Meditation: What, Why, & How

Meditation: What, Why, & How

“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”- Headspace
Meditation is arguably one of the greatest skills one can possess today. It is certainly not easy; however, it is simple.

Where Yoga is a way to exercise the body, Meditation is a way to exercise the brain. It involves relaxation, awareness, and focus. It is a great way to practice stillness and mindfulness.

Many people also connect Meditation with prayer and spirituality. The religious themes of Meditation often hold the idea that it creates a sense of union with God. 

But why should we care about Meditation? For starters, it is scientifically proven to improve brain function and focus. 

Let us explore more of this wonderful practice in depth.

Must-know Meditation Techniques

The act of immersing yourself in a deep state of concertation without the interruptions of thoughts- is not exactly an easy pursuit. In the initial stages, it is difficult to hold even a few seconds of Meditation. That is why it is important in the initial stages to pick a practice that you find fulfilling and enjoyable to do.

There are over 20+ types of Meditation that one can practice, but there is no need to overwhelm yourself with too many forms. The basic goal of Meditation is to bring about relaxation and focus. 

We will discuss below four techniques you can use- they involve everyday activities, but instead of doing them unconsciously, the idea is to bring total focus and awareness to the task at hand. It is always better to keep trying each technique for a few weeks and see which works best for you. You can also take notes and track your journey about how you feel, which is easier to do etc. 

Here are the 4 techniques of Meditation that you can begin to practice:
  • Seated Meditation: This is the simplest form of Meditation where you sit in an asana and concentrate on your breathing. The most common way is to sit in a Sukhasan position- sitting cross-legged. One can also sit on the chair if there is an injury or pain. The spine needs to be upright, and eyes closed, try to relax every muscle in your body. 
  • Visualization: On its own, visualization is creating mental imagery of the future, sort of picturing an outcome you want to achieve. In visualization meditation, you create a soothing or relaxing visual in your brain and deeply focus on it. You can place yourself in a comfortable seated position, but remember to keep your spine straight. 
  • Mantra Meditation: this Meditation involves repeating a chanting or sound that will help quiet the mind. The best way is to sit in asana with a straight spine and chant Aum or Om. The idea is to chant a mantra and remind ourselves that the individual self and the universal self are identical.
  • Walking Meditation: For some people, sitting Meditation can cause a little restlessness. This Meditation involves walking instead of being static. Instead of being focused on breathing or chanting, it is focused on the sensation of your feet touching your ground. Try to walk in a peaceful and open space.

Why is Meditation Important Today?

In today's fast-paced world, stress, anxiety, and depression seem to the most common issues faced by many. The issue of mental health has gained a lot of importance in the last few years since it now poses an equal threat as any physical disease or issue. The suicide rate has significantly gone up, depression being one of the biggest causes.

It is noticed that the patients of mental health issues are often advised to practice Meditation and mindfulness.

Meditation is also one of the most important stress reduction methods. Scientific studies have shown that Meditation reduces stress and anxiety as well as improve the brain's cognitive abilities. 

What happens to your brain when you meditate?

Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists developed a more thorough understanding of what's taking place in our brains when we meditate.

It is found that our brains stop processing the information as actively as they normally would. This means that our mind is in a more relaxed state, almost identical to deep sleep. 
Here are a few incredible benefits of meditating regularly:
  • Better Focus: Since Meditation involves training the brain to focus on being aware and conscious, it leads to improved focus on the task at hand since the brain is now better equipped to concentrate on a specific thing.
  • Meditation for Stress Management: As discussed above, Meditation is known to help with reducing stress and anxiety, since it helps the mind and body go into a relaxed state. 
  • Gray Matter Increase: the Gray matter in the brain is associated with learning & memory as well as emotional regulation. More Gray matter means more positive emotions, emotional stability, and increased focus.
  • Diminished Ageing: Meditation has also been shown to diminish age-related effects on Gray matter and reduce the decline of our cognitive functioning.
  • Increased Creativity: Research shows that people who practice open-monitoring meditation perform better on tasks that involve coming up with new ideas.

How to Meditate at Home as Beginners

Building a meditation practice can be challenging. However, the rewards are equally beneficial. There are dozens of benefits of Meditation that are scientifically proven. Some benefits start showing from the first few days of practice, provided consistency is maintained. 

You can start meditating in the comfort of your own house as it does not require any special equipment.

Steps to Meditate at Home for Beginners:
  1. Find a quiet place in your house, one that is comfortable for you and free of distractions.
  2. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. You can invest in a mat or chair as well.
  3. Close your eyes and relax all your face and body muscles.
  4. Do not try to control your breathing. Maintain the normal rhythm of your breath.
  5. Focus your attention on your breathing and movement of your shoulders, chest while breathing. Do not control the pace or intensity of your breath. 
  6. If your focus starts to wander, bring back the attention to your breath. Start by doing this activity for 1 to2 minutes and gradually increase.

Are You Meditating Correctly?

It is important to take a few things into account before meditating. Some general guidelines to follow are:
  • Posture: Whether you are lying down or sitting, it is important to keep your neck and spine straight and not lean or anything
  • Timing: The best time to meditate is early in the morning. This helps you kick-start the day in a positive and energized way. 
  • Place: Interruptions can deter your efforts to bring Meditation to its full potential. You need to find a place where it's peaceful and quiet. 
  • Meals: Make sure you have not had heavy meals before Meditation. Ideally, wait 2-3 hours before you meditate if you have had a meal.
  • Comfort: You should not be tired or be in uncomfortable clothes during Meditation.
The benefits of Meditation are many, but it is important to practice consistently to truly get the best out of it.

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Caution: Although Meditation seems to be an all-encompassing solution to your problems, it needs to be treated as a supplement or addition to your pre-existing conditions. It is crucial to learn the correct way of doing Meditation from a certified practitioner/professional. You need to be cautious of what you see online. Remember- there are no shortcuts or alternatives to actual medicine and therapy.