Our waking lives are filled with millions of thoughts every single day. One thought is connected to an emotion that triggers another thought or memory. Our minds are busy all the time. Neuroscientists have studied this phenomena and how meditation helps to change brain chemistry, even creating a healthier brain in the process and reducing running thoughts and a focus on negativity. But getting the mind to quiet down and stop thinking of anything is no easy task, as beginning meditators will tell you. With a few techniques, anyone can practice meditation and receive its benefits.
Meditation affects the mind, body and spirit all at once. The benefits of meditation are widely known and a wide body of knowledge is available through scientific studies. According to Deepak Chopra, M.D, highly acclaimed author and neuroscientist, the benefits of meditation include the following:
Lowered Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Improved Immune Function
Increase in production of anti-aging hormone DHEA
Decreased depression, insomnia and anxiety
Reduces stress and burnout
It is also widely known that meditation helps to heal grief and loss experienced through the loss of a close person or an animal companion. But you don’t have to go to an expensive meditation center to reap the benefits. Meditation is something you can do at home or even in your office chair, for just a few moments, whenever you need a boost.
How to meditate
Learning all the forms of meditation in a brief article isn’t possible so we have taken the liberty to mention one of the common forms to help get you started, and the one we feel is the easiest to accomplish without giving up.
Keep in mind that meditation is designed to help train the mind, just as exercise is designed to train the body. The mind can unlearn and learn old beliefs and negative thoughts, and replace them with new ones through training. When just starting to meditate, the most important goal is to ‘Observe and learn’ how thoughts operate in your mind, and learn to dissipate each one. Once this technique feels comfortable, you can move on to other more complex methods of re-training your brain for maximum benefits.
Basic Mindfulness Meditation
This technique is perhaps the easiest. It’s about focusing on your breathe and your body as it breathes in and out. The idea is to sit or lie down, close your eyes, and put all of your thoughts and attention on your breath, and only your breath. Noticing this happen is all you need to do. Sounds simple, right? It is simple, but may not be easy at first.
The first time you try this, it will be difficult as your mind will have a thought, and another and another. One thought leads to another. Your job is to catch these thoughts and simply focus back on your breathing. When just beginning, start with just 3 minutes.
With each breath and a new thought enters your mind, just continue bringing your attention back to the breath. Do this over and over no matter how many times your mind wanders, but continue for 3 minutes. It’s actually helpful to have a timer or set a cell phone alarm for the time.
As you expand in your ability, your meditation time will grow. Eventually if you do this every day for even 30 days, you will begin noticing that you are not thinking of anything at all!
This is the magical space, between thoughts, that you may have heard about from the ‘gurus’. In that space between a thought lies what many consider a connection to ‘all that is’. This may sound a bit out there if this is the first time hearing this.
One thing that is proven scientifically, however, is that space between thoughts somehow holds the keys to high creativity, productivity and compassion on the part of the meditator (among other benefits).
One final note: It’s important to understand that while you’re learning to quiet your mind and relax, you are still receiving the restorative benefits that meditation provides. No matter how many times you lose concentration and have to tell yourself to focus on your breath, it’s okay. This is all part of learning to meditate. Perhaps the reason people give up on meditation is because they are judging themselves for not being perfect. Meditation isn’t perfect. It’s simply a process of doing, just as exercise. Some days are better than others, just like exercise. But when you keep at it, the muscles in the brain work better. The value of meditation has been known since ancient times and proven in scientific studies over the past century. Formerly thought to be a practice for Monks in some distant land, meditation today is a popular way to help manage stress in everyday life. Many forms of meditation practice are taught the world over with some related to world religions, however, the benefits are available to everyone no matter if you’ve never done it before or believe in a different religion.