A beginners guide to meditation
Meditation expert Michael Kenton shares his top tips for beginners.
Meditation is often depicted in the mainstream as an activity confined to Buddhism, but this isn't the case. Meditation is something that many people could embrace in order to create inner peace and harmony.
Meditation is a period of deep relaxation where practitioners are encouraged to clear the mind of any lingering thoughts. This focus upon emptying the mind is intended to try and achieve a state of complete peace and serenity. Just closing one’s eyes and being aware of our breathing is a really good way to meditate, and meditation sleep music can be a powerful aid in inducing relaxing sleep, too.
The history of meditation is extensive, dating back as far as prehistory. Evidence of meditation can be found in both the history of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and the Sufi tradition yet there's also evidence of secular meditation.
Read more: Can meditation slow down ageing?
With this in mind, meditation can be useful to alleviate the effects of many different conditions, both physical and mental. For example, meditation is a great way to lessen the effects of anxiety and panic attacks as well as helping to alleviate physical pain and insomnia.
Learning how to meditate effectively could hold the key to ensuring your emotional wellbeing and help to lessen the impact of physical discomfort too, according to Psychology Today. However, this doesn't confine meditation to a purely restorative activity. It's also a great way to prevent any further issues resulting from stress and can also be incorporated into activities such as yoga.
Read more: A beginner's guide to yoga
The skills learned as part of meditation, such as concentration on breathing, can be applied to other situations including dealing with confrontation or criticisms.
To create a functional mediation environment and learn how to meditate effectively, follow these simple steps:
Before starting meditation it is important that you create the perfect environment. It's crucial that the environment you choose to meditate in is one in which you feel calm and at ease.
Any environment that you feel stressed in or fills you with worry will hinder your ability to empty your mind. Ideally, a neutral space that you do not often use for anything else will provide the best space for meditation as your mind does not associate this room with any specific feelings.
The most calming environment can be created by allowing copious amounts of natural light into the room as this is much more calming than any form of artificial lights, such as light bulbs or lamps although some prefer complete darkness.
Similarly, the space should also be well ventilated with fresh air. A great way to achieve this is to have open windows. This not only allows fresh air into the room but also natural light and being able to gaze at nature also has a calming effect. Meditating outside is also a good option as this brings you even closer to nature.
Any space should also be painted in neutral colours such as beige or pale blue. Walking into a calming environment allows your body and mind to begin relaxing before you meditate.
Another important aspect of setting the tone for your meditation is to ensure you are prepared. Before entering your designated meditation space, you should make sure you are wearing loose fitting clothing that does not feel binding; it is crucial you feel as free as possible.
Building upon this, you should not bring in any outside distractions into your meditation space. Try to leave your smartphone outside or off your person as well as turning off TVs and radios if this is your first time meditating. These noises could prove to be a distraction however water or rainforest sounds can be used to start meditation as they are calming but silence is also an option.
How long you wish to meditate for is entirely up to you. Some more experienced meditators may meditate for 20 minutes a day, or even longer, however, this may be too much for those who are more inexperienced. Try five to ten minutes initially and build up from there as you refine your abilities. As you build up, meditation will become an integral part of your day.
Moving onto the activity of meditation itself, it is important to make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position. As you could be sitting in this position for 20 minutes or more, you need to ensure you are comfortable.
Traditionally, this is in the lotus position with your pelvis tilted forward to align your spine, however, comfort should take priority so sitting on a bench or chair can provide an alternative as long as you focus on remaining tilted forwards to align your spine so it can support the weight of your upper body without tension.
Closing your eyes is common practise within meditation as this allows you to truly remove yourself from external distractions and focus on your breathing but again, this is not compulsory.
Meditation is a very personal experience and there are various different methods through which the end goal of calmness can be achieved. Just be aware of your thoughts as they come and gently favour your breathing
Focusing upon your breathing is one of the most common ways to meditate. You should try to continue your normal breathing pattern but focus on how your stomach moves as you breathe. Focusing on your breathing in this way will allow you to empty your mind of societal and emotional pressures.
People find that just by focusing on the breath the breathing slows down and without any effort relaxation is achieved. Visualising oneself bathed in white, gold or other colours of light while the eyes are closed is another method that many people find very effective.
Another method of meditation is to focus on a single mantra and repeat this throughout your meditation time; a famous mantra is the repetition of "om" however this is not compulsory and a different mantra concerning calm or serenity can be repeated quietly until you can no longer think of anything else.
Another way to achieve peace is through visualising yourself in your most peaceful environment, this could be amongst nature or on the beach. There are further types of meditation including aligning your chakras or body scans however those previously described are the most appropriate approaches for beginners.
Meditation is an activity which is accessible for all and by following this simple guide you can gain the emotional harmony necessary to move towards peace in all areas of life.
About the author:
Michael Kenton is a renowned peacemaker and meditation expert, successful businessman and founder of the UK division of the charity The Abrahamic Reunion. Michael has extensive experience in retail and mediation and uses his retail expertise to progress in the charity sector whilst focusing on high profile fundraising initiatives. His current fundraising initiative peace gifts focuses on spreading the word of peace.
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