Many are put off meditation practice by presuming it might be “too spiritual” (for atheists) or “inopportune” (for believers), too complicated, too mysterious, too strange, or even too overrated altogether.
Of course, I don’t know what’s right for you, Adventurer.
But if you have always wanted to look into meditation and find ways to start it – and if standard meditation guides have left you feeling uneasy or ridiculous, you might find this post helpful.
In simple words: What is meditation?
So far, I have practiced different styles of meditation – the one that goes with (Western) yoga and mudra practice; Christian and buddhist meditation; mystic/esoteric meditation; autogenic training, intuitive meditation, even progressive muscle relaxation.
To boil down the very Essence of meditating, it is about three things: concentrating on breathing + control of your mind + the resulting feeling of calm, peace, even poise and wisdom. Occasional bonus may occur in the shape of insights, relief, the ability to let go, new ideas or creative breakthroughs.”
And wouldn’t it be nice to tap into a yet undiscovered well of never-ending calm, power, and creativity?
Reasons to meditate / Reasons Not to meditate
Your way to meditation will be painted a different colour depending on where you stand and what you look for.
Are you the spiritual or religious type? Or are you utterly pragmatic, just stressed and burned out? Are you the fitness type, looking for ways to improve your results or to balance your training? Are you the creative type stuck in the writer’s or creator’s block looking for a way out? Or maybe you’re recovering from an illness – or trying to support yourself living with a chronic desease? Are you just curious?
There are many different reasons to meditate. They are all excellent.”
And while meditation is generally seen as simple, effective, free from side effects, I think that anyone writing about the many beautiful benefits of meditation should mention this warning: There is some research suggesting that specific mental conditions might deteriorate during meditation practice. The following rule applies to everything, from sport to nutrition: when in doubt, consult your medical professionals in advance.
Create your own sanctuary, anywhere
I love my meditation practice in the morning and evening, but I equally enjoy finding meditative moments in the “nowness” situations throughout the day – making a cup of tea, calmly concentrating before taking on an intense task, being present while watering plants or “doing nothing”.
When I was concentrating on that doing nothing as a kid, I’m afraid that this freaked the stone bricks out of my mum. Our society is only learning to accept that the rat race is not all there is to it. I also believe that the ability to meditate is innate; that we are born with it. There is a calm, wise voice of reason and support in everybody. Only some choose to mute it.
So what will you need to Start meditating for the first time?
Having read an awful lot and then some more of meditation guides myself in my early years, I was often (not always) bored bland by the authors’ pompous or guru demeanor, whereas the more mundane, psychlogical advice read like instructions to assembling a toaster. Forget that altogether! You can find great books on meditation techniques later.
But to get going now, all you really need is to understand that meditation means two things: you need to control your thoughts + you need to focus on your breath.
There’s no need yet to pick a complicated mantra. You can simply say “I breathe in… I breathe out…” to help you concentrate on your breath, or you can add something like “toxins leave my body, new energy fills my body” – this is entirely up to you.
Make sure you focus on your breath and choose words that help you, maybe words like: nourish, heal, renew, or inspire.
Does it need to be words? No! You can be counting.
The fancy thing is that your rhythm of breath can be symmetrical (“breathe in 1-2-3-4, breathe out 1-2-3-4″) or asymmetrical (“breathe in 1-2-3-4, breathe out 1-2-3-4-5-6″), the essential is that it be consistent.
And: Congratulations! As you practice conscious breathing, you’re already practicing what I call Meditation Test Drive.
With this simple breathing exercise you will experience first-hand what conscious breathing feels like – even before you try to meditate properly.”
Do this meditation test drive a couple of times, whenever you feel like having a break. On some point it will feel right to sit down and close your eyes to delve deeper and to explore the blissful state of relaxed concentration.
And this will mean that you’re already meditating.