‘Whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. What is soft is strong.’Lao Tzu
What is meditation? What does meditation do? What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has many varied elements and styles, and is a simple and elegant practice with many health benefits. However, meditation can be greatly misunderstood; you do not need to take a defined pose and nor do you need to reach ‘enlightenment,’ or join a particular way of living. You may meditate for five minutes focusing on your breath just simply to help bring a state of calm or you may practice a particular type of meditation for compassion, or you may go on a very deep journey with a particular meditation practice. Meditation helps us to become more centered, calm, have a greater understanding of our emotions, and gives us a foundation of clarity to make healthier life choices.
What Is Meditation?
There can be so much information on meditation with so many varying forms. What is meditation?
There are many forms of meditation and there can be subtle overlaps. Meditation in essence is a practice that helps an individuals become more centered i.e. More calm and grounded, moving away from stressors and anxieties in a healthy way. Certain meditations are more journeyed and have a stronger end purpose, whereas others are founded on creating a space for calm and allowing natural relaxation to occur. Meditation has varying roots from earliest written records from Hindu traditions around 1500BCE. There is debate over origins over meditation practice with conversations over sutras of the Pali Canon and also connections with Judaism.
Why Is Meditation Important?
Meditation can be a great way to de-stress and improve our health with benefits.
Does meditation work? Does meditation help anxiety? There is a lot of support and research showing that meditation practices can help to reduce anxiety, help individuals focus more, become more compassionate, reduce stress and also growing bodies of research into broader health care benefits.
Mayo Clinic, 2020 shares;
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
According to Richard J. Davidson, PhD, 2021;
“One is that we now know that we can use certain structural parameters of the brain to estimate a person’s brain age. So all of our brains are aging. Some people have brains that are aging faster than their chronological age. Other people have brains that are aging more slowly compared to their chronological age. If you take a thousand people and you look at the correlation between their brain age and their chronological age, you’ll see it’s a very high correlation, but there are some people that are off the diagonal, that is whose brains are aging more quickly or more slowly compared to their chronological age. It turns out that long-term meditators have brains that are aging more slowly compared to their chronological age. And so in a very real way, we can say that these practices are beneficial for our brain health, and they actually help us to cope with the age-related changes in a more adaptive way.”
Meditation goes much deeper than alleviating stress; it can help you find a deeper purpose and sense of being in life; it can help you to understand your emotions with greater insight; it can help you connect more closely to nature and understand life in varying ways.
Different Types Of Meditation
There are practices to cultivate compassion, purposeful living, stress-reduction, calm, energy release all the way to increasing focus and observation all the way to becoming centered. What is transcendental meditation? What is vipassana meditation? What is mindfulness meditation? There are many different types of meditation with subtle overlaps.
- Sleep Meditation: Guided sleep meditation is a practice to help you let go of anxiety, fears and worrying thoughts to help you drift off to sleep. If you are worrying about work, finances, relationships and other life domains; these anxieties can worsen in the subconscious mind during sleep. Sleep meditation helps you to remove such anxieties through relaxation and emotional regulation as you drift off to sleep.
- Transcendental Meditation: TM meditation is different to other forms of meditation as it does not make use of concentration, emptying the mind of thought or trying to be present like with mindfulness. TM meditation is the simple method of allowing your mind to naturally become calmer. TM practice involves sitting in a comfortable position with your eyes closed for twenty minutes, two times per day. TM is effortless in the sense that it does not have words attached to the mantra, it does not require observation, or the attempt to clear the mind of thoughts. TM is not a philosophy or does not require a need to change any other area of your lifestyle.
- Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness does not have to be practiced as a meditation, as it can be done through mindful listening, mindful walking and so on. Mindfulness is the non judgmental observation and awareness of the moment to moment. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? You become the observer of your thoughts and not the thoughts themselves.
- Vipassana Meditation: This type of meditation focuses on self-transformation via self-observation with a strong focus on the mind and body interconnection. Mindfulness is the training of the mind whereas Vipassana Meditation is cultivation of the mind. Vipassana Meditation has it’s roots in a Buddhist form of Meditation and is more focused around a journey in comparison to Mindfulness Meditation.
- Chakra Meditation: Chakra refers to energy centers that unite the spirit, mind and body. There are seven Chakras – Crown Chakra, Third Eye Chakra, Throat Chakra, Heart Chakra, Solar Plexus Chakra, Sacral Chakra, Root Chakra. When your Chakras are open, your energy flows seamlessly throughout your body which improves health. Chakra Meditation focuses on clearing blocked Chakras and helping them open.
How Often Should You Meditate And How Long for?
Our Mind & Body Coach Kamila has created a fun video to answer the question: How often should you meditate? And also: how long should you meditate for? If you would like to learn more about Kamila’s meditation practices and watch her meditation videos, please download our free app – Meaningful Paths on Apple and Google Play.
How To Meditate
Our meditation resources have free fun videos that can help both beginners in meditation and also offer those who meditate more often some fun practice.
Here are a few simple starting measures for meditation:
- Find a quiet place without distraction: Meditation can take you into a deep personal journey or it can help you become highly focused. Whatever type of meditation you want to try, it is best to be in a room with the least possible amount of distraction.
- Find a comfortable position: Meditation can be practiced in many ways, but ideally starting with lying down in a comfortable position with your arms by your side can help you to relax into your meditation.
- Find a good beginners audio lesson: It is important that you find music that resonates with you or the right voice and tonality with a beginners meditation. Of course you should not judge too soon, and you should take your time; however there is no harm in listening to a few varying meditation teachers and seeing who resonates with you personally.
There is so much we can explore in meditation; but today we wanted to share some insights on how to meditate, share with you some of the main types of meditation practice from Mindfulness Meditation to Transcendental Meditation. How often should you meditate and how long should you meditate for have also been explored. Whether you want to go on a life changing journey and explore a culture around meditation, or if you simply want to bring a state of calm and relaxation more often, meditation can be a wonderful practice. If we can start our day with a short meditation for calmness, then we can leave our front door each day smiling, be kind to others and start the day well; in contrast to being rushed for work, potential aggravation in traffic and more. If we end our day with a compassion meditation, or a meditation to relieve anxiety, then we will sleep much more soundly and let many of our daily struggles go.
A great starting point is to download our free app and to explore our free health resources including meditations and breath work – The most helpful health apps – Meaningful Paths.
Wishing you health and well-being.