Meditation practice has been around for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations used it to nurture mental and spiritual growth, trying to tap into the divine, invisible and unreachable in everyday mundane life.
We have what Buddha termed “monkey mind,” with racing thoughts and emotions. These resemble attention-seeking monkeys who are jumping and shouting all over the place. Meditation teaches us to quiet these intrusive thoughts and negative emotions, like fear or worry.
What is truly fascinating is that meditation has not only made it up to the 21st century, but it is becoming more and more popular thanks to all the A-list celebrities practicing it, like Sir Paul McCartney, Will Smith, Uma Thurman and Jessica Alba among others. Aside from actors and musicians, an increasing number of top- level politicians and managers meditate to manage everyday stress.
Meditation isn’t just another wellness and self-help fad. It is a time-proven form of mental hygiene and a powerful tool for keeping your cool “when all around you are losing theirs” as Kipling famously put it.
How to meditate for beginners is made super simple here, so all of you busy ladies with toddlers running around or a challenging business day ahead can follow the steps toward the coveted inner peace.
1. The Time
Early morning works best. The philosophy behind this is to be in sync with the awakening nature, the Sun, the trees and the birds. More importantly, just after waking up and becoming conscious you are closest to the real you. Your being is as isolated from the outer world and information overload. When you cleanse your mind first thing in the morning, your entire day will be a radically new experience, with fewer tensions and conflicts with others.
As it is optimal to meditate twice a day, the second best meditation time is just before going to bed. In this way, when you do it properly, sound, rejuvenating sleep will bridge the night over. Meditation will therefore help you get rid of mental clutter.
More practical reasons for the suggested timing include your kids being asleep early in the morning and later in the evening, your professional and social activities at bay, so you’ll find it easier to stick to meditation.
2. The Place
As meditation should become another of your daily activities, it’s best to allocate it a special place that will put you in the meditative mood instantly. For me, the bedroom works best. The quieter it is – the better. You can even use incense or spray the room with a solution of water and some essential oil of your choice. Lavender is perfect for relaxation. Depending on the type of meditation, you will use the floor, the bed or a comfortable chair. Once you become a bit more advanced, you can incorporate dynamic or active meditation which requires moving in a standing position.
Meditation can also take place in nature, so if you’re blessed with a nice lush backyard garden with no curious neighbors and noisy pets around, go out and try meditating at sunrise with birds’ chirping as the background sound.
By far the most important element of all forms of meditation is breath. This is tricky ground, as the famous phrase “take a deep breath” can be misleading. You don’t want to get in a state of hyperventilation, because taking in too much oxygen creates imbalance in your body chemistry. Ending up with a panic attack would be just the opposite of why you wanted to meditate. This is why it is essential to learn a proper breathing technique. Pranayama breathing is suitable for meditation because it eases thought control via breath control, while it increases your lung capacity which is a wonderful health benefit. However, if you suffer from a chronic health condition or an acute health issue, stick to your normal, relaxed breathing pattern. Breath counting alone will help you tame your mind.
Most meditation tutors recommend sitting position with your spine, neck and head lined up and erect. However, checking up on your posture can be distracting. This is why I find Savasana lying position the best introduction to how to meditate for beginners. You only need to take care of the body alignment as you start this super relaxing yoga position, or asana. Later on, you simply remain passive and relaxed, while the sitting position requires constant posture focus to make sure your shoulders don’t slouch and your head doesn’t drop.
After a week of relaxing in lying position, when you’ve gained basic thought control skills, you can start meditating in a comfortable but erect sitting position.
To relax completely in either the lying or sitting position, visualize warm waves of relaxation climbing up from your toes slowly into your shins, knees, thighs and all the way up to your crown, removing all tension from facial muscles as well. Every time you exhale, let the new wave move onto the next body section. Savasana is very efficient for practicing self awareness, aside from decreasing tension so much that you can easily fall asleep within the recommended 20 minutes of practice. The very end of your busy day is therefore perfect for this type of meditation.
5. Increased Self-Awareness
The aim of meditation is to bring you into a state of raised awareness of your body, emotions and mental processes, making you a spectator. It can be a little scary when you realize for the first time that your consciousness, the real you, is separate from your everyday emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. This has a therapeutic effect, because it detaches you from all the daily stressors, showing the big picture and our spiritual nature.
Dr. Herbert Benson, a founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, and other scientists found that meditation affects the autonomic nervous system, a small part of the limbic system called amygdala, and hippocampus. Different types of meditation (religious prayer, mantra word repetition, focusing on a physical object or counting technique) trigger the “relaxation response”. This neural reaction creates the feeling of serenity, universal for all religious systems throughout human history.
As a modern day woman, you will appreciate stress- reducing effects of this altered state of mind. Moreover, the “relaxation response” will boost your mental clarity and the ability to focus, so you can start your day fully charged.
There are no excuses: set your alarm 20 minutes earlier than usual to meditate and a busy morning, including a school run or another rush hour commuting will become less of a challenge.