The Basics of Meditation
Around twelve years ago when I first started exploring meditation, a friend and I went to a free introductory class at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Washington, DC. I can’t quite remember what made us visit the center, other than the two of us simply being curious about traditions from around the world and hearing that meditation can be good for you.
In that first class I discovered an easy, silent technique of meditation that I still use today. It only took a few minutes to learn, and it sparked a personal practice that helps me to calm anxiety, relieve stress and cultivate a feeling of peace. For me, meditation is also another way that I commune with God. It complements my prayer practice, and when I practice consistently, I feel emotionally grounded throughout the day.
What Exactly is Meditation?
I describe meditation as the act of focusing your attention on the present moment. You can do this in a number of ways, including focusing on your breath, focusing on a mantra or affirmation, or using some other point of focus such as a candle flame, movement, or a visualization.
No matter the technique you use (and there are many), meditation is a practice that can help you to bring your awareness within rather than have it scattered on the numerous external distractions of life.
When you bring your awareness inward through meditation, at least two things can happen that I think aid daily living. One, quieting down the mind through meditation helps you to be aware of and listen to your inner knowing — that higher level of wisdom. And two, the sense of calm and focus you cultivate through meditation can last throughout your entire day, helping you make better decisions and respond to the world in more useful ways.
In recent years a number of scientific studies have also suggested that meditation offers a variety of benefits, including improving memory, increasing resiliency to stress, reducing anxiety, easing depression, improving sleep, lowering high blood pressure, and increasing compassion. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Regardless of the science, the best way to discover the benefits of meditation is to practice it yourself.
How to Meditate
Get started or return to your practice by listening to this short guided meditation below, “A Meditation for Anytime.” To start a meditation practice, all you need is a quiet place and a seat. You can sit in a chair with your back straight, legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor, or you can sit in a comfortable position on the floor.
Take a slow deep inhale and exhale through your nose. Then, settle into a gentle breath that is not forced in anyway. Bring your attention to the air flowing in and out of your nose. Continue to notice your breath as if you are watching yourself breathe.
Whenever you notice your mind starting to wander, bring your attention back to your breath. Continue this practice of bringing your attention back to your breath for five to ten minutes. What I just described is a silent meditation practice, similar to the guided “Anytime Meditation” below.
Remember, that meditation is a practice. Don’t worry about doing it right. Your mind may constantly want to wander, which is normal. Just keep practicing and take notice of how you feel after meditating.
- Smith, J. A., Delehanty, H., Boyce, B., Bullock, G., Willard, C., Kuyken, W., … Newman, K. M. (2018, November 12). 10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation. Retrieved May 2, 2020, from https://www.mindful.org/10-things-we-know-about-the-science-of-meditation/
- Thorpe, M. (2017, July 5). 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Retrieved May 2, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation
- National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation: In Depth. (n.d.). Retrieved may 2, 2020, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth
- The Good Body. (2020, March 29). Benefits Of Meditation: 42 (Life-Changing) Reasons To Start Today. Retrieved May 2, 2020, from https://www.thegoodbody.com/benefits-of-meditation/
- Mindworks Team Mindworks. (2020, April 10). Meditation Research: What Is Science Telling Us About Meditation? Retrieved May 2, 2020, from https://mindworks.org/blog/meditation-research-science-meditation/
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