give back.
Desire. Decide. Persist.