I’ll admit it: I’m a skeptic about most things. I was never big into astrology, don’t believe in past lives, and eschew new-agey pseudoscience. When my friends and coworkers tried to get me into meditation, I pictured sitting cross-legged beneath a tree while my psyche transcends into a mystical nirvana and simply couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough at the thought that people were actually wasting their time sitting and doing nothing.
It turns out that there’s so much more to meditation than my close-minded initial judgment could have ever thought.
Meditation isn’t just for yogis. A consistent meditation practice can benefit anyone, especially if you’re dealing with work stress, a big life transition, or hoping to gain more clarity and peace in your life. Here is everything that a meditation newbie should know if they’re curious about getting started or are still feeling skeptical:
What comes to your mind when you first hear the word “meditation?” It probably conjures up images of Buddhist monks or tie-dye clad hippies sitting cross-legged while happily chanting away, right? That’s not exactly what meditation is.
Meditation isn’t about clearing your mind to be a blank slate; it’s about staying in the moment and taking in what’s around you — your breath, your body, how it connects to the ground beneath you. There is no right way to meditate, and no specific time it will take or position you need to take. Simply sit somewhere comfortably, close your eyes or keep a soft focus, and focus on your breathing in and out. Really — that’s it! When you feel your mind wandering, recognize that you’ve wandered and try to bring your focus back to the breath. If you feel yourself getting bored, notice it and try to focus on breathing in and out.
Here’s the thing: meditation is all about failure. You’re not supposed to sit down to meditate for the first time and emerge two hours later completely enlightened. It’s all about forgetting your to-do lists, regrets from the past, worries for the future, and living the moment.
It is estimated that the human brain has about 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day. Your mind is always thinking, wondering, reacting… but have you ever felt like you need a break from your never-ending thoughtstorm that isn’t always productive? Meditation practitioners report being more in touch with their emotions, which leads to healthier and improved relationships. Let’s be honest — who doesn’t need a little emotional clarity in their life?
In addition to increased emotional intelligence, meditation has been shown to have incredible health benefits like reduced anxiety and stress levels, improved sleep quality, and even reduced blood pressure. While meditation is not a cure-all, it is a wonderful tool to help you cope with the pressures that come with being a human in modern society.
Types of Meditation
There are hundreds of different meditations available today ranging from anger management to bodily awareness, so you’re sure to find one that speaks to you. Here are a few of the most common options to cut your teeth in the world of meditation:
In our culture of busyness, mindfulness meditation is a great way to practice letting go of the to-do list and focusing on the present. Mindfulness meditation doesn’t require any equipment or guidance, making it a great option if you’re looking to fit in some self-care into a jam-packed schedule.
Transcendental meditation is most closely related to the stereotypical depiction of meditation, allowing you to transcend beyond yourself to a higher plane. In this form of meditation, the focus is less on breathing and focusing on a certain mantra or goal. You don’t have to be trying to reach enlightenment to practice this type of meditation, as it can help you work toward a specific outcome.
If you’re an absolute beginner, taking a guided meditation class or downloading an app like Headspace can be helpful to get started. There are hundreds of guided meditations available online, so if you’re looking to work through a specific problem, you’re sure to find one that works for you.