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(Note: This article is a part of our 31-day series, “31 Days to a Whole Body Makeover“.)
Join me as we learn Meditation 101: why we NEED meditation, learn how to meditate properly, and explore its incredible life-changing benefits.
What does the word “meditation” make you think?
Is it a religious ritual that does or does not fit into your personal belief system?
Does hearing the word conjure up images of far away lands with Hindu monasteries, filled with hushed tones, and a hint of incense wafting through the air, mixing with the aromas of the fresh rain? In other words, does it sound incredible, but something you don’t know how to access?
Or is it something recommended to you by a therapist that makes you roll your eyes at the idea of wasting what precious little time you have left in your hectic schedule?
Everyone has their own idea of what “meditation” means, but one thing we know from both thousands of years of practical theory and more recent scientific studies, is that not only is meditation an effective stress reliever, meditation can even rewire our brain!
I remember the first time I was introduced to meditation at the age of eighteen while in massage therapy school. It was also the time when I started my sixteen-year stint of reading almost every book by Deepak Chopra as they came out, completely fascinated by the theory of how silencing the body, then the mind, taps into the spirit and brings about such incredible change. I remember feeling, however, that meditation was a concept far beyond my simple understanding, but now as a mother who requires (and yes, deserves) those precious moments to myself, I feel that it is a special gift that I want to pass on to anyone who will receive it.
So what IS meditation?
Meditation is the progressive quieting of the mind until it reaches the source of the spirit/soul. When our minds are quiet, we can finally tap into our subconsciousness to begin to create change. We can reach the parts of our minds that have been caught in a certain thought pattern created from bad experiences in the world, and can help heal and bring about a sense of well-being. We can unlearn certain thought patterns and replace them with the development of compassion, patience, forgiveness, and generosity.
Meditation directs awareness inward until awareness is achieved, and is described by Transcendental Meditation expert Michael Phelan as “being awake inside without being aware of anything except awareness itself.”*
Meditation is the most effective way to manage stress. When we are stressed, we develop physical disease. We lose sleep, blood pressure goes up, heart rate rises, and our immune system shuts down. Stress may seem psychological, but it is a literal killer. Meditation is often recommended by doctors to relieve depression and anxiety, thus fighting off these horrible symptoms.
In order to improve your overall health, meditation should be a regular part of your daily routine, as simple as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. It will help you manage stress, improve the quality of sleep, improve your creative process, and even your personal relationships, because you will find yourself a happier, healthier human being with more personal abundance than you were ever before because of meditation. Many people have quit smoking, overcome fertility issues, and even beat cancer thanks to meditation. Imagine what it can do for you!
“It opens the door to your spirit, the field of infinite possibilities. It opens the door of your soul, so you lose the fear of death. It opens the door to creativity; we call God the Creator because he is the source of creation. It actually opens up what I call platonic qualities of divine truths: kindness, love, compassion, joy, profound peace, the peace that passes all understanding. So, you pass through the physical, through the mental, and into the spiritual.” — Deepak Chopra
How Does Meditation Fit Into My Religious Beliefs?:
Meditation is a theme that is practiced in harmony with most, if not all, religions. In Psalm 46:10 in the Bible, it reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” Meditation takes place in so many different variations, it really is a personal preference how you incorporate it into your life. It has nothing to do with belief, idiology, or doctrine. It’s a simple mental technique to go back to the source of thought.
Deepak Chopra says, “With prayer you are speaking to God, and meditation is allowing God to speak to you. But it speaks in silence, and manifests as intuition and inspiration. Inspiration means to be in spirit, ethusiasm, to be in touch with God.”
How to Meditate:
It is ideal to meditate twice a day for fifteen to twenty minutes. Meditate in the morning when you are fully rested, before breakfast, and then again in the early evening, before dinner. Meditate as often or as long as you like, this is just a guideline.
Find a place that is comfortable and quiet. It may help to sit on a pillow, legs uncrossed, or crossed, depending on what is more comfortable for you. Sit with your spine in proper alignment, not slouching.
Your hand position matters. Place your palms up towards the ceiling and touch your thumb to your index or ring finger. (Notice that doing so allows your breath to come in deep, down to the diaphragm. Closing your fingers over your palm shortens your breath to just going down to your stomach, and clenched fists are the least desired, as it keeps your breath in your throat, as if you are angry. The best pose is to have your hands open, palms up, with your thumb touching one of the two first fingers.)
Deepak Chopra explains that a mantra, or a phrase that you say over and over to yourself, is a vehicle or a way to get to your spirit. For example, if you are going from home to work, and it is raining outside, you will want your umbrella to take you there. So as the umbrella is a vehicle from point a to point b, so is a mantra to being a vehicle to get you to your spirit. It helps you keep from getting lost in your thoughts, and brings your focus inward.
A mantra is something that you say to yourself in your mind. So as you breathe in, say, “So”, and as you breathe out, say “Om”. This is an excellent mantra used and recommended by Deepak Chopra. “So” is the sound of breath, “Om” means “I am”.
You do not need to intentionally take deep breaths. Just breathe naturally and bring all of your focus to your breaths. As you pay attention to your breath, it will naturally become slower and deeper. Experienced meditators can transcend, and stop breathing altogether, and with practice, you just might, too!
Silencing Your Thoughts:
It is hard for the beginner to quiet your mind. But attempting to silence the thought is a thought itself, so don’t try to consciously silence the thought. You can be aware of the thoughts, but don’t give them any mind. Instead, patiently go back to your breath and your mantra.
If you want to visualize your dreams, do it before meditation, not during, because visualizing is activating the mind. To meditate you need a quiet mind not a turbulent mind, and even a positive mind is a turbulent mind.
Meditation takes a lot of practice. Personal results may come later rather than sooner in some instances. You may notice a difference right away. But just DO it. Don’t get frustrated with the process, take it one day at a time. Just be!
If the thought of quieting your mind just seems impossible, Deepak Chopra has a lot of wonderful guided meditations to walk you through, or download the Headspace app, a very popular app for incredible guided mediation exercises!
*Phelan, Michael (July–September 1979). “Transcendental Meditation. A Revitalization of the American Civil Religion”. Archives de sciences sociales des religions 1 (48).
To help you get into the routine of meditation, I have created a printable for you, measuring 5″ X 7″. Print it on regular paper or on cardstock and keep it in a place where you will see it and be reminded to take a few much-deserved minutes to yourself.