Meditation is a great addition to add to your wellness toolbox on your quest to achieve better mental health. Although you’ve probably heard of meditation before, there is a lot of confusion over the the practice. According to Headspace, meditation is, “a formal exercise to cultivate awareness and compassion. By sitting with the mind, we’re training it to become more open and at ease, and we consequently discover great calm, clarity, contentment and compassion. In doing so, we increasingly learn to have a direct experience of the present moment.”
The Benefits of Meditation
There are many benefits to meditation including:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Increased general wellness
- Improved sleep
- Greater awareness of self
- Improved mood regulation
- Increased attention span
If you’ve tried meditation before and didn’t experience any benefits or are completely skeptical, that’s okay. In this article we have included an excerpt from one of our staff about her experience with meditation, which you may find aligns with your own, frequently asked questions so you can get the true facts about meditation, as well as a guided meditation video so you can put what you’ve learned into practice.
Before we continue, please note that this content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
My Experience With Meditation
My relationship with meditation started 12 years ago when I was at an all-time low in my life. I had recently experienced trauma, and the last thing I was interested in doing was sitting with my thoughts and feelings, in fact I wanted to do the opposite and run from them.
The first time I was encouraged to meditate, I was in a group setting. The entire time, I was convinced I was doing it wrong; I couldn’t sit still, I continuously checked the clock, and I opened my eyes (about a thousand times), to see what other people around me were doing. Needless to say I was not particularly a fan, nor did I understand the point of meditating. Thankfully, the group I was part of used meditation and mindfulness principles frequently, and I learned more about meditation. I must admit, the more I learned about it, the more curious I got…however, along with that curiosity came skepticism. My skepticism was never rooted in other people’s experiences with meditation, instead it was skepticism that I, personally, did not have the ability to experience the positive outcomes of meditation, too. This realization was the pivot point in my relationship with mediation as it allowed me to see that the greatest barrier in front of me, was my own thoughts.
So, with that in mind (literally), I decided to give meditation another shot. Now, it wasn’t smooth sailing from there, my relationship with meditation has had its ups and downs, I have had periods of consistent meditation practice, and periods of abstinence. I have had beautiful and powerful experiences, and other times where I couldn’t seem to sit still. My relationship with meditation is fluid, which is symbolic of what it teaches me; slow down, and go with the flow of life. Meditation does not solve all my problems, but it does help me realize often times, when I slow down, and go inward, my perception shifts and a new view has suddenly appeared. The new view I have experienced, has demonstrated that I do in fact, have access to peace within. My experience with meditation has provided me invaluable insight and a deep understanding of self, which is something I am eternally grateful for. So no matter where you are in your journey with meditation, just begin. You will always end up exactly where you are meant to be.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I Meditate?
Meditation practice looks different for many people. The best way to start, is to guide yourself into a comfortable position. You might be seated on the ground, yoga mat, couch, or carpet. Perhaps you are laying down on your back. The goal is to find yourself in a position in which you are able to sit in stillness and feel comfortable. If it is your first time meditating, I would encourage you to listen to a guided meditation, like the one at the end of this article, which will walk you through a meditation. Have fun with it, try different meditations and see if any resonate with you.
Am I Doing This Right?
The good news is there is no wrong way to meditate! Meditation is the action in which we take to try to let go and release control which makes this question ironic. Human beings have been taught that there is a “right” way, or a “wrong” way to do things, and often times we place unnecessary stress on ourselves due to fear of being “wrong”. If this resonates with you, meditation would be a great opportunity to observe these feelings, and explore how it feels to let go of fear, and allow yourself to do what feels right for you in each moment.
How Do I Shut off My Thoughts?
Although the act of meditation is to calm the mind, meditation is not about shutting off your thoughts. In fact, meditation allows us to observe distractions that will likely arise during your meditation practice, and teaches us to bring our awareness back to a focal point such as your breath. By understanding that meditation is a personal experience, and not a skill to be mastered, we can let go of the need to be perfect. When we let go of our unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we create room to explore areas we didn’t know were accessible to us.
Do I have to Sit in Silence the Entire Time?
Some people might not feel comfortable closing their eyes during meditation practice, and that is OK. It is important to honour where you’re at, and start there. If you feel safer to keep your eyes open, I invite you to pick a focal point in which your gaze can rest for the duration of your practice. There are also multiple forms of meditation that surpass sitting in stillness and silence. Some people chant through their meditation. A common chant is OM that you might hear when people are meditating. Others might chant a mantra, or sing a song. Other forms of meditation include colouring, or walking in something called a labyrinth. If you are curious to learn more about meditation types, there are great resources you can find online.