Meditation is a common and easily accessible way of quieting the mind and helping us refocus. Meditation is an intentional means of changing the way the water flows – consciously changing the direction of the mind and focusing on the moment at hand.
In the busyness of life, obtaining a quieter state of mind is a necessity for mental, physical and spiritual health. Meditation is the practice of turning our attention away from distracting or disturbing thoughts and re-focusing on the present moment in a calmer state of mind. It can involve focusing on the breath or bodily sensations. Some people choose a word or phrase, known as a mantra, to focus their attention. Ultimately, meditation can help us obtain a refreshed and more objective perspective.
Our minds often wander or jump from one thing to the next. Some people worry about the future, give a lot of mental energy to the past, or just daydream. Meditation brings us back to the present moment, cultivating awareness of what is at this moment. This allows us to step out of a thought, observe it, and come back to the moment with more clarity.
Learning to meditate is like learning any other skill. It takes time to determine what works best for us and to create discipline in our busy schedule. It’s like introducing a new work-out program – it takes time to adjust and time for it to become second nature. With regular practice and commitment, it becomes more comfortable.
Some basic suggestions to start practicing meditation include:
- Find a place where you can sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so; if not, close them partially.
- Breathe naturally and comfortably.
- Focus your attention on your breath and on the inhaling and exhaling.
- Just notice and release any distracting thoughts that may pop up.
- Return your focus back to your breath.
It is normal during meditation for your mind to roam. You may notice other sensations in the body, things happening around you, or just getting lost in thought. When this happens, simply notice what it is you were thinking about or what was distracting you, then take a moment, pause, and return to observing your breathing.
Try to set a specific time for your meditation and create a routine to get more at ease with it. It’s ok to start with a few times a week and work up to a few minutes a day. Notice any shifts or improvements in your overall sense of well-being. You may also want to jot them down to see the progress you are making and the benefits you experience.
You can practice meditation on your own anytime and anywhere. Listening to basic guided meditations can also be helpful, especially when getting started. Instructions from an experienced teacher can help remind us to come back to the present moment, let go of distracting thoughts, and not be so hard on ourselves.
UCLA Mindful Awareness Resource Center
Meditation has been shown to increase brain function, assist in emotional regulation, and increase positive emotions. Many people have been helped with improved self-control; and others find help with focus, attention and memory. It has produced beneficial results for many who have implemented the practice in their lives.
Patti Hall, M.S., LMHC, CAC, CSAT