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Published on June 13, 2018

Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Imagine yourself running at top speed. After a few minutes pass, you feel yourself slowly getting out of breath. You feel the aches in your muscles as your body slows down but you keep pushing yourself to keep going. Eventually, you collapse because you’ve exhausted all energy and you can no longer function.

For many people, this is what we do to our minds when we are constantly under stress. All the thoughts dictated by our endless to-do lists accompanied by our worries and fears are burning out our brains.

What if I told you there was a simple process backed by science that you can do in as little as 20 minutes a day that will lower your stress levels, improve your decision making skills and relieve anxiety?

This process is meditation. It has now become widely popular with over 18 million people practicing it in the U.S. alone[1] and it now also has grown into a billion dollar business.[2] Leading companies such as Google, Goldman Sachs and Salesforce use meditation practices in the workplace and 22% of employers have offered mindfulness training to staff back in 2016.

We’ve created this article about meditation for beginners so you can learn about what it is, and how you can use it right now to start experiencing the many benefits it provides.

What meditation means to your body and mind

The actual practice of meditation can be done in many different ways but the one type that has shown promising results is known as mindfulness meditation.

The purpose of the practice is to train your mind to be firmly focused on the present moment. It involves the act of focusing your attention on something such as your breathing, as well as taking moments to simply observe and be aware of things around and within you.

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Meditation recharges your brain

Meditation is what helps you to be in a restful and recuperative state where you are not controlled by your thoughts and feelings. As a result your mind will become better able to manage them in a way where you just observe them so you can make better decisions.

“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”[3]

Meditation keeps your brain healthy

Just like how exercises will make your body physically stronger, this mental exercise will make your brain stronger. It activates the parts of your brain that promote things like intelligence, empathy, and happiness just to list a few.

It’s a known fact that our brain start slowly shrinking starting around the age of 30[4] but keeping your brain in shape with meditation can prevent the shrinking altogether.

Meditation hears the cries of your body

When we’re too busy, we may not notice the subtle symptoms of our body. For example, when we are stressed, there are early symptoms such as tightness, irritation and heaviness in the body. When we ignore these symptoms, it can lead to much more amplified symptoms such as high blood pressure, fatigue and anxiety.

Meditation helps you become more aware with what your body has been trying to communicate with you about your health and well-being in order address certain issues before it’s too late.[5]

Why it’s worth it to start meditation

Over 50 years of scientific research has shown compelling evidence of the many different types of benefits meditation can have on both your brain and your body.

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One of the most compelling piece of evidence for meditation that I have found was that it literally changes your brain. Brain scans have shown that the neuron rich part of the brain known as grey matter was noticeably increased in multiple areas of the brain involved with important functions such as decision making, emotional regulation and memory.[6]

To learn more about some of the amazing benefits, you can read my other article: 15 Ways Meditation Boosts Your Brain Power and Your Mood

A simple way to meditate (even for absolute beginners)

If you’ve never meditated before, spending as little as 2 minutes a day may be a great start to develop a meditation habit and experience the results.[7]

One thing to keep in mind is that meditation isn’t about trying to stop your thoughts. It’s more about being aware of them and then simply allowing them to come and go.

All you need is a comfortable space where you are likely not to be disturbed and do the following:

  1. Sit with your back straight at a comfortable level, either on a chair or on the floor (Whichever is more comfortable).
  2. Start by leaving your eyes open with a relaxed soft focus.
  3. Take one deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  4. While breathing out, gently close your eyes and resume normal breathing
  5. Take a moment to pause and enjoy being present in the moment. Feel the pressure of your body on the chair beneath you, the feet on the floor and the hands and the arms just resting on the legs.
  6. Gently bring the focus back to your breathing and notice the breath and the body with its rising and falling sensation.
  7. When you’ve realized your mind has wandered from any thoughts, sounds or other sensations, gently bring the focus back to your breath again.
  8. Gradually bring the attention back to your body and the space around you. Then gently open your eyes again.
  9. Take a moment to soak in how that felt for you before going about your day.

