Science-based studies have shown that through meditation we can develop more compassion, reduce physical and emotional pain, and relieve stress and anxiety. Through meditation clarity in our lives becomes more crystalline. We all have our own reasons for beginning a meditation practice. Whatever yours is, you can find immediate results and peace. Scroll down to embark on a personal journey to wellness, healing and transformation.
The Guru is Within
This guide is designed to get you meditating right away. You don’t need to enroll in expensive classes or travel the world in search of gurus in exotic lands—although if those interest you I encourage you to investigate them! These techniques are for people living in the real world.
The truth is, you already have a guru. It’s inside you! Yes, really. Deep within each one of us we are expressions of the Divine universe. When we peel away a lifetime of ego, conditioning and expectations we get to our core of unbounded consciousness. And it’s available to everyone!
As your practice unfolds, you will experience the benefits of life that may have eluded you in the past. A calmness, sense of joy and inner radiance will radiate from you. Don’t feel discouraged if things don’t go perfectly in the beginning. It’s called a practice for a reason and it develops and grows with time. Just keep with it!
What is Meditation?
There have been different kinds of techniques used to quiet the mind for thousands of years. Different cultures and religious orientations have their own ways but basically, the process is about expanding the state of consciousness. These practices can include any number of things, such as chanting, dancing, breathing, listening to music, healing touch, and meditation.
Meditation is simply experiencing present-moment awareness while not doing anything. It’s a state of restful alertness. During the stillness, you can find that expanded consciousness. At first it might be for a second. That’s ok! With an everyday practice that time will increase. The concept is simple in theory but more challenging in practice. When you make a commitment to meditation, it becomes easier to connect with your inner being.
As the days, weeks and months pass, you’ll notice the quieting affect meditation has on your mind and body. Thoughts and decisions become more intuitive. Eventually, you’ll realize that you possess heightened clarity and deeper consciousness.
Over time, your life will open the way to a deeper sense of your true Self. When on this path you can experience the infinite core of who you are. All the masks, roles and ego drop away and you’ll find you’re living a more authentic life.
Meditation impacts your health, as well. Studies have shown that meditation can help relieve anxiety, pain and stress. It also helps with sleep and cognitive function. MRIs have even displayed positive changes in the brain over the course of a couple of months.
Different people have different ways of defining what higher consciousness means. Because of that it can cause some confusion. It’s also a term that turns a lot of people off. But it doesn’t have to! It’s actually a pretty easy concept.
On a daily basis, we focus mostly on ourselves and the practicality of getting through everyday life. Think of it as one of the brain’s survival tactics. But when we quiet our minds and bodies, we can tap into what scientists call the neocortex, which is responsible for the higher functions of our brains. And here we find our higher consciousness!
When our brains move beyond our own self-interests, the world opens up. In a state of higher consciousness we’re more intuitive and empathetic. We understand other people on a much deeper level. We can even connect with nature better. This is when gurus would say we meet our true Self and are tapping into our spirituality. These states of higher consciousness aren’t meant to last, but we can still make the most of them! We can utilize the insights that come to us during our states of higher consciousness.
How to Begin
Every day is a choice. Since I committed to my practice I’ve made it a priority to meditate every morning and most nights. Since then my life has unfolded in amazing ways, but the persistence is one of the most important factors. Don’t worry about perfection. Just begin to practice.
Start by finding a comfortable place to sit. This can be anything that works for you—a chair, couch, on the floor. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re relaxed and can sit undisturbed. Become aware of your breath, feeling your chest rise and fall slowly. As you breathe through your nose, allow your belly to fill as you inhale. Exhale and release. Do this for about a minute and observe—I am breathing in. I am holding my breath for a second. I am breathing out. Maintain this for a few minutes.
Now become aware of your physical body. Are you relaxed? Tense? Are you hot or cold? Let that awareness drift over the different parts of your body. How does that feel? Your awareness dictates your experience. If you haven’t already, go ahead and close your eyes. It tends to help with lessening the stimuli around you. This is just the beginning.
There are many different types of meditation. Let’s explore a few of them and find the right one for you.
This is where I got my start. If I can do it—you can do it! Biofeedback just means that you’re becoming aware of physiological functions by monitoring them. Generally, you can observe your progress on a computer monitor. We can watch the changes in pulse, breath and brain frequency. This is a great way to lessen stress and anxiety.
Let’s start with an example of what it’s like. Inhale slowly through your nose and count to four. Hold your breath and count to four again. Now exhale to the count of four, then count to four one last time. Repeat this process eight times.
When using an open-eyed meditation, softly focus or gaze at a point to hold your attention. It can be just about anything, including the end of your nose. The object isn’t what’s important. The idea is to draw your attention away from anything that might distract you.
- Breathe in and hold for a few seconds. Slowly exhale through your nose. Continue to breathe in and out, slowly and deeply. Do this a few times and let your gaze drift to the end of your nose. Feel your eyes cross and relax. Breathe in and out for a few beats.
- Bring your awareness up to your third eye (the middle of your forehead). Gently open and close your eyes. Do this for about a minute.
- Continue this process. Letting your gaze stay soft, focus on your naval and look within yourself. Then let your attention drift to your thumbs, then your hands, and then your toes. Continue breathing in and out, and holding a few beats.
- Next let your gaze move to the right as though you wanted to see your ear. Don’t move your head. Just your eyes! Breathe, hold. Now your left side. After gazing to the left for a minute or so, bring your forward. Hold.
- Now gaze upward. Hold. Now you can close your eyes and sit with the process for a few minutes.
Like the name suggests, sensory meditation focuses on taking in the world through our five senses. When we fully experience our senses, we are more aware and can be more present in the moment.
One of my favorite sensory meditations is chocolate—really! The sweet taste and aroma are like experiential immersions but they can serve as a gateway to present-moment awareness. You can do this with almost anything. Some people might prefer incense, a forest, the ocean, rain. Anything. You can also simply do this with a mindful meal. Turn off the TV. Shut your phone off and really focus on your meal. Take note of the textures, the aromas, the flavors. You’ll soon find that your present-moment awareness has increased, almost as though you are one with your meal.
Mantra is a word that comes from two Sanskrit words: man means “mind” and tra means “vehicle.” So mantra quite literally means “mind vehicle.” With mantra meditation, we use a mantra as a sound, syllable or vibration. They don’t necessarily have a meaning—like words—so they are free from associations. For this reason, we can use them to go deeper.
There are many mantras but “om” is often called the hymn of the universe so we’ll use this one as an example.
Breathe in through your nose, hold it and then slowly release it. Repeat. Say om out loud and feel the vibration. Now whisper it. Om. And now begin saying it silently to yourself.
Close your eyes and repeat om over and over. During this process, you may find that your attention drifts away or sounds interfere. That’s OK. Just gently bring your attention back to your mantra.
Your Journey is Unique
These are just a few of the ways to get started. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to begin your journey. Every person’s meditation practice is different so don’t get discouraged if someone else’s technique doesn’t work for you. Just keep experimenting and you will find what works. And don’t overdo it. If you overwhelm yourself or demand results right away you’ll lose focus. And that’s counterproductive! Take it easy and continue learning about meditation and yourself. Just commit to a few minutes a day and watch your life begin to transform!