The benefits of meditation and a simple meditation to try.

Simple Meditation

Meditation is one of the best forms of relaxation:  it's free, needs no expensive equipment and can be carried out in the privacy of your own home.  During meditation, the mind is calm but alert, the body is relaxed and we are living completely in the moment.

The benefits of regular meditation include:

  • The ability to reach a deep state of relaxation - both mental and physical
  • Lowering of the blood pressure
  • A stronger immune system
  • Increased blood circulation to the skin, brain and digestive system
  • Greater mental clarity, focus and concentration
  • The ability to think more creatively
  • Greater self-knowledge and understanding
  • A stronger connection with our intuition
  • An expansion of awareness which can enhance spiritual development

Maybe you've never experienced meditation, or tried it once and found it difficult.  As you can see from the benefits, it's worth putting in the time and effort to fit it into your routine.  And it does take time and practice, so take things easy:  don't put pressure on yourself to master it straight away, just relax and enjoy the process!

If you want to start a regular meditation practice, it can help to meditate at the same time in the same place every day.  You need to find a quiet place, preferably with plenty of ventilation, where you won't be disturbed and can feel at ease.  You can make the room feel more special by lighting candles or incense, and placing crystals, fresh flowers, or spiritual objects that hold a special significance for you in the room.  Try to make it a place you look forward to being in, a place where you'll feel uplifted and calm.  Wear comfortable clothes and remove any pieces of jewellery that are heavy or distracting.

The next step is to choose somewhere comfortable to sit.  You can lie down, but there's always the risk of falling asleep.  However, if you're really tired, this could be just what your body needs!  You can sit on the floor, either cross-legged, or in the Lotus posture if you're flexible enough to feel comfortable in this position, but this isn't meant to be a test of physical endurance, so prop yourself up with cushions if you need to.  Many people find it easier to meditate in a chair.  If your feet don't touch the floor, you can rest them on a cushion for support, making sure your knees are uncrossed.  Once you're sitting, it's time to check your posture:  your back should be straight, but relaxed, your feet should be connecting with the floor and your upper body and chest should be open so that your breathing is unrestricted.  Slumping forwards (or inwards) hinders full breathing, restricts the flow of energy around the body and has a depressing effect on the emotions.  (If you don't believe me, bend your head forwards, slump your upper body, then try to think happy thoughts!)

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then let's begin with a basic meditation.  The purpose of this meditation is simply to experience being in the moment, and focuses on your breathing.

Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths, breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth.  Each time you breathe out, release any tension until you feel your body becoming more relaxed.  Allow your breathing to settle into its own regular rhythm.  Focus your attention on the sensation of the air flowing into your lungs, then effortlessly flowing out again.  Focus on this simple, yet profound act of breathing, as in this moment, nothing else matters.  If you find your mind wandering - and it probably will - just bring your attention back to your breathing.  You may find it easier to count each breath in cycles of 10, for example, breathe in...1...breathe out...1...breathe in...2...breathe out...2... and so on, and when you reach 10, go back to 1 again.  This helps by giving the left hemisphere of the brain (the logical 'thinking' side) something to focus on.  Any time other thoughts or worries pop into your mind, just acknowledge them and return to your counting.  Try this exercise for a few minutes to start with and you'll find it gets easier over time.

Of course there are many different types of meditation, but I've chosen to share this one with you as it's simple and can be carried out almost anywhere, not just in the peace and tranquillity of your meditation space.  As an example, maybe you've chosen the 'wrong' queue in Sainsbury's - I do it all the time - and what you thought was going to be a quick transaction turns into a long, frustrating wait.  There's nothing you can do about it and getting stressed won't help.  Why not take advantage of this unexpected break and take a few deep breaths?  Keeping calm many not solve the problem but it'll make it easier to deal with!

If you find it difficult to relax, 'An Introduction to Basic Relaxation Techniques' gives instructions on breathing awareness, muscle tension and relaxation, body awareness and ends with a guided visualisation.  This recording, together with three other guided visualisations, can be downloaded instantly any time you need them.