Whether you are into yoga or not, learning how to meditate is something I would recommend to everyone! It may sound mystical but in fact it’s quite simple and you have probably done it already without knowing it.
Sit down and quiet the mind
Have you ever sat down and remained quiet for a few minutes without thinking? Just being in the present moment? Well, in short – that is how to meditate. Of course there are many levels of meditation, and with practice you reach higher levels of consciousness. Actually, “real” meditation is something only experienced yogis have managed to reach, but at least trying to practice how to meditate for a few minutes a day is a great start. You will notice the benefits immediately!
Meditation is essentially a part of Raja Yoga which was first described as an eightfold or eight-limbed (aṣṭānga, ashtanga) path in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, and is part of the Samkhya tradition.
The eight virtues of ashtanga yoga:
Yama – code of conduct, self-restraint
Niyama – religious observances, commitments to practice, such as study and devotion
Āsana – integration of mind and body through physical activity
Prāṇāyāma – regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body
Pratyāhāra – abstraction of the senses, withdrawal of the senses of perception from their objects
Dhāraṇā – concentration, one-pointedness of mind
Dhyāna – meditation (quiet activity that leads to samadhi)
Samādhi – the quiet state of blissful awareness, superconscious state.
Samādhi is actually the final step and the deepest meditation one can reach. It would be perfect to follow all the steps because they help one reach the final steps easier. But but for those of us that hadn’t chosen to be a yogi, i suggest to start learning how to meditate with Pratyāhāra.
It is basically going within. Close your eyes to focus deeply and listen to your breathing.
How to reach the bliss within?
Focus on the breathing so your focus isn’t on your body or your senses. Dhāraṇā, concentration is the next step which helps us get deeper into meditation, because it’s important to be focused on one point only. By focusing on one point your mind doesn’t wonder. If it starts wondering, then let the thoughts, emotions pass bay and try to return to that one point. Dhyāna, or meditation is when you go within and no longer notice the problems occupying the mind.
You have entered a deeper state of mind, found inner peace, you no longer feel the body and your consciousness has expanded…In other words, after practicing a few times you will start feeling bliss. And just a few minutes a day really do make a difference!
Start with a few minutes (2-5min), in time expand to 10-15min, then 30-45min, etc. The point is that eventually you will want to stay longer in this state of bliss, but for all those working people who have really busy schedule its not always possible. Use those 5 minutes a day regularly to go within. You will benefit immensely from this!
After a while (or even after the first meditation – if you did it right!) you will notice a difference. You will be calmer, more peaceful, you will have better focus, less anxiety, better memory, more creativity and compassion, less stress and generally – you will feel better.
Are the benefits really something we can feel or see?
I used to be a very edgy person, with a short fuse. My mind was going really fast and I couldn’t really keep up with my thoughts, but with meditation everything fell into place. I like to stay – I defragmented my hard drive and cleaned up space because it seriously felt that way! I could see thing more clearly, had better focus, I could reach the information stored on the “hard drive” more easily and felt much more at peace. When I start my day with meditation nothing can really upset me or throw me out of balance. I am a much happier person now. 🙂
I love how science today helps us prove all the benefits of something that was known to be good for people for thousands of years! One thing I will mention is that it was proven that through meditation we gain more gray matter. More gray matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life. Meditation has also been shown to diminish age-related effects on gray matter and reduce the decline of our cognitive functioning.
Check out more info about concrete science studies on this website.
The basic rundown of how to meditate?
I have researched and experienced different kinds of meditations and have come to a simple conclusion. The point of all meditations is to be focused on one point, don’t get attached to your thoughts and simply observe. Be the observer – not the protagonist! Of course there are different methods of doing this, which help us be more focused and stay within.
Here are some ways you can try meditating:
- Follow your breath – focus on inhale and exhale – just observe
- Use a mantra – if you don’t have a mantra try using “Soham”. It is the Sanskrit expression for “I am That”. According to Vedic philosophy it is identifying oneself with the universe. It is a good mantra used to control your breath and help with the concentration. Think of “Soooo” when you inhale and “Hummmmm” when you exhale.
- Use guided meditations – you can find plenty of guided meditations on Youtube, which is quite helpful when you are unable to concentrate, because you have to listen to the voice and follow instructions. Deepak Chopra has teamed up with Oprah and created many guided meditations, often for free (during meditation challenges) so you can check those out. I found it useful to use meditations with binaural or isochronic beats which additionally help you relax and focus better (more info on that in another post)
- Focus on your Third eye (6th Chakra – Ajna) – the point between your eyebrows linked to the pineal gland. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level. It helps to stay focused on that point when your mind starts wondering!
You may want to play meditative music, light a incense and candles, or simply stay in silence. Choose what feels right for you but find a quiet space, make yourself comfortable, and most importantly sit straight! Try to keep your spine in the upright position and pelvis turned downwards. If necessarily, lean on the wall to help you stay straight.
Here is a simple guided meditation designed to balance your chakras and get centered! Enjoy!
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