Life at times can be stressful and even overwhelming. Meditation can be a powerful tool to support yourself during challenging times and to create more flow.
Meditation originated in ancient times. Yet, never before in history, has it been so crucial for humankind to learn how to make peace with its mind. According to the World Health Organisation, the biggest epidemic of the 21st century is stress.
Meditation is a free practical skill, that supports you to feel calm, peaceful and centred, without side effects. Meditation can be practiced freely in a wide variety of locations, when suits you best.
Over the centuries there have been many different meditation techniques developed by many cultures. However, at its core, meditation essentially involves taking deep breaths and consciously observing your inner world.
Meditation is a wonderful opportunity to observe and validate any thoughts and emotions that create tension in your body. This awareness gives you the ability to let go any tension so it will pass through your energetic system—allowing you to feel peaceful and calm.
Awareness of your inner world—your thoughts, emotions, what you say and your behaviours—is known as mindfulness. When you are unaware of what is going on internally, it can be as though as you are on auto-pilot and can act out in ways that are not in your best interests, as you are driven by unconscious behaviour.
When you are aware of what you think, feel, say and act, this gives you the ability to make conscious choices with your behaviours, that allow you to live life in an empowered way. Awareness gives you the power to align your happiness with your choices and decisions.
Meditation can be practiced anytime and anywhere. Even while you are on the way home from work, you can consciously focus on your inner world and reflect, rather than being on autopilot and lost in thought.
Meditation can give you the ability to let go of the past, feel relaxed about the future and to live in the present. When you are present, it is easier to be more aware of the beauty of life that is around you all the time, when you tune into it. This can mean enjoying the cool breeze on your skin, the gift of sunshine on your face or the smile of a stranger. When you are lost in thought, stressed and overwhelmed, you can miss these things as your attention is focused elsewhere, usually worrying about the past or future.
Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation can calm your thoughts and emotions to allow you to see situations more clearly. It can also help you tap into your inner wisdom (also known as your intuition), so you know what to do, even during challenging times.
Calming your thoughts and emotions, has a positive flow on effect to your nervous system and body’s innate ability to heal.
Meditation can help with:
- Stress, anxiety and depression
- Developing clarity to make your best decisions
- Overcoming insomnia
- Chronic pain and disease
- Fractured or challenging relationships
1. Mental Health
Meditation, when practiced regularly, can positively impact your mental health. Depression occurs due to unresolved emotions that have been repressed from the past or by feeling trapped in your current situation. Anxiety comes from fearing future events that may or may not occur. By living in the present, you spend less time worrying about the past and future—which drains your energy—and instead focus on dealing with any challenges as they occur.
Meditation can further help you to process and release unresolved painful emotions from the past, and, even, help you move through current challenges and feel more present on a daily basis.
Practicing meditation gives you the ability to overcome arousing unnecessary reactions that often escalates to difficult situations. The overreaction is caused by the limbic system of the brain, that is responsible for the fight or flight response, where you can be overly aggressive or withdraw in a disempowered way. Meditation assists to give you the ability to respond to a challenging situation in a life-enhancing way.
Rather than yielding your thoughts an emotions to these situations, you become the master of your mind and can support yourself to engage in life in positive and fulfilling ways.
2. Physical Health
High levels and ongoing stress can be detrimental to your physical health. This is because your body, when stressed, is in a state of survival, that is fight or flight. When you are in survival mode, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, are released into your bloodstream, giving you the energy boost you need to escape from a threatening situation. However, the problem is that threatening situations of modern times are usually in our mind, in the form of worry and fear.
You usually don’t need to physically run or attack, in a modern-day threatening situation, as a result the excess of adrenaline and cortisol is left in your body. According to the Mayo Clinic the long-term activation of the survival response—and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones—can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This can put you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
By adopting a regular meditation practice, you can teach your body to be in a consistent state of thriving, rather than surviving. Meditation can support your body in being powered by feel-good hormones, such as endorphins, serotonin, melatonin and dopamine.
As you change the focus of your mind from negative to the positive, a natural outcome is to change our body’s hormones from ones based on fear to one’s base on love. Feel-good hormones, nurture, nourish and repair your body, maintaining your physical health and wellbeing.
3. Boosting Your Happiness
Meditation, allows you to process any emotions—that are stuck or weigh you down—by observing them and letting them go. Happiness is your natural state.
You are born to live a happy, healthy life. When you have the tools to process any stuck emotions, that take you away from your peace, you will feel more in control over your emotional state. Unconscious feelings will no longer be master you, as a consistent meditation practice can invite more emotional mastery into your life.
