Meditation 101: How to Create Habits that will Change your Life
Meditation is a word that has come to be used carelessly and inaccurately in the modern world. This is the reason why there is so much confusion about what it really is. Some people think that meditation refers to thinking or contemplating; others believe that it means daydreaming or fantasising. The truth is: meditation is far from any of these.
Meditation is an individual mental exercise of resting the mind and regulating attention. It is practiced by focusing on one particular thing — could be your breathing, a feeling in your body or an object in the outside environment. The point of meditation is to focus strongly on one thing and continually bring your attention back to that focal point every time it wanders away.
When you meditate, you allow your mind to be clear, relaxed and inwardly focused. You become completely aware and alert, but your mind is not entirely focused on the events taking place around you. It goes into an intense and fixated inner state where it becomes silent. When your mind is calm, and no longer distracts you, meditation begins.
The Thing about Meditation is: You become more and more you.
— David Lynch
Why You Should Meditate
Since infancy, we have always been taught to examine and verify things in the outside world. No one taught us how to look and check within. Because of this, we have remained strangers to ourselves, while trying to understand everything outside of us. This lack of self-awareness is the main reason why mental health problems are on the rise, and why confusion and conflicts so often dominate our lives.
We are taught to adapt and behave in the outside world, but we’re never taught to be still and examine ourselves. When we learn how to do this through meditation, we achieve the highest level of peace that can ever be attained by a human being. All other levels of peace are temporary, but the peace of meditation is everlasting. This is not an amplification; it is a truth proven by scientific evidence.
Before we continue, it’s important to understand that meditation is not part of any religion; it is a science. This means it follows a particular sequence, has certain principles and produces precise results. It teaches you to explore your inner dimensions systematically. We can sum it up as a system of commitment. You’re committing to yourself, to your goals, and to the desire to know yourself better.
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
Meditation and mindfulness both been proven to have both mental and physical health reimbursements, but most people confuse these two practices. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a PhD specialist who has investigated mindfulness for over 35 years, says that mindfulness is actually a form of meditation.
Meditation is not a thing that can be done all day, every day. For instance, if you were to focus on one object (as with attention meditation) on your drive to work, you’ll most likely end up in a car crash. It would just be impractical, let alone very unlikely, to pursue simple meditation for more than a few minutes each day.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is something you don’t have to do for only 20 minutes a day. You can do it all day every day and at any place. It can become part of your everyday life. Someone who practises mindfulness in their life can fully immerse themselves in their surroundings. They’ll notice things like different species of birds, or simply the cool breeze on a hot day.
What Happens in your Mind and Body when you Meditate?
This is the part where things begin to get really fascinating. Using modern technology, scientists have come up with a more thorough understanding of what takes place inside our minds and bodies when we meditate. The primary difference is that our brains stop processing information as actively as they would in a typical situation. We start to show a considerable decrease in beta waves, which indicates that our brains are in a calm state, even after a single 30-minute meditation session.
Effects on Your Body and Mind
Many studies have identified a correlation between meditation and pain reduction. One study, for instance, showed that after only four 15-minute meditation sessions, a group of volunteers reported the same pain 50 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense as before. Another study showed that meditation was helpful in easing the pain (though it did not specify what type of pain, according to Reuters). Following these scenarios, researchers speculate that those who practise meditation have a higher ability to exert control over unpleasant situations, including pain.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Dr Randy Zusman of Massachusetts General Hospital took some patients being treated with high blood pressure medication and taught them a meditation technique that involved relaxation. More than half the patients experienced a significant drop in blood pressure, sometimes even resulting in reduced medicines. In an interview conducted by NPR, Zusman confessed that he had been using medication on the patients but couldn’t get their blood pressure under control. But when he introduced mediation as part of therapy, he witnessed a considerable drop in their blood pressure.
Reduces Heart Risk
A study published in 2012 in the Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes showed a link between meditation and reduction in heart attack, stroke and early death from heart disease. The main finding from the research is that, on top of the usual medical care, intervention with a body-mind technique- meditation- can have a major effect on cardiovascular health. Furthermore, Robert Schneider, a professor, told the publication that the stress-reducing benefits of different types of meditation techniques could be helpful in heart health.
Improves Stress and Depression
Several studies conducted and published in JAMA Internal Medicine show that mindfulness meditation is effective in easing depression, as well as anxiety for many patients. The research found that anxiety depression and stress are different components that result from adverse effects. When they combined each aspect of negative effect, they saw a small but consistent signal that mindfulness programs can improve any adverse effect.
Enhances Focus and Concentration
A 2010 study showed that meditation improved focus and attention to tasks that are either too boring or too demanding. Author Katherine MacLean, who worked on this research as a graduate said that people might think that meditation is something that makes them feel good, and that doing meditation is like going on vacation where they get to be at peace with themselves. She says that this is what many people think until they try it and realise how challenging it is just to sit and focus on one thought without being distracted.
Where there is Peace and Meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.
