Somewhere, down this long winding road of life, we seem to have lost our way. The once perfect connection between mind, body and spirit is now only present in snippets, in people scattered all over our world. For many of us the Western world, with its fast pace and countless distractions, locks us in a never-ending battle riddled with depression, anxiety and social segregation. In amongst the long days in concrete walls and the virtual realities of our lives we have lost our relationship to thought and as a by-product to this our connection to spirit. Our thoughts have been allowed to run wild and any control we had over them has diminished. We have turned to drowning them out in a sea of self-medications and mind-numbing activities. But if we don’t learn to control them they have no option but to control us. In a day and age where making time for ourselves can seem an impossible feat, how do we learn to get back our connection to the universe?
Meditation is a great way to do this. It teaches us to quiet our everyday thoughts and push back the bombardment of overthinking, anxiety and negativity. This has not only been proven to be good for our health but also for the universal consciousness. We get between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts each day, a jumble of random musings, stress, anxiety or wonder and awe. The idea of trying to silence the torrent of images is hard enough when it’s time for sleep let alone block them out whilst sitting on a cushion, cross legged on the floor.
So, what is meditation and why do people do it?
Meditation, in short, is the art of silencing the mind. It is a skill that helps to reduce stress and improve cognitive function, bringing us back to our true self whilst giving us a generally a sunnier positive attitude. So how can the average person, moving around in their busy day, start to perform this impossible act?
Simple, with practice.
Meditation, as with most great things in life, takes practice. Many people find it hard to start with so they start small. Here’s a guide to get you started:
- Try controlling your thoughts by thinking of one thing at a time. Attempt to hold just one thought in your head and whenever another one pops in, consciously bring your focus back to your original thought. This is a great way to start and get you more mindful regarding conscious thinking.
- Fix your gaze on something. Find an object in the room and focus on it. Try to only hold thoughts of that object in your mind. Whenever an opposing thought pops in, push it right back out. A candle is great for this. A naked flame can be quiet hypnotic. If you don’t fancy a candle try staring at a shadow on the wall or a tree in your eye line.
- Grab yourself some Mala beads. A Mala is a string of beads used for counting whilst meditating. If you are concentrating whilst running your finger across the beads it is hard for other thoughts to invade your mind.
- Yoga is a wonderful way to learn to meditate. When you have completed a vigorous yoga session and you are lying in shevasena on the floor it is pretty hard to think of anything at all. Staring at the lines in the ceiling is about all you can manage!
- Concentrated breathing or conscious breathing is very important to your meditating practice. Count your breaths, try to do 4 short breaths in, then hold for 7 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds.
Now we’ve looked at how, we need to explore the position to meditate in.
Meditation is traditionally done in a seated, crossed legged yoga position. With your pelvis rocked forward, back straight and heart and head stacked over each other. Hands resting gently on the knees, turned up. Having said that, the only real important part is that your back is straight. If you find it more comfortable in an upright chair then go ahead. The same can be said for lying down, although be careful not to fall asleep.
Another good idea is to try not to do it on a full stomach as that can also be a recipe for sleepiness.
The health benefits of meditation
- Reduces stress.
Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people choose to meditate.
Meditation gives us the space in our mind to figure out what are valid demands and what are not. Helping us to stop stressing over the small things and get some perspective.
- Controls Anxiety.
Anxiety is a real problem today. Lots of people are living with constant fear and stress. When we learn to control our thoughts, and get another view point it allows us to relax more. Anxiety is caused by a loss of control. Once we learn to control our thoughts everything else falls into place. Less stress equals less anxiety.
- Emotional Health.
Meditation has also been linked to improved emotional health. It supports restoring the link between mind, body and spirit which leads to improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life.
- Enhances Self-Awareness.
Meditation is known for aiding in developing a stronger understanding of yourself, your needs and your desires. Getting to know yourself is the first step in growing into the best possible version of you.
- Generates Kindness.
With a deeper and better connection to spirit comes a deeper connection to others and the world around you. Through meditational practices you encourage the development of kinder thoughts and feeling to yourself which in time extends outwards.
- Fighting Addictions.
Mediation teaches mental discipline. Self-discipline can help to break dependencies by increasing self-control and a wider awareness of which triggers to look out for.
7. Aids Sleep
Nearly half the population will struggle with insomnia at some point. Meditation is one of the most useful aids we have in combating this. Learning to sort through your thoughts and listen to your inner self brings about an ease in your own skin and a deeper relaxation.
- Helps to Control Pain
It has been proven that your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, this means it can be elevated in stressful conditions and decrease when you are feeling calm and relaxed.
In this wonderful world of ours there are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to learn to control our own states of mind – and to change them for the better. Personal sorrows, anxieties and fears are besetting our heads, however with the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind, we can step out of the shadows of these insecurities and into the light we possess within.