I am by no means an expert in meditation but it has been a part of my life now for over 6 years and it was the foundation on which I built a healthier and happier life.
Many people think that meditation is the ability to empty your mind but it is simply the ability to focus on the present moment (which sounds a lot easier than it actually is). By introducing a daily meditation we train our minds to focus on the present moment even when we are not in meditation. How many of us don’t live in the present moment and spend our day thinking about the future or analysing past events? Before I started meditation I would probably spend about 80% of my day not living in the present moment.
When we spend our time worrying about the past/future we miss out on the present. We miss out on the beauty of living in the moment.
Remember you can’t change the past and often when we worry about the future we conjure up all sorts of scenarios that will likely never happen. So worrying becomes a waste of our precious time.
By training the brain to live more in the present moment we gain more focus, more clarity and the ability to be much more decisive (not to mention all the other benefits such as being calmer and reduced blood pressure). Like anything we become better at meditation through repetition. If I asked you here and now to do 100 push ups you would likely struggle (and if you wouldn’t I take my hat off to you!!). But if I gave you a few months to train towards that goal you would gradually increase your strength and eventually train your muscles to be able to do the 100 push ups.
With meditation it is exactly the same. When you first start out it can be really frustrating because our mind wants to do what it does best and fire thoughts at us right, left and centre (we have between 50000 and 70000 thoughts a day), but the more we practise and the more we commit to our practise, over time we find it easier to let go of those thoughts and focus on our breathing and being in the present moment.
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When starting a practise I think it is important to find what works for you as an individual. This is very much not a one size fits all situation. Some people prefer guided meditations where they are talked through the meditation, some people enjoy meditating to music and some enjoy simply meditating in silence.
My personal preference is a guided meditation or a meditation to music. I find that this works best for me and helps me to focus on the present moment. I generally do 2 x 15 min meditations a day but again how much time you spend on it is up to you. As little as 5 min a day has been proven to be beneficial. The key is consistency rather than time. It is much better to meditate 5 min every day than do a 30 min meditation twice a week.
For guided meditations for beginners I think Headspace is a great place to start. You can download their beginners app for free which includes 10 days worth of 10 min meditations to get you started. Another great app which includes a range of guided and non guided (just music) meditations is insight timer.
If you would prefer to try silent meditation then one of my favourites is simply counting the breath. Simply close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath and then begin to count the breath (1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale etc) up to a count of 10 and then begin again at 1. You can set a timer on your phone so you don’t have to guess how long you have been in meditation for. When you are aware that your mind has wandered (I guarantee it will) then just start back at 1 rather than wondering where you left off.
The key here is not to be hard on yourself when starting out. Your mind will drift off in thought A LOT, simply because that is what it is designed to do and what it has been doing all of your life! Each time it does just bring your self back to the meditation and in doing so you will begin to train your mind to stay in the present moment.
If anyone has any good meditations they recommend then please share as there are so many out there and I’m always looking for something new to try. I’d love to know how you get on if you’re starting out in a meditation practise for the first time.