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Meditation for Dummies

April 29, 2020

Meditation has gone mainstream. No longer the exclusive province of monks and yogis, it’s now practiced by people of all sorts. And why not? Anybody can start and benefit from a simple meditation practice. There’s no special equipment or training required, just the willingness to carve out a little time each day to improve your mental and physical well-being. 

Interested in starting a meditation practice, but not sure where to start? Read on and we’ll get you on the road to begin your own personal journey. 

What is Meditation?

Meditation can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a simple relaxation technique while for others, there’s a deeply spiritual component to their practice. But meditation shouldn’t be intimidating to you. For every person curled into a lotus position at a seven-day meditation retreat, you’ll find hundreds whose lives benefit from a simple 10-minute daily practice.

Your meditation practice doesn’t have to aspire to lofty goals to be worthwhile. You may have the mistaken impression that the goal of meditation is to magically transform yourself into a new, better you and that with meditation, you’ll be able to turn off thoughts and your feelings and tap into a higher plane of existence. 

In truth, the goal is the opposite. By practicing meditation, you’ll learn to train awareness of your feelings and thoughts without judging them. You’re not meditating to conquer your thoughts, but to be mindful of them. And by being mindful, you’ll have a better perspective and better tools to deal with what’s actually happening in and around you. 

What Are the Benefits of Meditation?

If you spend time working out to keep your body fit, it makes sense to devote some time to keep your mind fit too. The science is there — regular meditation has real, tangible benefits. Here are some of the positive effects that meditation can bring to your life.

  • Helps you control stress and anxiety. Scientific studies have shown that regular meditation can reduce the levels of cortisol  — a stress-producing hormone — in your blood. Lower cortisol levels are associated with lower levels of stress and anxiety. We could all use less of that in our lives.

  • Promotes emotional health and self-awareness. Regular meditation is associated with improved self-image and a more positive outlook. With regular meditation, it’s easier to see the big picture and not get caught up reacting to every small irritation that comes our way.  

  • Improves your attention span. Our modern lives are bombarded with external stimuli and that makes it difficult to concentrate on one task at a time. The mindfulness you’ll attain from regular meditation teaches you how to cut through the static and tune in on the task at hand. 

  • Enhances your sleep. Ask any fitness expert and they’ll tell you how important a regular eight hours of sleep is to our health. The skills you learn from meditation will help you clear your mind and enjoy a more restful night’s sleep.

  • And there’s more. Meditation can help with a host of other issues. Practitioners and studies report that meditation can help with addiction, lower blood pressure, control pain and much more. 

How Do I Get Started?

Here’s the good news — there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. If you take one simple technique and concentrate on practicing it every day you’ll be on the road to a successful meditation practice in no time. Here’s a simple meditation routine to help get you started, plus a few tips and ideas to help you develop your practice. 

The Basics

  • Find a comfortable seat on a chair, cushion, or pillow. Despite all the pictures you’ve seen, you don’t have to sit cross-legged or in a lotus position. Sit in a relaxed style, but don’t slouch. Imagine that your head is balancing easily on top of your spine. Place your hands in a relaxed position on your lap or on top of your thighs.
  • Set a timer. Your watch or phone will be fine. Start with five or ten minutes.
  • Breathe easily and normally. It’s useful to close your mouth and breath through your nose. Concentrate on the feeling of the air moving through your nostrils, and upon the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
  • Bring your attention back as it wanders. Your attention will wander! When it does, just gently bring it back to your breath. Repeat until your timer is done. Congratulations, you’ve just meditated!

Helpful Tips

  • Set a time for your meditation. Carve out a specific time for your daily meditation and stick to it. You’ll be a lot more likely to stick to your practice if it becomes a part of your routine. Meditate while your coffee is brewing in the morning. Or meditate when you get home from work. Whenever it is, find a time that works for you. 

  • Wear something comfortable. You don’t need a dedicated meditation wardrobe, but comfortable clothing, like Willy California athleisure tops and pants, will make the experience more comfortable and make it easier to concentrate on the task at hand. 

  • Add music to your meditation. Some find that soft music or ambient nature sounds add to the meditation experience while others find it distracting. Experiment to see which is best for you. You’ll find plenty of meditation playlists on streaming services like Spotify or on YouTube. 

  • Set achievable goals. You’re not going to be good at this when you start (after all it’s called a meditation “practice.”) Start with short meditations and increase the length gradually. You’ll find that your concentration and focus improve over time.

  • Try an app, or take a class. Meditation doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. There are a number of apps, like Calm and Headspace, that offer guided meditation and courses. Your local gym or wellness center may also offer meditation sessions and classes. And if you really want to explore the possibilities of some focused meditation, look into a full day or longer meditation retreat.

Create a space for meditation

One of the beautiful things about meditation is that it really doesn’t require anything special. A comfortable place to sit and the willingness to try are all you need. But many people find it desirable to create a space within their home for their meditation practice, even if it’s just a corner of their bedroom. If you decide to go that route, here are some accessories that will help you create a calm and welcoming space.

  • A meditation cushion or bench. Meditation cushions provide better support than regular pillows or cushions. Invest in a cushion that lets you sit comfortably for extended periods. If your hips prohibit you from sitting low on the floor, a meditation bench may allow you to sit in a more comfortable position.

  • Area rugs. A small area rug will help delineate your meditation space from the rest of the room. Plus, it will keep the floor warmer and provide soundproofing. 

  • Meditation candles and aromatherapy. It’s often helpful to lower the lights when meditating. And you may find having a candle in your space sets a peaceful mood. Consider a scented candle with a relaxing fragrance, like lavender, to add an element of aromatherapy. Or purchase an essential oil diffuser to set the mood.

  • Mala beads. If you find that repeating a mantra aids you during meditation, add a set of mala beads to your practice. Hold the beads between one finger and your thumb and advance around the string each time you repeat your mantra until you’ve completed the string. 

  • Good audio. Music can help set a peaceful mood for many meditators. If you like music in your meditation or enjoy guided meditations, invest in a good Bluetooth speaker so you’ll enjoy better sound quality than the small speakers on your smartphone provide. 

  • A touch of nature. Meditating by a mountain stream or on the beach is a transcendental experience. Add a touch of nature to your indoor space by adding a small water feature, plants, or flowers to your space.  

Your meditation space will not only aid your meditation practice, but it will also provide a daily reminder of the benefits of your meditation and an incentive to stick with it.

Your First Steps  

Meditation is a worthwhile pursuit for both the novice and the master. By practicing meditation, you allow yourself the opportunity to disconnect from daily distractions and dedicate a part of your day to making yourself a better you. With meditation, you don’t need expensive equipment, a personal trainer or a gym membership to up your mental health game. 

Stick to it and you’ll find that many of your daily frustrations become easier to handle, you’ll make decisions with less stress and more confidence and you’ll discover a core of inner peace that you didn’t know was within you. Approach meditation with an open mind, open heart and plenty of patience and you may soon find yourself wondering how you managed before. 

Whether you’ve meditated before or you’re just beginning to look into it, the first step is to be prepared with the right apparel. Visit Willy California for high-quality athleisure wear.