Modern meditation and mindfulness seem to go together hand in hand in today’s society where positive mental balance and a healthy mind-set are becoming one of our main goals in living up to the current lifestyles we are all striving to achieve. Anxiety and depression have become openly accepted as pitfalls from living in a high-stress world, where the conventionally programmed achievements for what society deems an achievable quality of life are becoming harder and harder to realise.
So meditation has become the buzzword for inner peace and tranquillity yet it all sounds just a little bit too hippy doesn’t it? Well it shouldn’t. Not anymore.
Years before the art became known of and popular within Western culture it was the religions of Asian countries that were using meditation as an integral part of their own practices. Buddhists in China were responsible for teaching their own forms of the practice to Japanese monks who introduced it as their ‘Zen’ state. This all happened back in the 8th Century when at a similar time Jewish practices were introducing their own types of meditation into traditions such as their Kabbalistic practice, Islam introduced chanting their God’s names and breathing control and Eastern Christians were repeating set prayers in meditative postures.
The act of meditation’s appearance throughout Europe or America didn’t happen until the mid-90s where studies and research was carried out into proving the benefits of the practice. Since then it has grown in popularity, gathering momentum as a positive psychological process to help balance our minds and our emotions, to better understand how and why we feel the things we are feeling in order to process them healthily instead of pushing them down and denying their consequences, in turn creating a better mental and physical well-being for a rounded complete health model.
We are taught that good mental health is achievable for all if we exercise and eat properly, if we make friends with our demons, and if we recharge our minds in the ways they need for us to have the best chances of a healthy head and a healthy heart.
Here’s a simple introduction on how to start practicing meditation and how to develop into a state of practice that can help you in your daily life.
- Relax. Sitting or lying down is a great place to start. Turn off all those distractions; turn off the radio, the TV, turn off your phone, and so to start the process create a peaceful and relaxing environment. Relax your limbs. Relax your posture. Relax.
- Breathe. And concentrate on your breathing. It doesn’t have to be any different to your normal healthy breathing pattern but be aware of the air entering your body, and then leaving it. Focus on that breathing pattern. Focus on your breathing alone. Use it to remain calm and peaceful.
- Be mindful. From this point every one of your everyday thoughts are going to try and invade your mind and interrupt the process. That’s fine. Your mind isn’t used to shutting down. It wants to be useful so it’s bringing things it needs to correct into a place you can do something about them. The difference here is that instead of stewing on them, trying to figure them out in the heat of the moment, you have to accept them for what they are, let them go, and move back to concentrating on your breathing.
That’s it. Well, it’s not completely it but that’s where it all begins. Once you’ve mastered taking control over those interfering thoughts you can begin to understand why your brain won’t let them go when you’re trying to relax. It’s your task then to understand how to process them so you can stop the causes of those thoughts interfering not only with your meditation but also your day-to-day life. It’s about gaining awareness and finding solutions instead of letting them eat at you and making your stresses worse.
The act of meditation isn’t going to buy you inner peace from the outset. That will come with practice and understanding and what will happen from regular practice is gaining an understanding of how to exist simply in that moment. That will give your mind some calm to recharge, it will give you some time for yourself that doesn’t contain worry, stress or problems, and by looking into the invading thoughts that interfere with your process and asking why your mind doesn’t want to let them go you have an opportunity to understand where they come from, what emotions and feelings are causing them, and to be able to formulate a resolve that will give you the ability to control them and not have them control you.
With practice you will be able to use your new meditation skills in a variety of locations and different situations. Walking meditation focuses on your footsteps instead of your breathing patterns. Meditating in locations of awe such as by the sea, in nature or a favourite escape space will all buy into the feelings of happiness focussing you into a position of peace to contemplate positively as opposed to the bustle of life dragging you further away from it.
The research into meditation has shown it to be prolific in areas of stress, anxiety and depression. It has also show great results benefiting physical health problems and is often used in the prevention of physical complaints and utilised in conjunction with physical therapies. It promotes a calmness we need to help prevent overloading our systems and by processing the harmful situations we’re becoming more aware of in a calmer and more practical way we’re reducing further the causes of those stresses.
Daily meditation has shown huge results to both good mental health and physical. Reducing stress on your body both mentally and physically is giving both a perfect opportunity to recharge in different ways than sleep does. Your brain is still active for a lot of the time you are asleep so helping your brain to find peace during your waking hours is an incredible aid to the health of your mind and your body.
It won’t happen overnight. Learning to be effective with such a process that your mind isn’t used to is by no means easy. The thoughts that will invade your mind at first will seem almost impossible to deal with, to even slow down, never mind control. It takes practice. Regular practice. The good news is that you can do it. It isn’t as difficult as it first seems if you stick to a regular practice at regular intervals. In the beginning a few minutes will seem impossible. You’ll drift in and out and far away from where you’re trying to keep your focus but a minute will soon turn into two, and then into five, ten and more. By then you’ll be ready to investigate further into more advanced methods of practice and how they will too enhance the way you react to the world, process its niggles, and learn to be happier, healthier, and more positive with each day it brings.