by Penny Wing
What is meditation?
Meditation is an ancient discipline which involves contemplation whilst focusing your mind on an object or a thought. You don’t need to be religious to learn how to meditate and it has nothing to do with being in a trance. You also don’t need to wear yoga pants, sit on a yoga mat and chant for half an hour!! Some people do enjoy doing it this way – and good for them!
Is just sitting a waste of time?
Sitting still feels very strange for most people especially if they are always on the go. It is worth pointing out here that sitting still is not the same as doing nothing. What you are actually doing is retraining your mind to be more effective and creative in the long run. Short periods of inner quiet will refresh your mind and body; don’t feel guilty about taking some time just for you.
Physical and mental benefits
There is no doubt that meditation will benefit you as a person. It promotes physical relaxation and promotes calmness; being in a relaxed state is excellent for your heart and pulse rate. In meditation, your brain waves are in a different state from when you are sleeping or fully awake. Meditation unites your mind and body. It can really help you to find peace of mind by learning how to detach yourself from worrying thoughts.
Creating the right environment
Choosing the right place in which to meditate depends on the space you have available. Obviously, it needs to be quiet but the setting can be simple. There may be noise you can’t control but with practice, you can enter a meditative state wherever you are. I feel that one of the most important things to take into consideration is that when you meditate you need to be comfortable. For some people, this may mean lying down, for others sitting in a chair. Choose which is best for you. Also, make sure you are warm enough as your body temperature will start to drop when you are still.
When to meditate
It’s not a good idea to meditate at a time of day that is always busy (obviously!!) or if you have had a lot of caffeine or alcohol. You will find out the best time for you with experience; try different times of the day and see which feels best for you.
How long should you meditate for?
I always used to think that you had to meditate for as long as possible to get the most benefit. I am delighted to write that this is not necessarily the case! Now, all of you who say you don’t have the time have no excuse not to try?!
A long session of meditation will not necessarily provide more benefit than a short one, especially when you are just starting to out. Five minutes a day is a good beginning. Sometimes, I will meditate at two in the afternoon for five minutes and then again at eight in the evening for five minutes. I feel it is better for me to do short sessions regularly than longer ones once a week or not at all. Once you see how relaxed you feel after meditating I am sure you will want to do it for longer.
It’s a good idea to relax before you start to meditate; sit comfortably, breathe slowly and deeply and start to visualise all the tension you are holding onto being released from your body. Work through each part of your body starting with your head and neck and then down to your feet.
As I mentioned before, you need to be comfortable when you meditate – very flexible people may wish to sit cross legged but for most of us it is more comfortable just to sit or lie down. If you are sitting, try to keep your shoulders back and your spine straight.
Count your breath
A simple meditation for beginners is to count your breaths. Inhale and mentally count one then exhale and count two. Begin again when you reach ten.
What if your mind won’t keep still?
This, I feel, is the most challenging aspect of meditating. The majority of people are not used to just sitting and being; we live in a busy society and often feel guilty about “doing nothing” for a period of time.
When unwanted thoughts come in just let them go; don’t fight them or become anxious about them, just let them come in and then watch them disappear. Of course, this is a technique that is going to take time and practice but if you are prepared to put the effort in you will see results.
Some people prefer visualisation as opposed to counting their breaths or just emptying their minds. Do what feels right for you. Visualisation is my preferred way of meditating. You can buy CD’s to listen to where the speaker will take you on a guided journey or try to visualise yourself in a place where you feel relaxed – a sandy beach, a leafy garden and so on. Again, this will become easier with practice.
Meditating with Colour
Meditating with colour is very simple but can be very powerful depending on which colour you use. Why use colour? Colours carry meanings for all of us although these meanings can vary from culture to culture – some are universal e.g. red signifies danger. To meditate with colour you can visualise yourself in a bubble of a particular colour or just “see” it in your mind’s eye. Try to imagine it as fully and as richly as you can.
How some colours can help you
Red can bring you power, passion and energy. Use it when you lack drive, direction, courage or energy.
Orange can bring you vitality, activity and enjoyment. Use it when you want to break down barriers, discover enthusiasm within yourself and get more fun out of life.
Yellow can bring you mental clarity and inspiration. Use it when you need to make decisions and need a clear and open mind.
Green can bring you healing, balance and growth. Use it when you want to make a new start or undertake personal growth in some aspect of your life.
Blue can bring you peace, well being and a sense of relaxation. Use it when you feel tense, stressed or under pressure.
I hope this article has inspired you to at least try meditating. Remember:
Meditating gets easier with practise; you don’t need to spend a long time meditating every day to receive the benefits and don’t feel guilty about putting aside time for yourself – you are worth it!