In today's fast-paced modern society we are so caught up in our day to day lives we often forget about taking time out for ourselves. Sometimes we can be so engrossed in work, looking after family, shopping, cleaning, paying the bills and other general mundanities it's easy to become overwhelmed, often without even knowing it. We all know to look after our bodies but what about our minds?
You’ve probably heard of meditation and maybe even thought about giving it a try but then assumed you did not have enough time. Well, you actually only need a few minutes a day and meditation even gets easier the more you do it - the one habit you won’t regret developing. Meditation can help you understand and calm your own mind. It pulls us out of the automation of daily life and can make you more aware of the choices you make.
Meditation is deep rooted in history, in fact, researchers speculate that primitive hunter-gatherers may have discovered meditation whilst staring into the flames of their open fires. The first mention of meditation techniques as a structured practice was in Indian scriptures called ‘tantras’ over 5000 years ago. However, Meditation didn’t really reach Western Society until thousands of years later - it started to gain popularity in the mid 20th century when professors began testing the effects and learned about it’s benefits.
If you want to find meditation rewarding it needs to be simple, comfortable and have results that make you want to practise every day - you need to develop that habit. There are plenty of varieties to choose from so whatever works for you is the right approach. Here are four of the most common forms of meditation:
Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM)
A method founded by Dr, Deepak Chopra and practised by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, PSM is a silent practice that uses a mantra. It is believed that repeating your personal mantra helps you to enter deeper levels of awareness by taking you away from the intellectual side of the brain. Your mantra is the vibrational sound the universe was creating at the time and place of your birth and is calculated following Vedic mathematic formulas specific to you.
This is one form you may have already heard of and is almost certainly what people picture when medication is mentioned - referred to as Zazen it means ‘seated meditation’. It comes from Buddhism and you acquire insight though observing the breath and mind with assistance from a teacher, sometimes chanting may be involved. Zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of in the Buddhist teachings or Sutras.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
The Beatles were possibly the most famous people to popularize Transcendental Meditation back in the sixties, it was originally founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Transcendental Meditation uses a mantra or series of Sanskrit words to help the person focus during meditation in lieu of just following breath. Once again the mantra is personal and will vary according to a number of different factors including the year the teacher trained as this is when they will have been given their list of mantras to use.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
A hugely popular form of meditation which is currently practised in hundreds of medical centres and clinics across the world. Actually started in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zin it’s popularity has spread over the years and has been embraced by thousands of newbies to meditation. The technique uses both breath awareness - focusing your attention on the inhalation and exhalation and body scan - focused attention on the physical body usually staring at the toes.
For thousands of years, meditators have claimed many benefits for their practice. This has now been supported by scientific research which shows regular meditation is an effective treatment for stress, worry, lack of focus and even relationship problems. Once you’ve found the type of meditation you enjoy it’s important to practise as much as you can in order to reap the rewards. The practice of meditation can have both physical and mental benefits:
- Improves the immune system
- Increases energy level - you gain an inner source of energy
- Increases serotonin production which in turn improves mood and behavior
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Helps reduce anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate
- Decreases tension related pain such as headaches and muscle problems
- Gained clarity and peace of mind
- Emotional stability improves and anxiety decreases
- Creativity increases as the mind expands through relaxation
- Happiness increases as problems become smaller
- Meditation sharpens the mind by gaining focus
- It brings you emotional steadiness and harmony
You should not expect to master meditation straight away - it takes practice and time but with effort you will see the benefits. The key rule is don’t get too caught up in how to do it - just do it. Many people will procrastinate deciding where to sit, what is the best time, is this the right cushion - they end up not actually doing it.
Try to start with just sitting for two minutes - and if this goes well for the first week, increase by another two minutes for the next week. Many people also find meditating at the same time every day much easier as this way they can plan around it. You should set a reminder and let anyone you live with know not to disturb you. Just stick with it and don’t give up - meditation is much like a physical activity where you can have good days and bad, but perseverance is so important.