Emotional mastery does not occur overnight. New life-enhancing habits, such as exercising, can take time and effort, particularly in the first month. However, if you stay with your meditation practice, you will find the rewards are well worth it. Your happiness directly relates to your mental and emotional state. Meditation over time can connect you to your deep sense of happiness within.
How to Meditate
1. Sit Comfortably
Sit in a comfortable position, with your spine straight, to allow free energy flow. Sit on the floor, a chair, a sofa or bed with your legs crossed, uncrossed or in the half-lotus or full lotus position (if you are super, duper flexible!). If possible do not lie down, as it easy to fall asleep in meditation, and remain awake allows you to observe your inner world.
2. Turn Inwards
Gently close your eyes and turn your attention inwards. Focus on your breath and take three long breaths. Make your out-breath (exhale) longer than your in-breath (inhale), as your out-breath is particularly calming to your nervous system. Then return to the natural rhythm of your breath.
3. The Wandering Mind
Your mind is likely to wander during your meditation practice and that is perfectly natural and unavoidable at times, particularly when beginning. Meditation is a practice and it takes time and commitment to be the master of your mind.
There are a great many meditation techniques to refocus your mind when it wanders during meditation. There are far too many to mention in this BlissBlog, so we cover three, that are widely used:
- Focus your mind on counting backwards from 100. If you lose your way, gently redirect your mind back to where you are up to and continue counting backwards from there.
- Focus your thoughts on a mantra — a word or words you repeat. A mantra can be any word that is meaningful to you. Common mantras include, Om or I am that, or Ham Sa (meaning I am that I am). The idea is that the mantra is replacing any negative thought patterns in your mind with new and positive patterns and grooves, With practice, rather than you doing the mantra, you will find the mantra doing you (like when you get a song stuck in your head). As a result, your mind will feel calmer and freer.
- Rest in a state of conscious awareness, observe any tension in your body and let it go. When you surrender to the sensations of your body, by observing and validating exactly what is there—with non-judgemental acceptance—you will allow whatever is occurring within your body to flow freely through your energetic system.
Over time, practicing meditation will train your mind to wander less and be more peaceful and calm.
4. It’s not Working
Help I’m finding it too hard is a common experience when first starting a meditation practice. Like any other skill, meditation requires practice and discipline (think of this as blissipline!) in order to master. You may feel very resistant in the beginning, but have faith and stay with the process. Over time, you will find that when you work through your resistance, joy and peace are the reward.
Feeling resistant can be normal when you embark on learning a new skill. However, it’s important to have faith in yourself and your ability to improve your life in the way you would like. Sometimes we can be consciously or unconsciously fearful of the unknown. However, when we embrace the unknown and that includes developing new skills, we can tap into the many amazing possibilities that life has to offer.
Support your Meditation Journey by:
1. Making practice timeframes realistic. Choose a time of day and length of time that you can commit to consistently. It may be 10 minutes three times a week when you first get out of bed, for example. Even 5 minutes a day is a start and you can build your way up to 15 minutes a day, which is ideal. If your day is simply too hectic, practice meditation sitting in bed for a few minutes. before going to sleep. Sometimes as little as three deep breaths when feeling overwhelmed and stressed, can be enough to, calm your nervous system, and re-centre yourself.
If you really feel you don’t have time to meditate, overcome this resistance, by recognising that when you meditate you will feel calmer and more focussed during the rest of the day, which is likely to boost your productivity.
If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday, you should meditate for two hours. ~ Zen proverb
2. Diffusing negative thoughts, such as ‘this is stupid and will never work’. Observe those thoughts in a non-judgemental way and let them go. Gently replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts such as I got this, or meditation allows me to feel peaceful and calm. You will find it much easier to engage in your practice. The ability to choose thoughts that support your goals is empowering.
3. Acceptance: if you have difficulties maintaining concentration. When you resist something, you maintain it. This is in accordance with Newtons Law that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. With a regular meditation practice, over time you are likely to find yourself looking forward to meditating due to the many benefits that it can bring, such as connecting to your inner peace.
Connect to Your Inner Peace
Consciously training your mind to be calm and still allows you to bypass the turbulence that thoughts and emotions can create. Stressful thoughts and emotions are like the waves on the ocean and are the turbulence. The depths of the oceans are still and calm, like your inner being, beyond the turbulence that thoughts and emotions can create.
When you learn to go beyond the instability your mind can create, you connect to your peace within. From a place of peace, you have access to your inner wisdom, or intuition that speaks from your soul, and safely guides you on your journey through life.
Learning how to meditate can take effort and focus, particularly in the beginning. However, training your mind trains to support your goals and dreams is well worth it. Train your mind, so that rather than having it work against you, you can collaborate consciously, creating the life that you would like.