Meditation is one of today’s most effective tools for managing stress, getting into the zone, and entering into a peaceful state of balance. Practiced by celebrities, professional athletes, and high-powered executives, in addition to everyday people like you and me, meditation has climbed its way to the top tier of powerful techniques to change the way you navigate your busy life. Yet, you may have difficulty knowing where to start or whether you’re doing it right, making it near impossible to access your inner Zen.
What Is Meditation?
Meditating is a simple practice of sitting, calming the mind, and moving into a state of peace within. While simplistic in its approach, you find yourself struggling with the concept, relevance, and methods for how to do it. The good news is science continues to provide us with the research data pointing to the benefits of meditating regularly, and there are a multitude of approaches to the art of mindfulness.
The ultimate purpose of meditation is to connect you with who you are at the core of your being. It enables you to take your awareness from the active level of the mind to quieter levels of thought until you eventually slip beyond awareness entirely. Through this process, you transcend your everyday thinking and doing and arrive in a state of being that is pure, unbounded, and at peace.
Science has shown us that sitting in stillness and silence for 20 to 30 minutes each day can reduce stress levels for individuals experiencing anxiety disorders. Neuroscience has cited meditation as having an ability to promote faster learning. Other science-backed benefits of meditation include the ability to improve alter brain structure, improve sleep, enhance focus, and more. The point is, the benefits of meditation reach far and wide—from the spiritual and mental to the emotional and all the way down to the physiological bodies.
This is all great information and provides plenty of motivation for wanting to engage in daily mindfulness. But what if you’ve tried several approaches to the age-old practice, and you’re feeling like you just aren’t able to do it? Have no fear, for there are lots of support systems available for all ages and experience levels that will help you to find the right approach for you. Let’s explore five tips to help you get yourself dialed in with a solid practice in no time.
Mantra is, quite possibly, one of the oldest and most traditional ways of meditating. First, it’s important to understand what a mantra is. A mantra is a Sanskrit word (Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages on the planet) that means tool or instrument or vehicle. A mantra is a single word or short phrase, used as a vehicle for transporting the meditator to deeper states of consciousness.
Mantra meditation is an ideal option for if you are new to meditating or if you are struggling with a wandering mind. The repetition of the mantra for the duration of meditation gives your monkey mind something to do while you sit in stillness and silence. Depending on the mantra being used, the sound vibration of the mantra will also affect your physiology as well as your energetic body.
2. Guided Meditations
There are several apps available for all ages available to guide and support your meditation practice. If you are new to meditation or if you are struggling with classical mantra meditation, you may find these apps to be extremely helpful.
The Ananda – Personalized Meditations app, developed by the Chopra Center, enables you to select the soundscape you like and pair it with a theme-based guided meditation of your choosing. A couple highlights of this app are that you get a Meditation of the Day by Deepak Chopra and there are trending sections where you can listen to popular choices of other Ananda users.
Muse is a great tool for those who like feedback in the form of data. As you meditate wearing the Muse headband, your meditation is guided through changing sounds of weather based on the real-time state of your brain. It actually uses brain-sensing technology to sense when your mind is active, when it’s neutral, and when it’s calm. Using different soundscapes—including the beach, rainforest, and desert—Muse lets you know the level of calm or turbulence in your mind through the changing of weather patterns.
After your session, you can access the Muse app on your smart phone to see the raw data of your meditation. This can be especially helpful if you are a new meditator because it gives you specific feedback on how you are progressing.
4. Timing and the Use of a Timer
When starting out or if you’re having difficulty completing your meditations, the length of time may need to be adjusted until you’re able to find your flow. You may need to start with three minutes and then gradually increase your time as you are able. Eventually, you will be able to meditate for 20 to 30 minutes and that will become your norm. This is the average recommended time to meditate each day and seems to be ideal for many people.
The use of a meditation timer can also be helpful so you’re not always opening your eyes to peek at the clock. There are lots of great meditation timer apps to choose from. Insight Timer is a popular one that, in addition to having a timer, also has guided meditations and an online community within their platform.
5. Meditation Teacher
One of the best ways to lock in a solid meditation practice is to have a meditation teacher. As with the development of any skill or technique, having a seasoned instructor who has mastered his or her own practice, understands the intricacies of personal experience, and can guide you appropriately on your path is paramount. Of course, you can figure it out for yourself as you go along; however, having someone who can explain the process, what to expect, certain pitfalls, and how to gain maximum results with minimal effort will make the journey that much more enjoyable.
Perhaps one of the most common reasons you may quit meditating is because you feel you aren’t doing it right or you are not sure if it’s working. Once you’ve been meditating for a couple weeks, you may begin to notice some of the following shifts in your mindset, behaviors, and thought patterns.
- I enjoy my life more fully.
- I manage stressful situations more effortlessly.
- I no longer sweat the small stuff.
- I am more loving in all aspects of my life.
- I can more easily learn from life's challenges.
- I feel emotionally calmer.
- I speak less and listen more.
- I make more positive choices.
- I feel more rested when I wake up in the mornings.
- My family and friends say I’m kinder.
Regardless of how long you’ve been meditating, you will find yourself being interrupted by thoughts, physical sensations, and other sounds in the environment. This is to be expected and is a normal part of meditation. When this happens, simply acknowledge the disruption and refocus your mind back to your meditation practice.
Remember, meditation is not a destination. It is a daily practice and like any daily practice, some days will be better than others. That’s just life. Learn to flow with it and notice how effortless your experiences become.
Get your practice back on track and go deeper than ever before with MUSE: Your Personal Meditation Assistant. Learn More.