Clearing the obstacles to meditation

There are many things that may be preventing you from experiencing the amazing results of engaging in regular meditation. Here are some challenges to expect as well as some guidance on how to handle them:

  • Doubt – Your skepticism might take over and you might be questioning if such a simple practice can really help you in any way. A ton of evidence has shown it does, so go in with an open mind and trust the process. You will notice the changes gradually and the possibilities will soon become a reality for you.
  • Restlessness – You may find yourself restless and constantly distracted with thoughts when meditating. Be aware this is totally normal especially in the beginning. Like any other practice, you will have some good days and bad days but as you continue training your mind, you’ll become more and more fluent with entering into a calm state.
  • Impatience– You might not experiencing the benefits as quickly as some other people do. Don’t worry. While it might take you a little longer to see the positive outcomes, go at your own pace and as you continue to practice and get better, you will definitely experience the results.
  • Sleepiness – You will definitely have trouble focusing if you’re tired or low on energy. If you find this happening often, try to meditate during a time where you are more awake such as earlier in the day rather than closer to bedtime.
  • Discouragement – As with any other new habit formation, life happens and you will miss some days that you were hoping to get a meditation session in. Don’t let this discourage you into giving up. Keep moving forward and do it whenever you can. Every little bit helps to create a big result.

Basic techniques and practicing exercises (With specific steps)

Two of the most researched types of meditation include focused attention meditation (FAM) and open monitoring meditation (OMM).

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Focused attention meditation involves the active focusing of attention on an object, your breathing, an image or some words.

Open monitoring meditation involves more of a observation approach where you practice being aware of any experience that comes up without any judgement nor focus towards it.

Most mindfulness meditation sessions use a combination of both these types with focused attention meditation usually in the beginning and gradually shifting to open monitoring meditation.

To help you take your meditation a little further, here are some basic techniques you can practice for each type:

Focused attention meditation

Focused attention meditation can be done in a variety of ways as there are many things you can choose to focus on. Here are some basic techniques that you can use to incorporate:

  • Breathing Meditation – This is a very common form of focused attention method where you focus on the breath while meditating. Simply count to 10 with each breath that goes in and out and repeat. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring the focus back to your breath and start the count over again.
  • Walking Meditation – Go out for a walk at a comfortable pace. As you do, start focusing on the sensations you feel in your body. Notice the weight of your feet as it hits the floor and the swinging of your arms with each stride. If you find thoughts coming into your mind, just gently bring the focus back to the sensations you feel as you walk.
  • Mantra Meditation – A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself. It can be any word so choose a positive one you like that’s comfortable for you to say. As you begin meditation, close your eyes and repeat your mantra to yourself. Focus only on the sound and feel of your mantra and gently bring your focus back to it whenever your mind wanders.
  • Object or Image Meditation – This involves placing your focus either on an image in your mind or on an actual object in the environment. Meditation with images can be done with your eyes closed whereas you would need to do it with your eyes open when focusing on an actual object such as a flower or candle flame.

Open monitoring meditation

Open monitoring meditation is all about observing experiences without judging or getting attached to them. This sort of awareness of your thoughts and feelings without being controlled by them is what’s referred to as mindfulness.

This promotes the clarity, perspective and wisdom that comes when gaining insight and helps you make better decisions especially when handling challenging emotions such as fear and stress.

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Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Get comfortable into your meditation position and relax.
  2. Take long and deep breaths. With every exhale, feel how your body is getting more and more relaxed.
  3. Now rest your awareness in the present moment.
  4. Tune into your sensory experiences for several moments. Take a moment to observe the weight of your body on the chair and your hands on your lap. Notice any sounds or smells in your room.
  5. Monitor your organs by doing a body scan from the top of your head to the tip of your toes and observe any sensations as you do it.
  6. Take your awareness deeper by monitoring and thoughts or feelings. Recognize any deep emotions. Remember not to think about these emotions, but to simply notice them instead. One way that can help you not get caught up in the emotion is to label them. If you experience fear, just tell yourself “This is fear”. Then let go of it.
  7. When your mind wanders from the moment, resist the urge to attach yourself to those thoughts. Just let them come and go.
  8. Exit the meditation by letting your mind slip out of awareness and back to the present moment.

Guided meditation

One way to help you get started and really experience the perks of meditation is to participate in guided meditation.