— St. Francis de Sales
Meditation for a Better Business
For a company to gain a competitive edge in today’s economic world, it needs to:
- Have teamwork
All of these can be made possible through meditation. Many studies conducted at the Harvard School of Business concluded that the two most useful business tools are intuition and meditation. The direct benefits of meditation at the workplace are numerous, and they include: increased employee loyalty, decreased stress, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity.
Increased Employee Loyalty
Any enterprise that offers meditation as part of employee welfare program shows that it cares about its workers and will, therefore, benefit from the commitment of someone at entry level. This leads to increased employee morale and turnover. Loyal employees will be more unlikely to try the job market and thus will remain with one company for long. Loyal workers also tend to associate the company’s success to their own success and thus work harder to meet the business’ goals.
Meditation techniques are increasingly being adopted by companies to help its employees cope with stress. The mind is trained to be in the present rather than wander away into concerns of the past and worries of the future. In July’s edition of People Management, one survey showed that 43 percent of companies used mindfulness meditation training as an intervention to help employees suffering from mental health issues including stress and depression.
Decreased Absenteeism caused by Illness
In today’s challenging times, there’s no way one can avoid stress altogether. However, meditation helps an individual to cope better with piled-up stress, which helps improve their health. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, and a range of other medical conditions that lead to employee absenteeism.
Meditation help improves the overall productivity level of employees. By helping workers to deal with stress, focus more intimately on the objectives and goals of the company and reduce absenteeism from work, their productivity significantly improves. And when productivity increases at an individual level, the total productivity of the enterprise increases, which leads to higher revenues and an excellent bottom line too.
I’ve never Meditated:Where do I start?
Meditation has helped many people to form healthy habits; it has helped them become more focused, more peaceful, less worried, more appreciative and observant to everything in their life. Perhaps most importantly, it has helped them understand their own mind.
Before you start meditating, you may never think about what’s going on inside your head — something would just happen, and you would follow its commands like a robot.
After meditation, all of these still happen, but gradually, you’ll be more aware of what’s going on. You can make a choice about whether to follow the commands. You understand yourself better (not entirely, but better), and this will give you increased freedom and flexibility.
So, we highly recommend this habit. And while we’re not saying it’s easy, you can start small and get better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first; that’s why it’s called practice.
The following tips aren’t meant to help you to become an expert; they should help you get started and keep moving. You don’t have to apply them all at once — start with a few, come back here, try one or two more.
1. Sit for only two minutes. This may seem too easy, to just sit and meditate for two minutes. Well, it’s actually easy. Begin with just two minutes every day for a week. If all goes well, add another two minutes for the next week. By increasing little by little, you’ll find that you can meditate for 10 minutes every day, which is a fantastic start. But begin small, and grow gradually.
2. Meditate first thing every morning. It’s so easy to say, ”I’ll be meditating every day,’’ but then get caught up with hectic schedules and forget about it altogether. Instead, set the alarm or a reminder to wake you up every morning to meditate. You can put a note somewhere that reminds you to meditate as soon as you wake up.
3. Don’t try figuring out the how’s — just do it. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use etc. This is all nice, but it’s nothing important when you’re getting started. Begin just by sitting on your couch, or on your bed. If you find that you’re more comfortable on the floor, assume a yoga position. After all, it’s only for two minutes, so sit anywhere. Later on is when you can search for a more comfortable place, position and even posture.
4. Find out how you’re feeling. As you begin to meditate, check how you are feeling. How does your body feel? What effect does it have on your mind? Are you feeling tired, overwhelmed or anxious? Try to figure out whatever you’re bringing into the meditation session and be comfortable with it. With time, you’ll feel less tired, less overwhelmed, and less anxious.
5. Do a breath count. Now that you have become settled, focus your attention on your breathing. Just fully focus on your breath as you inhale, and follow it down your respiratory system up until the time you exhale. To increase your attention, you can count ”one’’ as you breathe in, then ”two’’ as you breathe out. Count to ten and repeat it over and over again.
6. Bring your mind back when it wanders. You will notice that your mind tends to wander. This will happen a lot of times. There is no problem with that. Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered off, simply smile and gently return to your breathing. Count again and again. It’s okay to feel a little irritated, but it’s not okay to let the frustration overtake you. Keep in mind that you’re practicing, and give yourself time to be good at it.
7. Love what you do. You’ll notice that thoughts arise during meditation, don’t try too hard to push them. See them as friends, not intruders. They’re part of discovering yourself. Also, do not worry too much about whether you’re doing it right or wrong. There is no perfect way to meditate, just be content you’re doing it.
8. Finish off on a high note. When you’re done with your two-minute session, be happy that you had time to do it. Be grateful that you lived up to your expectation and that you stuck with your word. That’s some precious two minutes of your life!
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to cope with the ever hectic schedules and the many health problems caused by stress. Regardless of gender, age or health status, anybody can benefit from meditation. Recently, mobile meditation apps have been developed to help people meditate anywhere, anytime. Here are five of the best meditation apps you can download and take with you anywhere: Headspace, OMG! I Can Meditate, Omvana, Yoga Wake Up, Buddhify.
Practise meditation and look forward to reaping all these health benefits!
Meditation means dissolving the invisible walls that unawareness has built.