What is Meditation...and Should I Try It?
Do you ever wonder why you have your best ideas in the shower? Or during a run? Or even as you are about to drift off to sleep in bed at night? It makes perfect sense that these are some of your most creative, mind-opening, perspective-shifting times of day because these are the times that your mind is clear and focused.
It’s no wonder experts suggest you keep a notepad next to your bedside in case you think of something during the night and don’t want to forget about it in the morning…These are all times when your mind is calm and at peace. They are times where your intuition is at a peak because all of the other daily noise is silenced. During these times, you are essentially meditating.
Think about it. When you are in the shower, you may start off thinking about your to-do list. But eventually, you start to notice the warmth of the water on your skin. You feel the massage of the shower head on your muscles. You begin to focus on what’s next…shampoo, condition, wash…the world outside begins to melt away. And then, there it is! That idea you were hoping would come to you!
Or imagine you are running your usual path through your neighborhood. Again, you may start your run thinking about everything that happened to you today - or what may happen after. But eventually, it is just you and the path. One foot in front of the other. That is your focus. This is the time when everything seem clear.
What is meditation?
The shower, running and sleep examples may not seem like what you’ve heard about meditation. “Aren’t I supposed to be sitting upright in an uncomfortable position, eyes closed and silent?”. True, there are forms of meditation that look exactly like that. But meditation, in its truest sense, is a focusing and quieting of the mind. In yoga, it is known as dhyana - a state of pure thought. Through this focus and purity of mind, the individual who is practicing meditation can achieve mental clarity and emotional stability. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?
And it is.
Meditation is part of an overall wellness plan. Wellness is not solely what foods you put into your body or what exercises you use to push your physical limits. True wellness includes taking care of your body, your mind and your spirit. They are all intertwined. And through meditation, you are nourishing your mental and emotional well-being. You are feeding your soul.
What are different types of meditation?
Many methods of meditation exist today. There is mantra meditation, where you repeat a single word or words to focus the mind. Guided meditations allow you to listen to a narrator who takes you on a journey. In this instance, your mind stays focused on the story being told, and on the images you are being asked to create in your mind. Other forms of no thought meditation involve a clearing of the mind, no thoughts at all. And then there is mindfulness meditation, where you pay specific attention to the present state and what is occurring at that very moment. You may notice sounds, feelings, smells and other sensations.
How do I meditate?
Many meditation practices call for you to be in an upright position, legs crossed or extended, spine straight. You may also sit in a chair, as long as you are in an upright (a.k.a. not slouching) position. These are very common meditation postures. I, however, believe that as long as you are comfortable, go for it. To start out, pick a time of day, find a quiet place with no distractions, pick a comfortable position and begin your chosen method of meditation. As you move through your practice, you can start to play around with different postures and what feels best to you.
This goes to show that no one way is the “right” way to meditate. The only right way is the one that works for you.
Why should I meditate?
We are all living busy lives with very little time to ourselves. But if you strive to add meditation into your day, you may start to notice several emotional and physical benefits that, arguably, make meditation just as important to your health as diet and exercise. These benefits include:
A calm, peaceful state of mind
Reduced stress and anxiety
Slowed aging process
How much should I meditate?
So how much do you need to meditate? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, as with any healthy lifestyle change, you have to start somewhere. If you can fit in 5 minutes a day, that is a good start. And just like yoga, meditation is a practice. You won’t notice the benefits after one session, but rather, over a period of time. Once meditation becomes routine in your life, you will be able to look back and notice all of the positive changes.
Meditation doesn’t have to be scary or strange. It is a personal experience. Only you will know what feels right to you. You can start with some of these general techniques and tailor it to what works best for you. And…if you just want to meditate in the shower, I won’t judge!