Meditation: Why and How

This post is about mindfulness meditation for beginners, why you should practice it and how you can practice it.

Most people live their lives on autopilot. They think about their past, their future, what they are feeling, how stupid that feeling is, where did they put the car keys, what’s for lunch… It is a never-ending stream of thoughts that blocks out the present.

The point of meditation is to become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings, and detach from them, so that you can observe them without feeling the need to react to them. This is not easy; meditation takes time and dedication. But when meditation is practiced properly over and over again, it can help you get rid of negative thoughts and emotions like jealousy, hatred and anxiousness. Meditation has been widely studied and proven to have many positive health effects. [1][2]

It should be noted that meditation is not a silver bullet to your problems. It is not hypnosis or a way to induce trance, it does not put your mind at risk, nor does it give you psychic superpowers such as levitation.

Even though meditation has its roots in eastern philosophies, it can be practiced by anyone regardless of their personal convictions.

Before you begin meditation, you should check your mindset regarding it. Here are some pointers:

1. Have no expectations. This might sound counter intuitive, but it is important. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Throw away all your preconceptions and let it flow naturally. Have an open mind.

2. Do not try to rush your meditation practice. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Having expectations and trying to force an outcome does not help. Remember, you are exploring your own mind in a new way.

3. Accept everything that arises during your practice. Accepting everything that arises from your mind during meditation without clinging to them or judging yourself by them is the first step on the path of awareness.

4. Don’t think.

Now, let us get to the practice.

1. Determine how long you want to meditate. For a beginner, I recommend 10 to 20 minutes. Even after years of meditation, I tend to meditate only 20 to 40 minutes each session, sometimes shorter sessions sprinkled throughout the week. Longer sessions do not mean better when it comes to meditation practice.

2. After you have chosen your desired session length, sit down in a comfortable position. This can be a chair or the floor. You can even lie down, but I do not recommend this, as you might fall asleep. Try not to move during your practice, as this will disturb your focus. Close your eyes.

3. Begin by breathing deep a couple of times, as if to clear out your airways. Do not use force, calm deep breaths.

4. Keep breathing regularly and focus on the sensation of the air passing through your nostrils.

5. If your mind wanders, notice it and gently but firmly return your focus on your breath. Do not blame your mind for wandering, just acknowledge that it wandered off and kindly return your focus to your breath.

6. If you find it hard to focus on your breath at first, you can refocus by counting 1 when you inhale, 2 when you exhale. Count like this to 10 and repeat.

7. Keep breathing and focusing on it until your timer rings. Afterwards, calmly open your eyes and feel the presence. You are now done with your session and free to continue with your day.

To get the full benefit of meditation, you should practice it daily. Set aside 20 minutes every day, be it in the morning or in the evening just before bed, to sit and meditate. You should put up a reminder on your digital calendar so that you do not have to think about meditation, just do it when it is its time. Once a day is enough. Over time, you will notice certain daily activities to be quite mindful in nature, like brushing your teeth, riding a bike, or eating a meal.

If you want to read more about meditation, a good introductory book is Mindfulness in Plain English. I recommend this book for every beginner. As your practice deepens, you will find more guiding books and perhaps even teachers on the internet.

And that is it. I wish you the best of luck in your meditation practice.

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