By Larissa Wright
Meditation is no longer a strange and mysterious practice, reserved for robed spiritual adepts in far-flung Eastern monasteries. We know what it is, we know it can help us, it’s free, it’s accessible, its benefits are evidence-based. We also know it offers lasting results for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s a lifestyle change that requires no special equipment or clothing, no expensive training, and you don’t need to subscribe to any particular spiritual beliefs to benefit from it. It’s a natural approach to wellness with no side-effects or downsides.
So why do so few of us commit to its practice?
Too Busy to Meditate?
An old Zen proverb says: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Most of us lead busy lives with many expectations placed upon us—work, family, study and social commitments quickly fill up our schedules, leaving us feeling like we don’t have room for anything else. Trying to find time for a new practice or activity can seem overwhelming and unnecessary.
But consider this: Whenever we say we’re too busy, what we’re really saying is: This isn’t a priority for me. We always make time for activities and people that are important to us, and the good news is, you don’t actually need to sit for an hour to reap the benefits. Beyond that, meditation may give you back more time than it costs you! Regular practice helps you feel more calm, organised and clear-headed, meaning your other daily activities could be performed more efficiently, facilitating a more balanced approach to life.
Benefits of Meditation
Research has shown the numerous benefits of meditation. It is excellent for your mental health, reducing stress, depression and anxiety, and improving self-esteem. Meditation gives you better focus and may reduce age-related memory loss while also facilitating good sleep.
It can also improve your relationships, and social wellbeing, with studies indicating regular practice can increase kindness, compassion and emotional regulation. There is even evidence that it’s effective for physical ailments, beneficial for reducing pain and blood pressure and contributing to improvements in the immune and cardiovascular systems.
Meditation Techniques for Beginners
“What is the best meditation technique for me?”
The simple answer: The one you’ll do regularly.
There’s no point promising yourself a one-hour daily sit if you’re likely to give it up within a few days. The best strategy is to start with something you know you’ll enjoy and make time for. There are many ways to meditate, so choose one that fits with your personality and lifestyle. And who knows, maybe you’ll love it so much that this time next year, you’ll be doing that daily one-hour sit!
Moderation is key, and even ten minutes a day will bring noticeable changes in your life. It can be helpful to designate a space for your daily meditation, incorporating items that make you feel calm and relaxed such as art, a small statue, or a plant. Consider all your senses—essential oils, music and a comfortable cushion can help you relax fully into the experience. Make this time pleasant and enjoyable. First thing in the morning is usually best for focus, and you can reap the benefits all day.
You don’t have to sit
If sitting doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll be pleased to know you there are other ways to meditate. Consider trying a walking meditation, or using some simple yoga poses. If you choose to lie down, make sure you don’t fall asleep! It’s not recommended to meditate in bed—instead, lie on a yoga mat in your meditation space, or on a blanket outside.
You don’t have to have an empty mind
This is a hurdle that trips many people up. “I tried meditating once, but my thoughts kept coming in, and I couldn’t do it, so I quit.”
For some meditators, this is the goal—to be able to empty the mind of all distractions. It is not something you’re expected to do from the get-go, and it’s not the only way to meditate. Even if you spend ten minutes noticing your thoughts and choosing to let them go, over and over, even if that is ALL you seem to be doing, you’ve just undertaken an effective meditation. Noticing your thoughts and letting them go IS your practice, particularly if you do so lightly and with humour, rather than frustration, irritation and judgement.
Something to focus on
If focusing on ‘nothing’ is a bit abstract for you, choose something else. You can observe your breath, repeat a mantra, watch a flickering candle, or even focus on some meditative music. It’s all about choosing to concentrate your attention and practising conscious control. You can try a mantra, word or phrase that has meaning for you or choose a sound with the right feeling or vibration. If you’re not sure where to begin, ‘Om’ has been serving meditators for thousands of years. If you don’t want to say it yourself, you can enjoy a chorus of monks chanting it for you on YouTube. Experiment by giving attention to parts of the body, such as the heart or crown of the head, while you repeat your mantra.
Total Immersion with a Retreat
Much like learning a new language, there are benefits to immersing yourself fully in an experience. At Visit Natural Detox, we make meditation easy by providing a total mind, body and spirit approach to re-centring your energy and health. You’ll be supported in your practice with our resort’s beautiful surroundings, healing daily activities and nutritious food. Contact us today to see how we can help you transform your life.