SOME OF THE BASICS
Meditating has become increasingly popular in recent years and it's so awesome!!! It literally makes me want to jump up and down in pure delight. The only thing I've noticed, is that many people don't fully understand what meditation is. Some people think it's nothing more than mental concentration while others think of it as a visualization technique. There are still those who think the ultimate goal is for stress relief and gain a sense of peace. These concepts are all true, yet each only a sliver of what the practice will bring to your life. Ultimately you will learn to slow down your thoughts and focus your breathing in a way that will silence all that is not of importance in your life. Eventually, you'll stop your mind from constantly being on overdrive by bringing a certain sense of awareness and consciousness to every single thought and action in your life.
Meditation is a state of mindfullness...of awareness. It isn't an act of doing anything once you reach the level of awareness I'm talking about. Yes, you physically do the practice of meditating, but the state of deep, profound peace...a calmness and silence that you take with you well after your session is finished. That-- is the ultimate purpose of this practice: using meditation to take you on a journey inward. A transformation that takes you to a higher level of awareness and closer towards the fulfillment of our true human potential.
The first thing to understand is that meditation is simple. This isn't something reserved for the monks. I love the Tibetan monks and frequently use their mala beads in some of my practices. This can be done any time anywhere. Some people may have learned from a very experienced person or teacher; however, some people are self-taught. Either way, some people go deep in to a medative state quickly while others must learn to let the thoughts come and go with ease until eventually they stop coming during your practice all together. I am self-taught. I began by using singing bowls, chanting, and mala beads. These are tools to help me focus, but not necessary. I believe the main reason people think of meditation as a difficult is because they try way too hard to concentrate and become overly attached to the result.
The next understanding is that meditating isn't stopping your thoughts or completely emptying your mind. Both will lead to your frustration ;) Instead of thinking about stopping them, instead focus on calming them. As you begin meditating regularly, you'll find that place between your thoughts which is silent. Then you'll learn how to make those silent spaces longer than the thoughts floating in and out. In that space you realize that you are an observer of your thoughts, not the controller. That mindset shift will transcend into all aspects of your life and you'll never be the same.
A little known understanding is that the effects of meditation can take place rather quickly. Most people can easily identify with the long-tern benefits of meditating, but can over look the sort-term ones. People experience decreased anxiety and increased feelings of calmness. There are many people who claim to have an improved memory, become more empathetic to people or situations, and have a heightened sense of self awareness.
The next understanding is that is doesn't have to take very long at all. A few minutes of meditation is better than none. We all have busy lives and crazy schedules, but don't forget that taking just a few minutes a day to focus on your breath and silence your thoughts is better than skipping it all together. It may sound like somewhat of a paradox, but when you make just a few minutes each day dedicated toward your meditation practice, over time you'll start to notice you have more and more time to take for yourself. During your meditation sessions- your breathing and heart rate slow down, blood pressure lowers and the body decreases its production of stress hormones.
Another understanding that some people may miss is that meditation practices don't require you to be either a religious or spiritual person. You could be, but you could just as easily not be. It doesn't matter in the slightest. Meditation is beneficial to everyone, no matter what your belief system is. The purpose of meditating is to reach that inner quiet. The numerous physical and mental health benefits that come are a bonus for sure, but ultimately the experience of inner calmness and strength is the goal.
Finally my last bit of info that helps make understanding aspects of meditation a little clearer is that there are daily benefits. I know this one might seem redundant, but it really isn't. Yeah all of the things like peace and calm are amazing, but you get so much more than just those things. It will transcend into so many areas of your life. The different areas of your life that are effected is the real benefit to this practice. From a meditative practice, you'll carry the stillness and the calm from that silence with you everywhere you go and in everything that you do. You will be more mindful, compassionate, and loving toward yourself and those around you. Now isn't that worth while?!!? I THINK SO :)