With meditation getting thrown around as a fad word nowadays, I see a need to filter out some common misconceptions. Its traditions span thousands of years and hundreds of cultures during that time. Going back to its core meaning and purpose will reveal how meditation tempers stress. You'll also gain the know-how to begin or expand your own practice.
A Fact with Wow Factor
Meditation minimizes the subjective experience of stress. It also extends control over emotions when NOT meditating. [Source]
Stress Less Tip
Let's start by defining meditation in a way that reflects its origins: a mental exercise or technique to train thoughts, emotions, and even the mind-body connection. Meditation calls for a relaxed mind to create an optimal training environment. Many types of meditation include built-in ways to achieve this end for good reason. Without relaxation, the focused attention needed for awareness of thoughts, emotions, and sensations remains unobtainable.
Think of meditation as a long-term process for change rather than a standalone experience. You wouldn't expect instant results when starting to exercise your body, after all. Meditation transforms how you think with incremental challenges that increase your mind's strength, flexibility, and endurance.
Meditation's benefits take shape with consistent practice over time. Research documents many benefits (besides relaxation, focus, and self-awareness) of meditation. Click or tap the image below for a list of 50 reasons why meditation is worth the time and effort.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Behavioral Medicine, Healthline, Headspace, Live & Dare, Science of People, The New York Times
Countless meditation techniques exist. They vary in difficulty, barriers to participation addressed, and stage of meditation achieved. Mindfulness, one type of meditation, focuses attention and facilitates awareness very well. Visualization, another meditation technique, heightens relaxation and focuses attention.
Personality and preference play a role in the effectiveness of a technique. Some techniques actually worsen certain mental and physical health conditions. For example, never attempt visualization if you have a history of hallucinations or difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality.
Generally speaking, though, visualization provides safe and easy access to meditation. Try taking a piece of music with a descriptive title that sounds relaxing and appealing. Stick to lyric-free music to avoid coloring your interpretation of it any further. Then, create as vivid an experience in your mind as possible by imagining something for each of your five senses.
Before you begin, set an intention to accept whatever happens. Competing thoughts WILL enter your mind, more often on some days than others. Let the thoughts float by you like a scent or a cloud. Then, bring your attention back to one of your other senses.
Start with a 2-minute visualization, about the length of an average piece of music. Add only a couple of minutes to each practice session. Stop at the first signs of frustration. You don't want to form negative associations with meditation that cause you to avoid and dislike it.
Take inspiration from the music below to kick off your next visualization meditation:
Use my no-fail meditation equation to zero in on your perfect meditation for relaxation. Apply the equation when practicing visualization to programme (sensory-descriptive) music as discussed above.
Keep your meditations simple. Sit or lay comfortably in a quiet space with distractions minimized. Practice meditating when calm and in a good mood the first few times. Later on, as meditation conditions your mind, it will serve as an effective tool to trigger these states when you need them. You will reap immediate benefits if you find the right kind of meditation for you. The positive effects only increase with time.
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