A meditation practise usually consists of mental exercises which allow the mind to reach a state of relaxed concentration. In this article we will describe meditation in a little more depth, and talk about some of the reasons why people meditate, before ending with a simple meditation exercise suitable for beginners.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the process of concentrating the mind in order to bring about a state of serenity or clarity. When meditating, one would usually choose one thing to concentrate on, and try to concentrate on the chosen object without allowing their mind to be distracted.
This is much harder than it sounds! Think about what is normally going on in your head. Even while you are reading this article, you may also be thinking about what to cook for dinner, or what you’ll be doing in half an hour, or about an argument you had this afternoon. During a meditation session, the mind becomes calmer and more relaxed, and this relaxation is also reflected in the body.
Meditation is often used in a religious context but it doesn’t have to be connected with religion.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is practised by many people around the world because of the benefits it brings. Some of these benefits are described below:
- Reduces tension and promotes relaxation. Meditation is increasingly being recommended by doctors to sufferers of stress-related illness. When practised regularly, it has been proven to lower high blood pressure, and the calm mental state experienced during meditation tends to carry over into everyday life. Similarly, the physical relaxation experienced during a session results in less muscular tension on a day-to-day basis.
- Improves concentration. During meditation, we focus all of our attention on one particular thing, concentrating in a relaxed manner (rather than straining to hold our attention). This practice in concentration allows us to concentrate more easily in other areas of our life too, whether that be on doing our accounts, driving, or listening to someone else talk.
- Improves self-awareness. While our mind is quiet during meditation, it is easier to notice messages that might otherwise be blocked out. We become more aware of our physical and mental state. We might notice a persistent pain, or that we are feeling quite stressed, or alternatively relaxed. Our emotions and thoughts are more open to us. Again this self-awareness tends to be present at other times. We begin to feel more accepting of ourselves and our self-esteem increases.
A Simple Meditation Technique
Start by preparing yourself. Ask others not to disturb you for the next ten minutes, and turn off the TV, radio, and phone. Sit up, either on a firm chair or on the floor. (Lying down or slouching will encourage you to sleep rather than meditate.)
Close your eyes, and relax your body. Now start to count your breaths. Count from one to nine and then start again at one. Continue for five minutes to start with. (As you get better at holding your concentration, you can gradually increase the time.) As thoughts come up, dismiss them and continue to focus on counting your breath. Don’t worry if you do get caught up in a thought – when you notice this happening, just start counting again from one.
After five minutes stop counting and watch your breath for a few repetitions, then slowly open your eyes. Try to maintain a sense of peace for as long as possible by not throwing yourself back into a hectic environment immediately!