Meditation is a simple, scientifically proven exercise that improves brain functioning and as a result has a multitude of associated health benefits. Although simple, mediation is often avoided purely because of the misconception that the aim is to completely clear the mind of thought. Most people will say “I could never do that!” And you know what, it’s true, you can’t! Stopping the mind is literally impossible. There are always thoughts. So, before we begin it is best to put that myth aside. Meditation will however allow you to become more aware of your thoughts, less attached to your thoughts and with a little practice aware of the spaces between the thoughts.
In it’s simplest form, meditation can be achieved in three very easy steps.
Step one, sit comfortably. Although it is ideal to keep your back straight, there is absolutely no reason to sit in an uncomfortable position of tangled legs on the floor. If you find it more comfortable, sit in a chair with cushions to support your back or even lie down.
Step two, close your eyes and become aware of your breath. The breath coming in and the breath going out. There is no need to change the pace of your breath, just awareness is enough. What you are doing with this simple action is creating a single point focus of awareness. There are many different techniques of mediation though essentially the difference is about the point of awareness, this may be a sound, a visualization, a body scan or a movement but for the purpose of this exercise it’s just an awareness of breath.
As soon as you try holding your awareness to your breath your mind is going to get busy, distracting you from your focus. This is a good thing, because now you are aware of just how busy your mind is.
Step three, when you become aware that you’ve gotten a little lost following one of those thoughts, let that thought go and just come back and focus on your breath. And that’s it…just repeat…focus, breathe, get lost in thought, focus, breath, get lost in though, focus, breathe etc. Ideally 10 to 20 minutes a day would be a good aim for a practice…but even 5 minutes will make a noted difference to your stress levels.
Meditation actively creates a base line awareness of a relaxed state. When caught up in the stress of busy living it is incredibly useful to remember this base line. Just like the practice of bringing yourself back to your breath, during a stressful day you bring your self back to a more relaxed point.
If you would like to explore mediation further, a registered teacher can help you understand the process more fully, assist you to find a technique to suit you best and importantly keep you on track to develop a routine that delivers all the associated benefits of wellbeing to your life.
Article by Joanna Joustra
Executive, Meditation Association of Australia