Meditation is the practice of training the mind. By concentrating on a single sound, object, or movement, you increase awareness of the present moment and obtain a deep feeling of serenity, positivity, and peace. And you don’t need to commit a huge amount of time to see results: just a few minutes of meditation every day can leave you feeling like a new person.
Isn’t meditation the domain of monks and yogis?
The history of meditation goes back thousands of years and spans virtually every religion. One of the forms most recognisable to us today is the Hindu practice of yoga. Though in the West we’ve come to view yoga as a way to tone our bodies, it was originally practiced as a warm-up to meditation, to gain awareness of one’s inner self and tone the mind. Buddhist monks have long practiced meditation as a path to enlightenment, or Nirvana. In Daoism, the practice is integral to many forms of Chinese martial arts.
The good news is that you don’t have to be an enlightened yogi or transcendent monk to reap the benefits of meditation. The practice has always been on the fringe in the West but has gained serious traction in recent years, as many people have begun to move away from the frantic, always-on-the-go pace of modern life towards a simpler, calmer existence.
And they’re in good company.
From the Beatles and their well-documented Maharishi days to modern musicians like Katy Perry and Josh Homme; from Hollywood heavyweights like Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, and Naomi Watts to business moguls such as Oprah Winfrey and Russell Simmons, celebrities have a long history with the practice.
What are some of the benefits? Is it worth my time?
The health benefits associated with meditation are impressive: It can diminish chronic mental disorders like anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and substance abuse issues, and help treat and prevent stress-related conditions like ulcers, hypertension, and migraines. It has been shown to reduce the symptoms of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.
Many cancer patients have credited meditation with alleviating their symptoms and aiding in their recovery. Day to day, it provides those who practice it with a sense of calmness, empathy, and understanding of one’s feelings and actions, leading to a sense of increased confidence and control.
Sounds great. But where do I start?
Meditation can be practiced virtually anywhere, anytime, with a variety of techniques. If you can focus, you can meditate.
Here’s a basic seven-minute primer to start you off:
- If you can, find a peaceful and quiet spot to sit comfortably or lie down. Turn off mobile devices or anything that might distract you. This will be especially helpful for beginners, as your mind won’t yet be adept at ignoring outside stimuli.
- Close your eyes and focus on your body – become aware of every part of it, from your toes to the top of your head, and how it feels. If outside thoughts start creeping in, don’t get frustrated – just gently push them away and move your thoughts back to your body.
- Breathe deeply and evenly from your diaphragm, and focus on the way your breath feels as it moves through your body, in and out of your lungs, over your spine.
Practice this for 30 days and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier you.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with meditation! Share your tips, tricks, and positive stories below.
Russell Simmons new book “Success Through Stillness”