Meditation And Its Many Benefits

Very often people are interested in trying out meditation but shy away from it because of misperceptions about what it entails. Others might not know how to get started or may wonder if dedicating time to a meditation practice will benefit them in any way.

It has been shown that meditation has many physical and emotional benefits. Meditation is also a practice that can be tailored to meet an individual person's particular interests or needs. There is not just one way to meditate; there are different types of meditation and ways to incorporate it into your own particular way of living. Meditation also does not have to be a solo practice. There are various ways to get your practice started, but you certainly do not have to do it alone.

What Can Meditation Do For You?

1. Meditation can quiet the mind and calm the body:

A daily meditation practice helps a person act instead of react to their emotions or to a situation. With a quieter mind and calmer body, a person is less likely to make impulsive decisions or decisions based solely on emotion. 

2. A Daily Meditation Practice Can Help Improve Your Stress Management:

People who meditate regularly report managing their stress better than before they started a meditation practice. The meditation becomes a tool for coping with stress. For example, a person who feels overwhelmed may have previously chosen to eat a sweet or binge watch TV to relieve stress, but once that person develops a daily meditation practice, he or she is less likely to need the sweets or binge viewing. 

3. Increased Awareness:

Part of the practice of meditation is developing an awareness for the sensations you are experiencing, the thoughts you might be having, and the feelings that may arise. Exercising one's awareness during meditation over time carries over into increased awareness in general. A person is more likely to be connected to what he or she is feeling, as well as to what she or he really needs or wants to do about their feelings. 

4. Improved Health:

With an increased awareness into one's feelings and needs, people who have a daily meditation practice often become more conscious of what is healthy and unhealthy for their bodies. As such, daily meditators are likely to make healthier choices with respects to what they eat and how they treat their bodies. It can also improve sleep. 

There are numerous types of meditations. The following are just a few of my favorites. 

1. Traditional Zen Meditation:

This is what people most commonly think of when they think of meditation. In this type of practice a person sits comfortably and still with a straight back and tries to keep their mind focused on their breath. This can be done either by counting the breaths until a certain number and then starting from 1 again or by just noticing the inhales and exhales. If the mind gets distracted you just start again either at 1 or by noticing the next inhale and exhale. 

2. Insight Meditation (Vipassana):

This is a mindfulness meditation where one tries to bring awareness to whatever sensations, thoughts, feelings may be arising, and to just notice them while still maintaining attention on the breath. A person does not need to judge any of these thoughts, sensations, or feelings, nor should the person try to actively push them away. They should just acknowledge them, label it, and then try to  move on by returning to paying attention to the movement of your breath, from in-breath to out-breath. 

3. Body Scan (Yoga Nidra):

This type of meditation is a guided meditation where one focuses intently on each and every major part of their body one at a time. This meditation can relax a person's body and is ideal for helping with sleep issues. 

4. Loving Kindness Meditation:

During this meditation a person tries to connect with feelings of love and kindness for all living beings in a series of focused progressions from easier to more difficult. For example the person may start with focusing feelings of love and kindness towards oneself, then moving on to one's loved ones, then to a good friend, to an acquaintance, to a difficult person, and perhaps to a person one dislikes. Then the person focuses on all of these people at once, then on the whole world, and maybe even the whole universe, with an effort to feel love and kindness towards all. 

How Can I Get Started?  

1. Books:

There are tons of meditation books available which have sections regarding how to actually do the practice. I would suggest reading through books on a couple of different types of meditation practice to see which one may appeal to you. Some types of meditation appeal to some people more than others and some benefit some people more than others. 

2. Mix It Up:

I highly recommend trying a few different types of meditation in addition to just reading about the different types to see which are a good fit for you. Even after you have decided which types you will include in your practice, it is a good idea to practice different meditations on different days or depending on your specific needs on a given day. The more tools you have in your belt the better. 

3. Join a Sangha:

A Sangha is a community of people who come together to meditate and support each other in this practice. Meditating with others can be much easier than meditating alone. The community aspect can be very encouraging and motivating. You can find a sangha by visiting various meditation centers in your area or simply by gathering friends and others who wish to start a meditation practice with you.