Jun 01 , 2022
Meditation. Mindfulness. Navel gazing. You’ve probably heard of the practice of meditation in one form or another. There are myriad types of meditation, each accompanied by gurus and ambassadors, idols and relics, religions and techniques. It is easy to get lost trying to find out what it is, and how to incorporate it into your life.
Meditation, in short, is an activity designed to encourage a heightened state of awareness, focus attention and tune out life’s “background noise.” Furthermore, meditation can be used as a way to try to alter one’s conscious state, seeking a higher, more introspective level of consciousness. In the extreme, religions and spiritual guides tote meditation as the path to achieving enlightenment, or the penultimate level of raised consciousness.
There are a number of techniques to achieve this hyper-focused state of being. Some people prefer a “moving meditation,” using a simple, relatively low effort task to draw the mind to sights, sounds, smells and sensations experienced while walking, for example.
The more traditional and widely used method relies on stillness and quiet, with the practitioner sitting or lying down, and focusing all attention on the breath, or the body. The aim of this type of practice is to achieve a state of total calm and relaxation – the immediate world is “tuned out,” focus is turned inwards and when interrupted by the individual’s thoughts, trying to let them go and retain focus on the breath or body.
People may repeat mantras – words, sounds or phrases used repeatedly – to aid in focusing their thoughts away from the everyday noise and clutter that occupy our usual mind-space.
With something that is so widespread, used by nearly all religions, and gaining more and more attention as it becomes more accessible through classes, online tutorials, videos and apps, the question you might ask is, “Why?” Fair to say, when life is busy and time is precious enough as it is, it seems ludicrous to spend time doing, deliberately, nothing. There have been a vast number of studies in both meditation and meditators, and the huge number of benefits include;
- Improved emotional wellbeing and decreased episodes of depression, anxiety and other low mood disorders.
- Better stress response and management skills.
- Physiological benefits such as lower blood pressure, fewer headaches, increased immunity and faster recovery from illness.
- Improvement in working memory, mental acuity and fluid intelligence.
- Better empathy, improved relationship skills and emotional intelligence.
- Overall feeling of calmness, security and general outlook.
So, with the above benefits in mind, to name just a few, it almost begs the question, “Why not?!” With the practice of meditation costing literally nothing except a small fraction of the day, and the highlighted benefits speaking for themselves, a short, calming meditation practice should be a priority for everyone!
There are so many ways you can get into the practice, try Youtube or an app such as Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer for some great introduction meditation practices. With such a huge variety of styles and types of meditation out there, it is more than okay to try a few, or a lot, before finding one that really resonates with you. And finally, remember it is a practice! Like any activity, the initial stages can be difficult, awkward and seem pointless. But, like a muscle, the mind can be trained into finding a calm place to retreat to more quickly and easily the more regularly you practise – even for a short time. Hopefully you can find some benefit in trying it out, and perhaps meditate on the quote “Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means, and the end.” - Jiddu Krishnamurti