You can always search for a local class or if you’re more introverted, you can download great apps like Headspace that have free meditation sessions that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

You can also try this Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

The transformation you’ve been searching for

One of the key ways that meditation helps you, is by bringing you to the realization that you are not your thoughts or feelings; meditation frees you if you’ve been chained by your thoughts.

By simply connecting with and being more aware of yourself, you develop the amazing ability to handle stress, improve your health and increase your intellect.

So take two minutes now to close your eyes, focus on your breath and be present. Then you’ll be on your way to changing your life for the better.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Eugene K. Choi

I coach professionals who feel stuck in their lives develop a customized plan to serve a need that exists in the world by unleashing their passions and talents.

15 Trustworthy Techniques to Prevent Relationship Problems Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly 15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now How to Attain Self-Realization (a Guide to Become a Better You)

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Published on June 22, 2018

5 Relaxation Meditation Techniques for When You’re Stressed to the Max

5 Relaxation Meditation Techniques for When You’re Stressed to the Max

Saying you’ll avoid stress is like saying you’ll avoid sweets for the rest of your life; unlucky for you, it probably won’t happen. And while that sounds like a losing battle for both the chocoholics and the super stressed out there, it’s not all bad news. Even though stress is something we all get hit with on occasion, and many times when we aren’t expecting it, we’re lucky enough to have a few tools out our disposal to help combat that gripping feeling of helplessness.

Meditation assists a great deal in battling the daily grind, and while I highly suggest making it a regular practice, not all of us are at that point in our lives. But there are other smaller techniques we can utilize to battle the overwhelming feeling we can often get when the stress is getting the best of us.

Keep in mind, all of the following can be done on the spot in an instant to help put you in a more relaxed state. It doesn’t hurt to try them out — it could be a game changer in your day. These techniques below will help you achieve relaxation no matter where you may find yourself when stress hits hard.

1. The 16 second rule

If you could take just a few seconds to shift gears, would you consider that impossible? That’s a trick question — because it’s not.

Enter the 16 second rule. Davidji, a well-known meditation expert, broke it down very simply: take 16 seconds, whenever you need it, to reset yourself. Whether you need a moment to calm down, to tone down the anger, or get into the present moment, following this simple process causes a small “pattern interruption”. What’s a pattern interruption? Think of it as a reset button, or saying no when you usually say yes. Anything that causes you to snap out of the pattern you’re in and refocus.

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Simply breath in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, release for a count of four, and you guessed it, pause for a count of four. Four minor steps at four seconds each, and you’ve got a 16 second reset. Use it whenever you need a moment or feel overwhelmed.

2. The finger trick

This trick can also be done absolutely anytime you want; on the subway, at your desk, or even waiting in line for lunch. If your mind is getting the best of you, simply place your thumb on the side of the bottom of your middle finger (closest to the base of the finger) and close your eyes. Then, breath in and out slowly a few times while putting light pressure on the middle finger with your thumb.

You should feel a slight head-rush or ever-so-small light-headed feeling when following these simple steps. Once you open your eyes, you feel a renewed sense of calm.

3. Deep breaths

This is yet another simple exercise that can be done on the spot, anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed with what life’s throwing at you.

Your eyes can be open or closed, but the idea is to inhale as deep as you possibly can. At first, you’ll probably feel your chest expanding and opening up as you inhale fairly deeply. But if you continue inhaling past that point, make it your mission to slowly expand your stomach with the last bit of that inhale.

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You might temporarily look like you just ate Chipotle’s largest burrito, but it’ll only last a second. If you can do this for five or ten breaths, you’d be surprised how relaxing it is. Most people, unfortunately, don’t breath deeply enough on a daily basis. It’s time to change that.

4. Be grateful

This one is a classic, and for a good reason.

You need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and the best way to do that is to consistently note what you’re grateful for in your life. In order to do that, you have to actively think about the things that support it.

It can be anything from physical to mental, to intangibles like relationships, family, the work you do, or really just about anything.

Can’t find three things? You aren’t looking hard enough. I guarantee you that they’re there, and in plenty more numbers than three. The reason we don’t actively take note of what we do have is because we’re so busy comparing our lives and possessions to everyone else, there’s literally no time left to “stock your own shelves”. Social media, my spicy friends, can be the devil.

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Watch it carefully.

5. