In actuality, meditation is an activity that embarks on the quest of silencing the mind to embrace the power and complexities of the universe. Many religions practice meditation; Paganism, Judaism, Buddhism, & Hinduism for example. However, meditation is also used in many non-religious applications such as yoga and therapy. As we all know, mediation has a large variety of benefits and has been the center of some extensive scientific research, some proven benefits are listed below:
- Improves digestion & blood pressure (Harvard Medical School) Boosts creativity (Science Daily, 2010) Increases pain tolerance & improves mental processing (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 2010) Effectively relieves chronic pain. (Clinical Journal of Pain 2(1986): 159-173.) Decreases the risk of heart attack (The Stroke Journal, 2009) Helps overcome anxiety, depression, & anger (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2009) Improves sexual interactions (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009) Promotes weight loss (Journal Emotion, 2007) Increases focus & attention (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007) Increases the size of your brain (Harvard University Gazette, 2006) Overcoming stress (University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2003)
It's likely that your day-to-day life is full of unending distractions and that it's hard to get even a moment of peace. This is completely understandable in a world where everyone has such stimulated and busy lives, but when you prepare to meditate it's important to find a space where you can be removed from these distractions to ensure that you get the best experience out of your session. To begin this task, first decide whether you wish to hold your session inside or outside.
If you choose to hold it inside, make sure to find a quiet room away from any disturbances. Turn off the television, cell phone, computer, iPad, and any other electronics. If you can, turn off the lights as well, or light some soothing candles/incense. Lastly, make preparations with roommates, and finish any work beforehand to minimize disturbances.
If you wish to meditate outside, plan your excursion in accordance with the weather and temperature so you can be comfortable while outside. Comfort is essential when meditating, and should be a top priority while meditating. You need to be comfortable with the sights, smells, tastes, feelings and sounds in your environment to provide the best experience possible. Once you've found a suitable place, sit comfortably, close your eyes if you wish, and begin.
In addition to being comfortable, breathing is another important aspect of meditation. Start by taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose, and out through your mouth. As you inhale through your nose, let the air completely fill your lungs before exhaling through your mouth. With each breath, imagine tranquil energies being taken into your body, and with each exhalation anxious & excitable energies being pushed out into the universe. Remind yourself that there is no need to rush or worry. If you find yourself having trouble with sitting still, shake your arms and feet a bit, and then return to meditating. After a few minutes, this should leave you feeling physically calm and relaxed.
Once you reach this state, the next step is to quiet your mind of random and spontaneous thoughts. Begin by observing the natural thoughts that enter your mind, don't try to change or alter them, just acknowledge them. After a while, try to calm your mind, and slowly remove any stray thoughts. Don't try to instantly remove all of your stray thoughts, rather remove them gradually so that it will be more manageable. Once you have completed this, you should feel calm and at peace. You now have the choice to continue on with your day or to remain in the tranquil atmosphere you have created for as long as you wish. If you desire, you can now take this opportunity to reflect on your life actions and choices, or perhaps give undisturbed thought to a situation/question in your life. At this point, you may do whatever pleases you.
I suggest meditating for at least 30 minutes today and then 15 minutes each day after for a month. In truth, 15 minutes is only a small fraction of your day and despite the busy schedule you might lead, you will have enough time to finish a short session. When you have finished your first try at Meditation I would suggest you write up a small summary of what happened, how it felt, etc. and add it to your Book Of Shadows. (Or save it for future Book of Shadows)