An Introduction To Meditation

You may have heard of mediatation, you may be curious as to what meditation is? maybe you have heard some things that are simply not true about meditation. Whatever your thoughts around the topic here are mine and my experience of meditation , what it is and is not and some top tips, i know you will find this interesting.

1. What meditation is and what it is not

What it is

Misunderstood and abused by many
Bringing our attention, our awareness to an object – an activity, thought, physical object, smell, image, sound, word, phrase, or breath. This is sometimes called an anchor. Start with breath usually as it is the easiest.
Helps to control our attention so we can place it where we wish and allow us to sculpt our brain, shape our thoughts and mould our emotional responses as we wish
Slowing down and stilling the mind and stopping it meandering, stopping distracting thoughts, stopping it being scattered and gradually bringing it into a state of one-pointedness.
A balance between a relaxed body and an alert mind which is achieved by focusing on something
A way of fully going into our body and into our emotions so we are fully in our Selves – to balance our body and emotions
Letting go of beliefs, of feelings of emptiness
Observing our thoughts to see that we are not our thoughts.
A vehicle to help us live more fully, a way of encouraging our senses to be open to whatever occurs in our lives and to see with less bias and without judgement
A help to the world to be slightly better as you change yourself
A way to give you the courage to be alone and to be silent

What it is not…..

instant peace,
a warm or fuzzy feeling,
trying to get out of the body and escaping emotions
a mind full of loving thoughts,
a religion,
the end game,
about getting anywhere,
a competition,
changing your thinking, getting rid of thoughts
gaining a transcendental experience, a state of oblivion, a state of nothingness
just for the few minutes you are doing it

2. Benefits of meditation

It activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is your relaxation response.
General benefits – increases concentration; courage; creativity; intuition; clarity of thought; vitality; peaceful states of mind; a positive approach; self-confidence; self-understanding; and general well-being.
Health benefits I – reduces the production of the stress-related chemicals such as cortisol; anxiety, by lowering lactate levels in blood; respiratory rate; muscle tension; headaches; PMS; heart rate; blood pressure; asthma; panic symptoms; pain levels; and oxygen consumption.
Health benefits II – increases the blood flow to slow the heart rate; heightens levels of relaxation; the strength of the immune system; rises serotonin production and thereby raises mood; enhances the immune system by increasing the activity of cells which kill bacteria and cancer cells.
The body feels more alive, fluid and healthy and the skin glows more – the flow of blood takes more oxygen and other nutrients to the area under focus
It allows you to master your thinking processes to help you face the day as you would like.
Helps get the brain into the alpha wavelength more.
Allows you to express as much love, kindness, generosity, enthusiasm wisdom, inspiration, joy and plain goodness as you can to your family, friends, community and the world. It helps you to plug into the Divine in you.
It helps you experience more fully your physicality and to develop yourself emotionally.
Helps you know that everything you feel is real but that everything you feel is not necessarily true. This will assist you in taking ownership of your emotions rather than looking to blame others or events. You can learn how your memories, your conditioning and a sense of insecurity impact on your emotional life.
This process helps you to be. And this allows you to become.

3. Top tips

Choose a time which works for you every day and keep to it. This will be most efficient for you as your biorhythms will naturally adjust to it as a habit, like eating or waking. The nervous system becomes accustomed to this, so the state of relaxation can more easily be attained.
Start with an intention to meditate for 10 minutes a day. It is important not to be too ambitious but if you wish, after practicing for a few weeks, you could add 5 minutes a week for a few weeks. The key is to do what feels right to you and your commitments. Remember it is not a test or a competition.
Be persistent. The key is to meditate every day. You will see and feel a difference in a few weeks and you will become more skilled as you practice more.
Have a special place – just setting aside a pillow, cushion, chair, room which is for the practice will help you feel settled, relaxed and calm.
Try to have fresh air in your place and if possible, a plant in the room.
Before starting
Turn off your computer, your phone and any other electronic piece of equipment and ensure you will not be disturbed for the allocated time.
Set a timer for the time you have allocated.
Have a soothing ritual before you start to meditate – for example light a candle, say a phrase, burn incense, stretch your body.
Shrug your shoulders a few times and have an intention to be still.
During the practice
Your position – if sitting ensure the spine is straight and you support your back with a pillow or cushion if wish; if lying down, place a pillow under your knees for support.
Be patient.
Be curious.
Thoughts will almost certainly appear as your mind wanders. If you feel distracted by them examine each breath and its effect more closely. If this does not help it is neither a problem, nor a sign of failure. The key here is to not attempt to control them – just observe them without any attachment and gently bring your attention back to the object (eg the breath, body). If thoughts continue to swirl around and distract your focus label them ‘thoughts’ or categorise them if you wish and label them (eg ‘busy thoughts’, ‘work thoughts’, ‘negative thoughts’, ‘limiting thoughts’, ‘to do list’, ‘past’, ‘future’, ‘hearing’, ‘thinking’, ‘bored’, ‘sad’, ‘dislike’, ‘coffee’, ‘shopping’ etc) and let them go before returning to your breath, or any other object of your attention.
If ‘negative emotions’ such as anger, regret, fear, sorrow, creep in and persist just label them. Then shift your attention gently back to more positive things, memories or emotions. Then gently return your attention to the breath and the space between the thoughts.
Noticing and labelling the thoughts are great strides in your practice and will help increase your ability to redirect your attention to thoughts that enhance and expand your sense of self.
You know you are relaxed if your body feels loose and heavy, the skin tingles and the breathing is light and easy.
If you feel sleepy, sharpen your posture, or open your eyes a little.
Restlessness and a sore body may be due to a lack of preparation and the body being unused to being still for any period of time. Relax the body, breath deeply, shrug the shoulders a couple of times and have the intention to be still prior to meditating. If the urge to move, an itch or soreness arises just explore the desire to move, scratch or rub your body without moving in the first instance. If the desire persists, move, scratch or rub wand fully experience the action as well as your thoughts about it.
Do not expect anything from your practice. If thoughts of failure, doubts and confusions intrude be reassured that your practice will resolve these.
A distraction such as birds singing, heavy rainfall may occur. If you cannot stop your mind dwelling on it, just focus on it and name it a couple of times. If the distraction continues to grab you hard and refuses to give up turn your full attention to it. Let this be the object of your attention during the practice. As you do so observe what your mind is thinking; observe how your body is reacting and notice if a part of your body makes you aware of it; and observe your emotional response. Observe all this without attachment or judgement as always.
Finally….. The best meditation is the one that you will do – find a way that you like and enjoy. Then stick with it. Daily.
If you want some help in starting out as a complete beginner or getting back into meditating I recommend taking a look here
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About the Author Nigel Lowson

I loved teaching and loved working in schools because I learnt so much from my colleagues and the students. They never failed to inspire me and make me laugh! My curiosity in what makes people tick moved me into pastoral care and I was privileged to be in charge of a school's pastoral care and co-curricular programmes for 18 years. Here I saw first-hand the pressures on both staff and students (and their parents) and learnt so much about human nature, especially under stress. My focus has always been on offering practical, easy, quick solutions that work which are supported by science.

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