Meditation has been used since the dawn of time to better understand the forces of nature and mysteries of life , starting with the human mind and how it works with the body. It’s our goal during a standard meditation session to simply remember our breath or other “white noise” we choose to focus on, usually for the benefits of reducing stress.
Limited on time? Like summaries? Skip the backdrop and head to the bottom paragraphs titled “Too Long, Didn’t Read?” to find out the basics on how to meditate.
What are the benefits of a quiet mind?
it increases mindfulness (the awareness of the present and all that is going on)
it improves our control of the thoughts we think
it reduces stress hormones which reduces disease = reduced healthcare needs
it reduces heart rate and blood pressure
it improves positivity which improves our present and future
it improves compassion
it improves productivity; physical, mental, or emotional
it improves clarity on any subject
it improves memory
it slows (and can even reverse) aging
it increases self-awareness
it improves lung function and quality of breath
it improves the function of our senses
it improves our enjoyment of activities
it improves the pain response (both physically and emotionally)
it helps us handle stress more easily
it helps to decrease or even eradicate addiction to harmful substances
it helps us be happier and sustain that happiness
it increases creativity
& so much more.
I can vouch for all of these benefits, as I have noticed them in myself since starting a consistent meditation practice. Most especially, I have found a decrease in pain and my reaction to it. Meditation gives me the capacity to process and transmute both emotional and physical stresses.
I am no certified professional of meditation, but I am passionate about it and the results I gain from quieting my mind and showing others how to do the same. I put what I have been taught into practice to see what resonates. As long as we are receiving the desired benefits from a consistent practice, it’s not necessary to be an “expert”.
That being said, I think it’s important to get multiple perspectives on any subject to make up your own mind, so use a good search engine, books, and/or online journals to research new techniques and types of meditations after reading this guide. A technique that works for me might not work for you and vice versa, as we are all unique in both our genetics and experiences. There are countless meditation techniques out there so you are bound to find many that work best for you and keep you from boredom.
**NOTE: there comes a point later down the road in your meditation practice that many recommend a “guru” (an expert that can further show the way to enlightenment through meditation) because of the emotions and experiences that arise with consistent meditation practice. As we journey the mind, the mind changes, and so do our lives. We become more equipped to deal with stress when we are more mindful of our thoughts, however, sometimes this process becomes overwhelming for some people. According to many, Gurus or Spiritual teachers can help guide people through the process in a more gentle and organized way.
Also according to many, including myself, believe our own emotions and internal guidance trumps anyone or anything outside of our minds, and all we truly need is our own mind to guide us. It’s up to each of us individually to decide which guidance we prefer to use, and it can be both.
If you do choose guidance from a spiritual teacher, please be mindful of the fact that you always know what’s best for you in any given moment. You are the sole person who has gone through your experiences; who was born into your body, and therefore you are the one who knows what is best for you.
A quieter mind brings…
tapping into the frequency of Source (the universe, the energy of life, God, Buddha, Allah, Mother Nature, whatever your preferred label)
alignment & synergy
…and so much more that helps us grow in the ways we desire, at a soul level, which will consequently translate to a material level. This all is based on my own experience and thousands of hard-evidence studies scattered all over the internet.
They did a study on mindfulness at Harvard University and created a detailed resource outlining the benefits, practices, and information backing up their findings in a PDF document, “Now and Zen” (badass title if you ask me). Harvard researchers taught and studied participants practicing yoga and meditation consistently for 8 weeks, which improved physical health and brain function.
Harvard researchers found that participants were able to spend less on their doctor bills because of the improvement of health issues related to stress. Cortisol (a stress hormone which is the cause of an array of diseases when left without our help in minimizing it) levels plummeted and so did depression .
Vippassana Meditation, a technique founded and distributed by Buddha, is something that has been introduced all over the world as a completely free, donation-based service. For 10 days (or 20 or 30 or 45; there are several course lengths offered), students are expected to work around 11 hours a day of meditation, all while following Noble Silence, a mandatory rule that allows students to develop a quieter mind, all while having meals and breaks provided and served for them at no extra cost, all volunteer basis.
The repetition of the technique and consistent use of it is what serves so well in this course. It’s amazing how clear one’s mind can be after a course like this, and most students come year after year to strengthen their practice.
Vipassana is a meditation technique that teaches students to see everything as it is, and not how we think it should be. The technique teaches awareness and equanimity – the ability to keep a calm and balanced mind in all situations, ‘good’ and ‘bad’. After taking a course myself, it’s changed my inner world for the better, resulting in countless outer world benefits as well.
When we give our body and mind time to breathe with no distractions, stress has no where to go but out.
So you’ve seen the benefits. You’ve come this far. Now I’d love for you to know the true benefits of meditation firsthand and start or continue a practice that feels good to you, one that you want to stick with.
Here is what a common effective meditation practice looks like:
*Main points are bold & italicized.*
Meditation is used by many as a morning discipline, usually upon waking up. I notice how it affects my day more positively than if I meditate later in the day. Meditation is a skill, like a muscle being sculpted, so it helps to treat it as such.
I won’t lie: I don’t always feel like meditating, but it’s like exercise. I do it because I know it will make me feel better, and it always does. Also just like exercise, some days I feel better than others and some days my meditation practice is far from perfect.
If morning meditation isn’t your thing, quieting your mind before sleep is a good choice for those who generally have trouble relaxing and falling or staying asleep, and it’s a perfect primer for some good dreams.
Experiment. Make mistakes. It’s the best way to learn.
