The notion that meditation can foster improved sense of self, compassion, happiness, and focus is thousands of years old, but it’s only now that western science has begun backing it. Small studies of various stress reduction techniques, as well as comprehensive programs, suggest that it’s quite possible to improve many measures of health by making the strong mind-body connection work in your favor.
Meditation, in a way, is like exercise for our brains: it’s been shown to assist in mental health maintenance, improve our memory, empathy, and sense of self. A study led by Harvard researchers found that meditating for only 8 weeks significantly changed the brain’s grey matter, a major part of the central nervous system that is associated with processing information, as well as providing nutrients and energy to neurons.
Like cool rain on a hot day, meditation clears out the emotional debris and waste. It offers a fresh perspective and a new look and can be done anywhere and anytime; no special equipment needed. Meditation helps you get deep into your subconscious mind to help you realize that you are much more than your thoughts. A simple practice, it helps melt away dysfunctional mental and emotional layers by effectively warding off depression, anxiety, sadness, and addiction.
Presence is power. Meditation is a practice that allows us to live in the present moment, which is a beautiful and rare gift. Our emotions often control us and hold us back, causing us to constantly review and relive the past while fretting over the future. We tend to carry around our emotional baggage within our energy fields, which weigh us down. Meditation helps release these painful emotional burdens, offering transformation in miraculous ways.
When examining the psychology of meditation, one must not forget that meditation allows you to let go and ‘go with the flow.’ When you learn how to simply let go, you can step away, if only momentarily, from the problems of everyday life. The often self-created problems we encounter in life prevent us from living in the present moment, as we tend to get lost or trapped within our own limited thoughts or patterns. You can escape these annoyances, these hindrances, these inhibitions and all the other aggravations of life in your daily meditation sessions.
Meditation isn’t always easy or even peaceful, but it has truly amazing benefits when regularly practiced. These tips aren’t aimed at helping you to become an expert, but they should help you get started and keep going.
- Just Five Minutes Every Morning. Start with just five minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 20 minutes a day in no time. Just start small and keep it simple. I know it’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.
- ‘How’ vs ‘Do’. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is great, but it’s not that essential to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or a couch. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for five minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing it so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just simply sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.
- Check-In and Count Your Breaths. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs.
- Focus When You Wander. When you notice your mind wandering, without judgment, simply return to your breath. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice. When you sit still and be quiet, you might worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. It’s not about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
- Smile And Be Grateful. After five minutes, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself and that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you’re trustworthy, where you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself. That’s an amazing five minutes of your life.
written for Cliff Original by Frederick Entenmann, Best-Selling Author, Health & Wellness Consultant, Life Performance Coach for CEOs and Professional Athletes, Founder of Mind-Body-Life. Frederick is a former professional athlete who is a leader in the fields of corrective, high-performance exercise kinesiology, mind and body holistic health.