A Beginnerís Guide to Meditation
The practice of meditation has numerous benefits physically, emotionally and spiritually and has become extremely popular in the Western culture for great reasons. Americans in particular carry a great deal of stress; jobs, family and societal pressures can make everyday living very difficult. We put all kinds of pressures on ourselves to achieve success and to be the best of the best at everything. Meditation helps us to slow down, recognize the present moment and learn how to go within for peace and balance.
It is unfortunate that with all of its health and emotional benefits, many people miss out on the serenity that a mediation practice can bring to their lives because they feel intimidated by the process. We compare ourselves to gurus and long-time practitioners and think that if we don’t sit perfectly still for at least 2 hours, we are failing at the practice. This is just the opposite of what meditation is supposed to do for our minds and our spirits. True meditation can be done in a variety of ways, and it teaches us not to judge ourselves so harshly.
Below is a simple, but effective guide for beginner’s to reap the benefits of their own personal meditation practice:
1. There are many ways to meditate but to keep it simple, we can break it down to two main ways to practice: stillness or active meditations. Depending on our personality types, one or the other may be easier and more fulfilling.
2. To practice stillness is to find a quiet space where you cannot be interrupted; set the atmosphere by lighting a candle, playing some beautiful soothing music and lighting incense. Set a time for a reasonable amount of minutes; don’t try to overdo it – five minutes to begin is fine. Be certain that you are in comfortable clothing and are in a comfortable position. Enjoy the peacefulness of the present moment for that designated time period.
3. If you are going to practice stillness, do not fight against the ramblings of the mind. It is best to acknowledge every random thought briefly. Notice that it is there and say to yourself, “I just thought about work tomorrow”. Then let it pass, because it always will pass. If you live in the city with noises all around you, you can still practice stillness by using the same technique. If a fire truck goes flying by, say to yourself, “it’s a fire truck”, and then allow it and the thought to pass. Be kind to yourself; do not fight against the mind. With consistent practice, the mind will become more still.
4. Active meditation embodies many other forms of the practice, and chanting is one of those forms. To chant is to repeat a powerful and positive phrase over and over again. There are many ancient phrases from a wide array of spiritual traditions that can be chanted; Buddhist, Hindu and Native American are just a few. You can certainly chant words that have a special spiritual meaning to you, as well.
5. Active meditations can also include, walking, doing yoga asanas (a series of yoga postures), singing, walking a labyrinth, even jogging if it brings you to a place of “now-ness”, the present moment. Many people like to set aside time with a special pet, uninterrupted.
The main key to starting an effective meditation practice is to be consistent and make it a priority in your daily routine. Make it a personal ritual by setting the scene using music, pillows, candles, etc. and creating the atmosphere to receive the rewards of your practice.