What is meditation and how do you do it?

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Meditation is not a withdrawal from life. Meditation is a process of understanding oneself.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

What is meditation?

Meditation is a practice of focussing the mind.

It is not forcing yourself not to have any thoughts, or to rigidly force the mind to be quiet.

Instead, you are the observer of your thoughts. Be curious about what arises when you give yourself the space, try not to get involved with them by making stories or adding judgement.  Acknowledge the thought when it comes and then let it go.

Above all, it is a practice.

That’s why it is called a practice. We have to practice a practice if it is to be of value.

Peace Pilgrim

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation can help to lower stress and reduce anxiety by slowing down any racing thoughts and encouraging longer, slower breaths. Over time it can help you grow your self-awareness and self-compassion, and allow you to develop new strategies when reacting to certain situations.

By allowing ourselves time away from exterior influences (such as other people, work, social media or the news), and be alone with our thoughts, we can get to know ourselves better and connect with the present moment.

Studies have shown that practising meditation can have a positive effect on the brain. It can help increase the grey matter density in the hippocampus and other front regions of the brain; this can help improve learning, cognition and memory. Studies have also shown increases in anterior insula and cortical thickness; this benefits cognitive function, attention and self-awareness.

The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments.

Thich Nhat Hanh

How to meditate

Meditation can be done seated, lying down, standing, walking, moving, cleaning. Anywhere and anytime you feel you are in a safe space, and you can become the observer of your thoughts.

If seated or lying down, make sure you are comfortable – sit with your back against a wall or on a comfy cushion, so that you can really physically settle without having to fidget. If you’re walking, be sure to be somewhere safe, away from cars, somewhere you can tune into the nature around you.

Take some deep breaths to settle. If your mind feels like it is buzzing with thoughts, try bringing your awareness to your breath. Notice it coming in through your nose on the inhale, how does the air feels on your top lip and in your nostrils? Notice it make its way down to your chest, your lungs, all the way to your belly. Notice the rise of your chest with the inhale and how it falls with the exhale. How does the breath feel as it makes its journey out of the body? Notice the pauses, the space between breaths, how each breath is totally unique.

If watching the breath doesn’t work for you, maybe find an online meditation recording or visualisation guide. Maybe try some music or chanting. You don’t have to sit in silence.

Meditation, like so many things in life, is completely personal to you, and your way of doing it may be very different to others. You can do it for five minutes, ten minutes, or an hour: it’s all good for the mind and body. If at any point you notice your mind has wandered off, just bring it back to being the observer. It doesn’t mean you have failed.

The path that one person follows is not the correct path for any other person.

Each of us must walk his own path to enlightenment.

Wu Wei

Sources and further reading:



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