What is meditation?

You may be thinking meditation is only for bald Tibetan men who don’t have a care in the world. You may assume “there can’t be any real benefits to sitting down doing nothing”, even health organisations keep warning us about sitting too much! But actually, it seems as though those level-headed monks are onto something.

Meditation has been scientifically proved in hundreds of studies to have natural health and life benefits. So it could be of some use to everyone around the world, even the ‘not so spiritual’. Meditation is all about training your awareness, not by stopping your thoughts but by observing them as they pass by, without any judgment whatsoever. That is the goal.

Meditation is a process where you become fully engaged at the moment. Entirely focused on what is happening right now, not focusing on the future or the past. Meditation is like any other skill; you become better and more comfortable with practice.

However, nobody will ever achieve “perfect” meditation because there will always be at least one thought that you fall into. This doesn’t matter; what matters is becoming less affected by these thoughts and not letting them control you.

Types of meditation:

There are a variety of ways to carry out the process of meditation. They all have the same goal, as mentioned above, but they sometimes produce subtly different results.

Loving-kindness meditation:

The difference here is the goal is to develop a loving attitude toward everything, even to your enemies and the people who cause you severe stress. Through deep breathing, the mind is opened up to receive love and kindness, and then it is sent out toward everything, bad or good. The key is to repeat it until it starts to feel authentic. This is a great way to improve empathy and compassion for others and would be great for someone prone to anger and resentment.

Progressive relaxation meditation:

This is a style of meditation where scanning the body to find any tension is encouraged. The goal is to locate the pressure, focus on it and then let it go. Usually starting at the feet or head and moving to the opposite end of the body, sometimes tensing and relaxing the muscles, sometimes visualizing water rising from the toes, but all working in the same way. This type is beneficial for creating a calm, relaxed feeling and is very helpful for sleep and anxiety.

Guided meditation:

Guided meditation involves meditating while being in the presence of a trained practitioner or teacher. This can be done via written text, recorded audio or audiovisual media. This process is beneficial if you are new to meditation as it allows for results in the fastest way.

Mindfulness meditation:

This is where the focus is to remain aware and present to the moment. Not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future but being totally in the now. This is often done by focusing on something in your surroundings while not judging at all. The beauty of this is that it can be done anywhere; simply shift your focus on whatever is around you at a particular time. Using every sense to feel the environment around is encouraged. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. This is the most studied type of meditation as it is common in many other forms.

Breathing meditation:

This involves being very aware of the breath, and focus is directed at the feeling of each exhalation and inhalation. I am sometimes counting, sometimes just breathing but always profound and slow breaths. Ideally, any thoughts are ignored, and focus is shifted back onto the puff. This is very helpful in feeling in control as well as reducing anxiety.

Transcendental meditation:

This is a very spiritual form of meditation. The aim is to rise above your state of being and focus entirely on a mantra, repeating a series of words over and over. This can only be done with a teacher because of the complexities involved.  Sometimes people report spiritual experiences as well as increased mindfulness with this type of meditation.

Kundalini yoga:

This is a physically active meditation. It involves deep breathing, poses, and mantras. You can do the poses at home or with a teacher, either way, it improves strength, reduces anxiety and increases focus. One study was also where a subject with lower-back pain was reduced significantly through this type of meditation.

Self-inquiry meditation:

This is a very ego focused form of meditation, where you begin to question who you are. As you continue to meditate, the idea is to find your true self behind your ego so you can live a happier, more authentic life. This type of meditation is very good at bringing about inner peace. However, it is pretty hard to follow for someone new.

Zen meditation:

This is a form of meditation that is closely linked to Buddhism. It is necessary to study this type with a teacher because many steps and postures need to be mastered to have a good effect. The aim is to sit comfortably, focus on your breath and observe your thoughts. Just watch them like watching the sky; sometimes it is cloudy, sometimes it is more apparent. You don’t judge the ideas. Just focus on protecting them from a different perspective.

The benefits of meditation

Extensive research has been done on meditation over the years, with most conclusions being very positive. It has been shown to reduce negative emotions, improve focus, improve memory, and improve relationship satisfaction. People often report less fear of loneliness, less depression, increased resilience against pain, better cognitive abilities and creative thinking.

There has also been a link between better health and meditation; it improves the immune system, improves blood pressure, lessens inflammation and even prevents arthritis. This list goes on and on; the evidence seems to be stacking up favouring meditation being much more than a spiritual gimmick.

Why guided meditation?

Meditation is a powerful tool in improving your health, relationships, and lifestyle, but it can be hard to make it into a habit; sometimes, people new to it get turned off because they don’t see immediate results. It can also be uncomfortable initially as it involves sitting with many negative thoughts and feelings that you may have been living with for years. People often struggle to open their minds up past this resistance.

This is where guided meditation comes in. This involves some sort of outside help to push you in the right direction. Like a driving instructor teaching his student to drive, it’s the same thing. A teacher can show you the mistakes you are making and get you results much faster. They will understand the techniques and signs of what you are going through and help you develop your new skill.

After a while, once you have got past the initial uncomfortable phase of meditation, you will start to look forward to it; you will want that 20 minutes to relax, observe your thoughts and become more aware. Guided meditation can get you there much faster with a lot less frustration.

The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are harmful, and 95% are the same repetitive thoughts as before. Of these repeated thoughts, 80% are negative.

Discover the powerful concept of clarity and end these negative thoughts.

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