Meditation 101 – benefits, techniques, how to get started

Apparently today is world meditation day. But why do we need to meditate? What benefits does it have? And how can you get started today?

Why meditate?

People have been meditating for over 2500 years. Now neuroscience is now proving what those ancient people knew all along – that meditation is highly beneficial. It can improve memory and concentration, and can help us regulate our emotions.

Personally speaking, I am a much nicer person to be around since I started meditating about 7yrs ago. I am more aware of my emotional response to people and things around me, and it also gives me space before I respond, rather than just reacting out of habit. It also allows me a greater amount of self-care as I can see when things are becoming stressful and I can consciously choose how to respond to things in a way that is kind to myself.

Types of meditation

“Meditation” is an umbrella term for many different practices. A common one for beginners and experienced meditators is mindfulness of breathing, where the attention is focused on the breath.

Metta or loving kindness meditation is where you try to cultivate kind feelings towards yourself, a friend, someone neutral, someone you’re having difficulty with and then all beings.

Just sitting meditation is just that – sitting with no agenda, just an open awareness of everything that’s going on (thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds etc) without getting caught up in the story of those things.

How to get started today

Sitting upright on a chair or on a cushion on the floor, have a clock nearby. The posture should be upright but comfortable. Consider having a cushion or blanket in your lap to rest your hands on.

Close your eyes and just focus on the sensation of breath flowing in and out at the nostrils. Notice the temperature, the texture, the quality of the breath – really be curious. If it is easier to stay with the breath by counting then you can do that. Every time you notice the mind has wandered, just gently guide it back to the breath. Aim for five minutes and you can build it up over time.

There are lots of great guided meditations on various apps and websites. I like Insight Timer, it has thousands of guided meditations (I like the ones by Bodhipaksa) but also a simple timer to use unguided. Headspace is also popular.

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