Meditation can bring a variety of benefits to your life. You can use it to gain more energy, focus your mind, relax your body, attain peace, rejuvenate your spirit, and many other things. However, meditation is primarily a way to rest and relax your mind.
Meditation allows your mind to go into a deeper, more relaxed stage where you’re more aware of your body and surroundings. There are various methods of meditation, but they all focus on the main goal to quiet your mind and achieve a state of inner calm.
Many religions and philosophies advocate meditation. Meditation is also used as a tool in many activities and for self-help purposes. While all of these things might be rather disparate, the reasons for performing the meditation are rather similar.
Most of us feel we have a reasonable understanding of the practice of meditation, but many of us can’t really describe the actual purpose.
A meditative practice brings you many benefits:
It’s the one time your mind really gets a rest. Your mind is constantly active. It’s thinking about ten different things every 15 seconds. It’s telling you that you need a drink of water. It’s worrying about your date next Saturday and reminding you that you don’t have enough money in your bank account to pay your bills.
Sleep isn’t any better. In your dreams, you’re largely acting and behaving the same way you do while awake. You’re still worrying about the same stuff during your dreams. Sleep is great for resting your body, but it’s not as useful for resting your mind.
In meditation, you create a space where your mind is essentially empty. In many forms of meditation, you focus on one, trivial thing and concentrate all your thoughts on that single item or idea. It’s incredibly relaxing.
You learn how to focus. When you think of meditation, do you imagine someone sitting alone in a quiet room with subdued lighting? This is the easiest way to meditate, with no distractions. It’s like meditation with training wheels. But you could actually be meditating most of the time as well.
It’s easiest to learn to meditate under ideal conditions. Then, try expanding your meditation skills to other activities. You know you can really meditate when you can stay calm, happy, and focused on a loud, hot, busy, subway or train station.
Most of us focus very poorly. Imagine how much better you would feel and how much more you would accomplish if you could stay focused on the activity at hand. Plus, it’s hard to worry if you’re controlling the content of your thoughts.
You can find answers. When your mind is running a hundred miles an hour, it’s difficult to find elegant solutions to your challenges. A brain needs a little space to find effective solutions to tough challenges. Meditation can provide that needed space.
Have you ever noticed that many of your best ideas have come while doing something that occupies your mind in a rather mindless way? Activities like mowing the grass, taking a shower, or driving with little traffic are great for solving problems. Your mind is occupied but free to wander a little. Meditation is similar.
Meditation is healthy. Stress is incredibly hard on the body. Meditation reduces stress, lowers your pulse and blood pressure, and improves sleep.
Meditation can be done quickly. You’d be surprised how much more you can accomplish and how much more enjoyable your day is when you meditate for a few minutes several times a day. Five minutes every hour is a great place to start.
Anyone can use meditation to bring rest and peace into their life. It can also improve your performance. Learn to meditate and enjoy a greater quality of life.
Here are a few tips on getting started…
- Sit up straight. Slouching may be comfortable for a couple of minutes, but it takes more strength than you think to support poor posture. Sit up straight and let your skeleton support your weight.
- Start slowly. Just a couple of minutes is enough to start. There are two good reasons for this. It’s easier to be compliant when you only have to sit for three minutes at a time. It’s also challenging to meditate for an extended period of time if you’re not experienced.
- Meditate multiple times each day. By sitting for just a couple of minutes, you should have time to sit for multiple sessions. You might want to try meditating for a few minutes each hour.
- It’s all about the breath. Your breath connects you to the moment and helps to keep your mind focused. The breath isn’t something to be focused on intensely, rather it acts as an anchor to maintain awareness of the present.
- Count if necessary. If you’re struggling to maintain awareness of your breath, count your breaths. Count each inhalation until you’ve reached five and then start over.
- Keep your eyes opened slightly. It’s easier for your mind to wander from the present if your eyes are closed. Keep your gaze lowered and soft.
- Acknowledge thoughts but avoid dwelling on them. All thoughts should be treated the same. They’re just phenomena passing through. Let them go and return your attention to the breath.
- Be patient. It seems like it should be easy to concentrate for a few minutes, but the mind likes to stay busy. It’s a challenging habit to break. Be patient.