Arrange yourself in a comfortable place to sit or lie down that allows the least chance of moving for 20 minutes, with as few surrounding distractions as possible.
Common effective meditation sessions usually last around 15-20 minutes of watching the breath go in and out.
Focus on the subtleties of the in and out of the breath through your nose, the feeling of your belly inflating and deflating, or focus on the air conditioner in the background or fan, and that tiny high-pitched sound that comes with it that you can only hear when your mind is quiet enough.
When a thought comes up, observe it and as quickly as you remember, allow it to float away and come back to the breath or “file it away” for the future, if it’s useful. It’s helpful to visualize: a high school teacher of mine once told us to picture a cloud or a wave taking the distracting thought away and then coming back to focusing on the breath again, for example.
With practice, you’ll get better at simply coming back to your breath without a visualization, but some days it’s a bit more difficult to quiet that inner voice. Intend to treat yourself with compassion in coming back to the quietness of your mind.
Annoyance and anger at ourselves for our thoughts jumping around don’t support a healthy meditation practice. Meditation is an experience, and it should be a positive one we start to look forward to. The whole point is to feel recharged after our zen time, however that means for us in the moment.
With a quiet mind, we tend to receive thoughts that help us through certain topics of our lives. It’s almost intoxicating, the clear mind that comes with the detachment from thinking, like a bunch of ‘eureka’ moments on things that matter to you in your life.
If I’m at this point–which, I’ll be honest, only happens when I am not expecting or chasing after it–I might ask a question I want clarity on, trust that it will come without my searching for the answer, then receive such a clear answer I start to wonder why I didn’t think of it before.
I’m aware this all sounds a little counterintuitive—stop thinking so you can think? But that’s the trick.
Quit trying to think and just start receiving answers.
Many would call this “Mindfulness Meditation”. Truthfully, I say forget about the labels and just do what feels good.
Sometimes meditations are to focus solely on our breath and other meditation sessions are focused on the thoughts that come after we have quieted our minds.
Others are about focusing on your body, or parts of it. There are so many techniques to try out there that you will likely have no trouble with boredom.
And then there’s Visualization Meditation.
Are you yet aware of the Law of Attraction? Are you aware that you are a magnet based on your thoughts? Are you aware that on that which we focus–that which we are–we will receive more of, through all cases, in all moments? This is why Visualization Meditation is so powerful.
Either guided by a voice recording or done with your own imagination, pick a topic you want to visualize, quiet your mind of thoughts by focusing on the breath or another repeating noise or sensation, and imagine what you want to imagine for your life. Let your mind go with feel-good thoughts of what you to create or want more of in your life.
Remind yourself to enjoy the ride. This shouldn’t be a ton of effort, nor should we force ourselves. Imagining the reality of your dreams should be fun and natural, like when you were a kid. Intend to have a child-like imagination, one that is effortless and flows freely, as this is when we are most effective at creating the future we desire.
There’s a good reason kids play pretend as much as they do.
Set the scene and incorporate all senses in some way: What does the scene look like? What kind of colors are present? What does it smell like? What are you tasting while you are observing what you want to create for yourself? What do you feel under your feet and fingers? Are you barefoot or do you have clunky shoes on uneven ground? What kind of noises surround you and this scene? Every little detail helps.
Meditation may be simple but there are so many facets to quieting our minds that can only be learned with experience.
Do you go fishing? Dance? Play a sport? Sing? Draw? Do you follow a passion, any passion? You’re probably already quieting your thoughts and getting in a flow state in certain moments of your days.
Why not hit the ‘Limitless’ button? The above is definitely helpful, but meditation is another level to that. Sit down for just 10 to 15 deliberate minutes a day, stick with the habit, and you’ll forget why you ever went without.
Too long, didn’t read? Here’s a quick snippet on how you can meditate:
~ Find a comfortable place to sit or recline, keeping in mind the more comfortable you get, the higher chance you’re going to fall asleep. Nature is a great place to be mindful, but a comfortable and quiet room with limited distractions works well, too.
~ Close your eyes and relax your entire body, starting with the top of your head and ending at the tips of your toes, allowing every muscle to be at ease.
~ Feel your breath going in and out of your body. Focus on the way it feels going in and out of your nostrils, inflating and deflating your belly, re-centering your energy throughout your body. Focus on the way it feels to fill your lungs and muscles with oxygen.
~ When a thought comes up (and it will as our brains are designed to think), simply observe it and let it go, coming back to your breath.
That’s it! To transition out of meditation, gently wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch your muscles, and open your eyes, coming back into the present moment and the rest of your day.
PRO TIP #1: CONSISTENCY IS KEY to the benefits of meditation.
PRO TIP #2: it’s helpful to use visualization techniques to come back to your breath, such as inhaling a white light and exhaling and releasing negative darker light. There are no rules here; you could also imagine your mind as a little pebble drifting through a cleansing stream, dodging other pebbles or “thoughts” that get in your way. Visualizing certain scenes helps us stay focused on our meditation and remember to come back to the breath (plus it’s kinda fun..)
PRO TIP #3: nature is helpful because it almost always has a background noise to focus on. Using the natural energy of the earth to ground yourself is also a good way of keeping concentration and allowing your vibration to lift.
PRO TIP #4: the more relaxed you are, the easier it is to have a successful meditation.
Helpful Meditation Resources:
- Headspace.com is an app and meditation resource for simple and/or guided meditations. They provide “packs” to help teach users to meditate effectively.
(not an affiliate link)