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Improve Your Life & Health with Meditation

There are many forms of meditation. An article in the New York Times by Sam Kalda talks mostly about Mindfulness Meditation, which is the rage right now. It states: "Meditation is a simple practice available to all, which can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity and promote happiness.

Learning how to meditate is straightforward, and the benefits can come quickly. Here, we offer basic tips to get you started on a path toward greater equanimity, acceptance and joy. Take a deep breath, and get ready to relax.

Meditation Exercises Find a comfortable spot and get ready to relax.

The Basics Setting aside time for formal meditation is an important way to establish a routine and get comfortable with the practice. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.

“Some people complain about taking time out of their day,” said Atman Smith, who teaches meditation to underserved communities in Baltimore. “Practice is important though. It’s a tool you can use to bring yourself back to the present in stressful situations.”

But we shouldn’t stop being mindful when we stop meditating. “The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become mindful throughout all parts of our life, so that we’re awake, present and openhearted in everything we do,” said Tara Brach, a popular meditation teacher based near Washington, D.C. “Not just when we’re sitting on the cushion.”

Mindfulness meditation isn’t about letting your thoughts wander. But it isn’t about trying to empty your mind, either. Instead, the practice involves paying close attention to the present moment — especially our own thoughts, emotions and sensations — whatever it is that’s happening.

When the Mind Wanders

It’s inevitable: During meditation, your mind will roam. You may notice other sensations in the body, things happening around you, or just get lost in thought, daydreaming about the past or present, possibly judging yourself or others.

There’s nothing wrong with this — thinking is just as natural as breathing. “It’s the natural conditioning of the mind to wander,” said Ms. Brach.

When this happens, simply notice what it is you were thinking about or what was distracting you, then take a moment and pause.

You don’t need to pull your attention right back to the breath. Instead, let go of whatever it was you were thinking about, reopen your attention, then gently return your awareness to the breath, being present for each inhalation and exhalation.

“Don’t just drag the mind back to the breath,” said Ms. Brach. “Instead reopen the attention, then gently come and land again.”

After a few breaths, invariably, the mind will wander again. Don’t beat yourself up about this. It’s natural. What’s important is how we respond when it happens. Simply acknowledge whatever it is you were thinking of — without ascribing too much judgment to it, without letting it carry you away — and take a moment to come back to the present, and resume your meditation.

“Where we build our skill is in the practice of coming back,” said Ms. Brach. “Coming back again and again. Notice it — thinking — and then pause, and then come back to the present moment.”

An article in Tree Hugger states "Here are some tips on how to meditate and the benefits you’ll receive from daily meditation.

Warning: Your life might change if you start meditating. Eventually, you may:

  • Develop appreciation for the mundane everyday tasks that bore you and keep you joyless.

  • No longer be bombarded by the constantly chattering “monkey mind” that’s been taking up residence in your brain.

  • Lower your blood pressure; perhaps you’ll be able to stop taking your meds.

  • Recognize the illusion of problems your mind spins out of control; learn how to see the hilarity of everyday dramas.

  • Attract more positivity in your life. A 2019 study finds that when you meditate, you decrease negative emotions not only in yourself, but also in the people around you.

You Gotta Believe!

Can’t sit still for an hour while you’re in a position that seems like you’d strain your groin staying in it for any longer than a minute? Don’t let that dissuade you from giving meditation a try. You don’t have to be like Buddha and sit in perfect "lotus pose" with your ankles up into your hip sockets. You can be seated in a chair or even lying down on your back staring up at the ceiling or sky.

Meditation doesn’t have to be an impossible spiritual pursuit necessitating pure stillness.

You can try moving meditations like tai chi or qigong. Yoga classes can be meditative.

Some people even meditate while they walk. They concentrate on every step and attempt not to get distracted by their own thoughts.

Instead, focus is put on the setting, which can be anywhere that’s quiet (even if it’s the garage or laundry room). Anywhere that’s quiet and has natural beauty is a bonus.

Go for a walk and “be in the present,” paying close attention to the rustling of the leaves on a tree or a flock of birds flying overhead. While walking, also focus on the dynamic rhythms of the breath, with stomach and ribs expanding on the inhale and the deflations of the exhalations.

However you decide to meditate, the first baby step — but a very important one on the road to a calmer mind and less stressful life — is determining that you are ready for a change in your life.

Try telling yourself this: “I’m attracting peace in my life.” But don’t half-heartedly say it. You must truly feel that you’re going to be successful in focusing on the positive and calming the mind.

If you’re meditating because you heard a freind say it’s good for you, but you have your doubts it will do any good, you’ve already set yourself up for failure to make a powerful, uplifting change in your life.

How Long Should I Meditate?

When you meditate, you also increase the well-being of people around you.

If you’re new to meditation, try just one to two minutes, maximum, at first, and notice how hard it is to not let your thoughts take over. Remember, the goal of mediation is to focus on your breath. You may also focus on a simple phrase you want to attract in your life — peace, wealth, wellness.

It’s OK if you have thoughts creeping in; Don’t give up at first. In fact, it’s not likely you’ll ever become a spiritual master and transport your spirit to another dimension. So when you notice your mind is focused on thoughts think of them as passing clouds.

Recognize the fact you’re thinking instead of meditating. Bring yourself back to your breath and phrase/mantra. Try staring at a candle flame. That will really zone your mind out. (Remember staring at campfires? How meditative!)

It Won’t Be Easy, But It’ll Be Worth It

Very few people who try, say, guitar or surfing for the first time, are any good at it. It will be the same with mediation. Don’t give up. Eventually, try to meditate at least once in the morning and at night for at least 10 minutes. Stick with it and you will profoundly attract more peace in your life."

I often recommend that my students try the Headspace app to start. The first series offered by Headspace is called Basics and is completely free. As they say "it will teach you the basics of meditation and mindfulness. After that, via subscription, Headspace offers hundreds of hours of guided meditations on subjects ranging from Stress to Sleep. Themed meditation packs are supported by a host of animations. Along with daily meditations, Headspace also offers On-The-Go exercises for users short on time and SOS sessions to support subscribers in those meltdown moments." I find that once students have mastered the Basics that they don't necessarily need to continue with the fee based lessons, but if you chose to you'll have bite-sized mini sessions for when you’re short on time, to hundreds of meditations on everything from stress to sleep.

Take a look at their videos on YouTube!

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