Have you ever wanted to drop everything, clear your mind, and get in touch with the present, but had no idea where to begin?
Have you been plagued by a constant narrative of thinking going around and around in your head?
Then sit back and get comfortable, this guide is going to provide the steps, tools, and concepts to effective meditation and relaxation.
Is reading this article the only thing you are doing right now? Be honest, are you also mid-text, eating a banana, and catching up on the latest episode of Shark Tank?
All I ask of you to follow the guide is to give this article your full, undivided attention, just till you finish reading. And don’t worry about being perfect, just try your best.
There, now that I have your complete focus, think about how you feel, both in your body and mind. Compare how you feel now to how you did just a few moments ago when you were multitasking.
Do you feel slightly calmer, or maybe just a bit more in control of yourself? If not, can you define what is making you feel tense or anxious?
Understanding how your body and mind feel, and why, is just one of the many benefits that regular meditation can deliver, along with increased health, better focus, decreased anxiety, and even higher levels of creativity.
Preparing to Meditate
There are many different methods to meditation. Truly, there is no limit to the possibilities and practices of focusing the mind. Here, I am simply going to describe a basic method of meditation to try out.
I suggest if you enjoy this, to read more on how to make meditation a regular habit in your life. There are many ways to do this, but right now I just want to talk about trying it out for a short time and getting a feel for the practice.
Once you have decided you would like to meditate, get into a comfortable position. This could be sitting up or laying down, but if you lie down place your palms on your thighs to ensure you do not fall asleep.
However, this can really be done anywhere: on the train, in an elevator, at the pool. Those venues may take more concentration than being alone in your room or outside, but aptitude for increased ability is really boundless.
Meditation is like a spiral, you can keep getting better and better at it, but there is no end to how far you can go.
It may be a good idea to set a timer for this, in order to ensure that you know how long you are going to do it for, and to set a goal for yourself beforehand.
Finding the Breath
Now that you are hopefully in a comfortable position, gently begin to observe your breath, without judging or changing anything.
Just notice how you breathe, whether it is through the nose or the mouth, where the oxygen travels to in your body (Diaphragm? Chest?), do you breathe shallow, or deep?
There are certain techniques that can be employed to using the breath to meditate, but this tutorial is going to center more around the mind/body connection.
So for now, just notice the present state of the breath, accept it unconditionally, and just concentrate the mind on your breathing for a few moments.
If focusing like this is challenging for you, you can try counting the number of seconds that your inhalations and exhalations last, or even the number of breaths you take.
Counting is one of the simplest ways to both return and keep the mind in the present moment.
Checking in With the Body
When your breath is steady and your mind feels relaxed and focused on breathing, you can next attempt to shift your concentration to the way your body surrounds the breath.
Hopefully you arrived into a comfortable position earlier, whatever that may be for you. But just like you did with your breath, go ahead and observe the body just as it is without changing anything.
If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable at any point, however, adjust your posture or body accordingly. Try to avoid this if possible for a fuller meditative experience.
A body scan comes next in order to fully relax. This is where you will bring the awareness of your mind throughout your body and consciously relax all the muscles to melt into the floor.
Performing a body scan take many different internal forms. You could start with your fingers and toes, working your way toward the core of your body.
You could begin with the head, working your way all the ways down to the toes. You can imagine muscle groups, organs, and other internal body structures relaxing. You can even concentrate on the chakras, if you are familiar with them.
One method is breathing healing energy into the body part, and exhaling and letting it go. Another is clenching or tightening the area as much as possible on the inhale, then exhaling and releasing.
There is no wrong way to do this, simply do whatever feels comfortable, while allowing you to check in with the body, and relax it bit by bit.
You may find your mind wandering, and totally off topic at any point during this. That is completely normal, and just gently think back to where you were when you left off, and continue from there.
Your Remaining Thoughts
If you can go slowly and methodically, you will find that by the time you have completed the entire body, your brain and thoughts will have slowed down dramatically. You may even be feeling sleepy.
Go with wherever the momentum is taking you. You may indeed fall asleep, or start twitching as if you might, so I often find it helpful to set an alarm for those longer sessions, just in case.
Alternatively, you may find that you are bored, or your mind keeps drifting away from you. You will probably get the urge to stop meditating and check the time, your phone, or do anything else at all.
If your brain is not used to silence and stillness, 30 seconds can seem like a lifetime. This is why it is especially helpful to begin with short increments.
However, even an experienced meditator will still feel the impulse to get up and abandon the practice for some other whim. This is healthy and natural. Try not to resist or act on the notion, simply observe it with curiosity.
Try to learn about your brain as you observe the various ways in which it reacts to meditation. The goal here is to recognize thoughts as they come, but understand that you don’t have to act on them.
You may find following your first time meditating that you feel calmer, more anxious, or not at all different.
The effects of meditation are sometimes unnoticed until you need them. All of sudden you will find yourself remembering to breathe during times of stress or anxiety. You will find yourself sitting still without automatically trying to find some sort of distraction to take you away from the present moment.
At times your may hate meditation, and others you will love more it than anything. So congratulations on your journey to more self-awareness. You are on your way.