Lately, I’ve been very interested and curious about meditation. Since this is a whole new subject to me, I did a lot of research in order to learn more about the various ways of meditating and the benefits of these different methods. I gathered in this post all the information I could collect on the subject. I hope you will learn something new while reading this, and I’m looking forward to discuss this post in the comment section.
The information available in this post is the fruit of my personal research on this topic, for the purpose of beginning the practice of meditation. If some information written here is inaccurate or imprecise, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comment section.
Meditation : for what purpose ?
Meditation is mainly known to help cure THE greatest evil of the century : stress. Meditating allows you to collect your energy and free your mind from the bad waves and the bad thoughts that obstruct it. In other words, thanks to meditation, you can “clean up” your head and focus on what truly matters, and thus forget about the daily stress that eats you up. During my research, I came across this citation that I liked because I found it very eloquent :
A regular practice of meditation can bring a lot of benefits to your mind and to your body. I will talk more about this in the rest of this post.
This practice also approaches a spiritual aspect, a way to reconnect with ourself and the world that surrounds us. But you don’t have to be a believer or to practice a religion in order to practice meditation.
How to practice meditation ?
A few keys for a good meditation session.
➜ Choose the right time : it is advised to meditate when you wake up in order to start the day on the right foot, or to wait until bedtime to get rid of the accumulated tensions and get a good night sleep. Some people choose to meditate in the middle of the day to help them “recharge”. In any case, choose a time that you can exploit everyday, because regularity is key in the practice of meditation. Set a specified period and stick to it : 10 or 20 minutes if you’re a beginner.
➜ Create a little corner favorable to meditation : the place where you are going to meditate is as important as the right time. Find a quiet and soothing place, where you feel good. You can put a relaxing background music, light a candle…
➜ Choose a comfortable position : the lotus position is the most common, and it’s even “mandatory” to sit that way in some methods of meditation. But you can usually choose the sitting position in which you feel the most comfortable, as long as your back is straight. In any case, meditation is always practiced barefoot.
➜ Pay attention to your breathing : breathing is very important when it comes to meditation. You need to inhale while inflating your tummy, and exhale while deflating it, through the nose, slowly and calmly. In some meditation methods, breathing is the key and you have to focus all of your mind on it.
➜ Let your thoughts run wild : don’t try to empty your mind too much, just let your thoughts drift away in front of you like pictures, without lingering on them. Picture your brain like a room in which your thoughts, your emotions, your feelings enter and leave, come and go. Don’t try to retain them or to chase them away, just let them be. If you can’t do it, focus on your breathing instead and try again later.
➜ If it helps you get focused, find your own mantra : we all have in mind the caricatured image of the buddhist monk, in the lotus position, reciting some “aum… aum…” out loud. That’s the idea ! Try to find a mantra that speaks to you, it can be a sound like the “aum”, a word, a sentence, it doesn’t matter as long as this mantra soothes you and means something to you. Once you find it, you just have to recite it in your head or out loud, during your entire session. It will help you achieve a deep relaxation and develop your consciousness. The mantra is particularly used in a form of meditation called transcendental, that I will mention soon.
If you want to go further in your practice, there are different forms of meditation. They are more or less suited depending on the individual. In a few words, I will introduce you to the four main methods.
THE ZEN MEDITATION
This is suited to people who want to empty their mind or to focus on their positive energy in order to reach the goals they have set to themselves. The zen meditation can also help introvert people come out of their shell, help impatient people relax and help impulsive ones master their intuitions and instincts. Generally speaking, this method will help you discover yourself and you will be able to know you better.
➜ To practice it : you must always be sitting in the lotus position to practice zen meditation, with your back straight. You need to breathe slowly, calmly, and focus on your breathing only, without thinking about anything else. Let your thoughts drift away without trying to retain them.
THE VIPASSANA MEDITATION
If your goal is to be more organised, to develop your concentration and your efficiency, this method is probably the one for you. It will help you get “mentally structured” and put some order in your ideas. Usually, cerebral people, in particular those you enjoy writing, will consider this form of meditation over an other.
➜ To practice it : you have to be sitting down, in the position that you prefer, as long as you are comfortable and your back is straight. You have to stay motionless. The important part is your tummy : you must focus on your breathing’s moves. You inhale, your tummy inflates, you exhale, it deflates. Don’t hesitate to put your hands on your stomach to feel it better. This exercise will allow you to reinforce your concentration and attention abilities.
Contrary to the zen meditation, you will not be asked to let your thoughts run wild. If a thought, a picture, an emotion, a physical sensation shows, you can choose to forget about your breathing and concentrate on the manifestation instead. Once the manifestation is gone, you can get back to focusing on your breathing movement.
THE MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
If you are more interested about the spiritual aspect of meditation, this method might be the one for you. The mindfulness meditation will suit those who want to reconnect with who they truly are, those who want to find and pursue their spiritual path. This technique can also help you develop your concentration and your lucidity, or allow you to analyse the situations you must face in your everyday life.
➜ To practice it : this is the freest of these four methods. It involves focusing all your attention in the present moment and analysing the sensations that ensue. To practice the mindfulness meditation, you need to focus on a specific “object” : it can be a material object (the flame of a candle, for example), a mental picture (a tree, the sea), your breathing, your body, a movement you are currently doing (walking, brushing your teeth)… You must start from this “object” and become aware of your connection to it, of what it brings you, of the emotions and feelings it creates within you. The aim is to get a full consciousness of the present time, of yourself, the others and everything that surrounds you.
THE TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION
You feel comfortable in your own skin, at home in your own body that you treat with respect, and you enjoy social interactions, but relaxing is something you find difficult to do. If you want to start meditating to eliminate the stress that overfills you and to control your mind as much as possible, this is probably the method you will choose.
➜ To practice it : a session of transcendental meditation usually lasts 20 minutes, and it’s better to do it when you wake up or before going to bed. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Unlike the other techniques, you don’t need to focus on anything. Just breathe naturally, without thinking, and relax.
In the transcendental meditation, you must use a mantra. I mentioned it earlier, this is a sound, a word or a sentence that you will recite in your head or out loud during your entire session. You need to find a mantra that means something to you. This will help you achieve a deep relaxation and develop your consciousness.
This technique might appear simple, but its perfect execution is in fact extremely complex. Those who master the transcendental meditation can access an other state of consciousness and areas of their brain that are usually not exploited, up to the roots of their thoughts.
Professionals agree on one thing : the technique chosen doesn’t really matter in the beginning. The important thing is to start meditating, one way or an other, without questioning yourself. Then, you can always start a different method of meditation if you find that the one you chose at first isn’t for you after all.
The benefits of meditation
Meditating can bring a lot of benefits, not only to your mind but to your body too ! Every method is different, and you will only be able to notice significant changes if you practice assiduously. However, here are a few advantages that come with meditating.
➜ A soothed, stress free mind, especially during the session.
➜ An increased self-confidence.
➜ A restful sleep, and less sleeping problems.
➜ Boosted intelligence and creativity.
➜ A better pain management, especially if you are doing transcendental meditation.
➜ Positive social relationships.
➜ A reduced risk of cardio-vascular diseases.
➜ A better coordination between the mind and the body.
Meditation and you
Now, I need you ! If you practice meditation, I would be very interested in learning which technique you use, what meditating brings to your everyday life, and if this practice had a real impact for you. If you can recommend some reading about this topic (blogs, articles, books…) I would be happy to read your comment !
And for those of you who are new to this experience, like me, would you like to start meditating ? I am going to jump right into it (I would like to try the transcendental meditation) and I will write an other post with my personal impressions in a few weeks or months.