by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
So, what is meditation?
At its most basic level, meditation is simply a practice in mindfulness. Mindfulness is a conscious effort to be aware of yourself, your breathing, and your thoughts. In any given day, you will be inundated with information; television, the internet, billboards, your Twitter feed, even the cashier at the grocery store. It’s unavoidable and unstoppable. Unbidden, thoughts come up as you put out the light at night. Sleep eludes you as you try and keep up with all of the things you need to remember to do. Quieting the mind, through meditation, lessens the effects all of these thoughts can have on your physical and emotional state. Meditation costs nothing, is easy to do, and can work wonders for the overstressed mind and body.
Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on what is happening at this very moment. When thoughts arise about something that has happened in the past or may happen in the future, notice them but gently bring your mind back to the present. Mindfulness is an emotionally neutral state. Experiences are not judged as either good or bad – they simply are. Notice them as you would a cloud passing by, but give them no more weight than that. Accept whatever it is that arises, let it pass through you, then let it go. It no longer exists.
There is no right way or wrong way to practice meditation. There are not set time limits for it either. You can meditate with your eyes open or closed, which ever is easiest for you. You can use mental imagery, play music softly in the background, or even chant a word or mantra. You can spend as much or as little time meditating as you need. The key is to be consistent in your practice. Over time, you will begin to notice that you are less stressed and angry, that you have more energy, your mind is clearer, you are sleeping better, you have lower blood pressure, and you experience an overall feeling of peace and contentment. That’s a pretty terrific return on a small daily investment!