- Sit comfortably. It’s not necessary to sit with your legs folded up like a pretzel. Any position that can be held comfortably for the planned time is good enough.
- Use a timer. Without a timer, you’ll find yourself worrying about the time and continue to peek at the clock. Set a reliable timer and you won’t be as preoccupied with the time.
- Increase your meditation time by 5 minutes each week. Avoid the temptation to progress too quickly. Ideally, you’ll look forward to your meditation sessions. Progressing too quickly causes restlessness and agitation.
- Consider getting expert assistance. There are many free opportunities to meditate with others. Look for local meetups or contact your local Buddhist centre. With so many people meditating, you’re bound to find an expert willing to help.
- Take every opportunity to meditate. Meditating at home under perfect conditions is great practice, but the ultimate goal is to have the ability to meditate anywhere. A skilled meditator can meditate on a 99-degree packed, loud, smelly, subway.
- Be persistent. If you’re meditating each day with the full intention of improving, you’ll eventually become a skilled meditator.
- Stretch first. Your meditation position should be comfortable and easy. If your position feels like a stretch, you won’t be comfortable. Stretch first.
- There’s no reason to be concerned about your hands. Just place your hands comfortably on your lap. Allowing your hands to be lower can eventually pull down on the shoulders and become uncomfortable.
When you think about meditation, you may automatically picture yourself sitting down, but meditating while walking is another useful option.
Consider these benefits of walking meditation and suggestions for how to get started.
Benefits of Walking Meditation
- Learn a popular technique. Walking meditation is a common variation that you’re likely to encounter at many retreat centers. By getting acquainted with this method, you’ll be ready to join in.
- Get off to a good start. Beginners may find it uncomfortable to sit for long periods. Taking a stroll provides a different approach to launching a meditation practice.
- Reduce agitation. When stress builds up, you may prefer to keep moving around. Rather than skipping a session completely, just stay on your feet.
- Manage fatigue. It's easy to nod off if you were up all night finishing a report or nursing a sick child. Remaining erect is likely to keep you more alert until you can get the rest you need.
- Exercise more. Meditation can be good for your body as well as your mind. Every bit of physical activity counts when it comes to staying fit. A walking meditation of 15 minutes to an hour is a gentle, but effective, workout.
- Integrate mindfulness into ordinary activities. One purpose of meditation is to develop a clearer mind that you can rely on all day long. When you get used to walking while meditating, you’ll become more skilled at generating positive thoughts in any setting.
How to Practice Walking Meditation
- Create a path. Lay out a route for yourself. You could walk around your living room or visit a local park. If you stick to an area you know well, it will be easier to minimize distractions.
- Focus on your feet. Start out by noting each step. Over time, you’ll become more aware of the many individual movements involved. Imagine that your soles are caressing the earth.
- Pace yourself. Most people find that a slower pace is conducive to becoming more deliberate and attentive. You may want to start out walking the way you usually do and gradually ease up.
- Lower your eyes. Try keeping your eyes half shut and softly aimed at the ground a couple of feet ahead of you. If you’re in a spot where there are too many obstacles to do this, relax and enjoy the scenery.
- Position your arms. Lower your shoulders and let your arms hang easily along the side of your body. Clasp your hands gently in front of your lower abdomen.
- Welcome a smile to your face. Let a smile well up from within. Visualize pleasant and soothing images like flower gardens and snowy mountains.
- Quiet down. Leave your earphones at home. Put aside your plans for the evening. Observe the stillness in your mind.
- Take full breaths. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Feel your abdomen rise and fall. Gradually synchronize your footsteps and your breath in whatever pattern is natural and sustainable.
- Prepare for sitting meditation. Walking meditation is an ideal transition to a sitting meditation. A brief walking meditation session will help you clear your head and dissolve tension in your body so you can concentrate better.
- Alternate between walking and sitting. Another good use for walking meditation is to make it a supplement to your sitting practice. If your foot gets a cramp or you just want to move around, meditating on your feet will help you extend your practice time.
Diversify your practice by meditating while walking. It will help you apply mindfulness to more of your daily routine so that you can enjoy greater peace and contentment.