In stressful times, meditation can be a great tool to reduce anxiety, improve your sleep and calm a busy mind. It can be hard to make time to be quiet.
Whether you've tried meditation before or you're a complete beginner, read on for a few helpful tips to set you on the right track
Find the right type of meditation for you
There are many different types of meditation, from focusing on your breath or an object to movement meditations.
Broadly, most practices fall into 3 categories:
Fixed Attention meditation, where you train your mind to stay focused and controlled on one spot.
Open Monitoring, which includes most mindfulness based techniques, where all experiences are allowed to pass through, but your mind is gently directed back to your breath or mantra.
Transcendental meditation which involves neither concentration or training the mind but rather allowing it to settle naturally. If you try a practice and it doesn't work for you, keep faith, as you may just not have found the right one for you yet!
When you first start meditation, you may really start to notice how unruly the mind is! Yogi's call it the monkey mind, as it jumps from thought to thought, even more so when you're trying to bring it to calm. Trying to meditate for too long a stretch when you first start out can just lead to you feeling frustrated and giving up, so start in small chunks of time. Set aside just 5 minutes in your day to sit quietly. Once this feels comfortable, start to build up the time slowly until you get to a time that feels right for you. Try to practice at the same time each day, even better if you can sit first thing in the morning, before your day kicks in.
Choose your position wisely
It's best not to lie down when you meditate, as you want to find calm, but not fall asleep. Sitting in a chair with you feet on the floor, or cross legged on the floor or a cushion bringing your hips higher than your knees is what we'd recommend. A seated position keeps your head above your heart and your body and mind engaged and focused. Make time to get as comfortable as possible.
You can keep your eyes closed or open with a soft downward gaze, and allow your hands to rest wherever they're comfortable. Don't worry though if you need to adjust after a few seconds when you first start, stillness comes with practice.
Don't try to empty your mind
It's almost impossible for the majority of us to clear our thoughts completely, and contrary to what's often thought, this isn't at all what meditation is about. It's about being truly present with the moment, and tuning back in to our centre, as we're so often disconnected and on auto pilot in everyday life. Picking one point to softly focus your awareness on can help you with this. This point could be as simple as your breath, a mantra that you repeat or even an image or candle flame, anything to anchor you to the present moment. Don't try to stop other thoughts coming in (and they will!), as you'll only get agitated, imagine them almost as passers by in your head, you acknowledge their presence, then let them go and return to your breath or anchor. The practice is the coming back to your focus again and again. Little by little, you'll find that you are training your brain to come back to the present moment again and again.
When the going gets tough, think of the rewards
When you've had a bad nights sleep, stress is high, or you have a huge amount on your to do list, it can be hard to see the logic in sitting 'doing nothing', and you may be tempted to throw in the towel, but don't! The benefits of meditation have been known to many who have practised it for years, but scientific studies are now starting to back this knowledge up. The benefits of meditation are numerous but include better memory and concentration, relief from depression and anxiety disorders and decreased stress levels.
There are 1440 minutes in a day, surely you can take just 5 out every day to come home to yourself? Start today and let us know how you get on.
24 January 2017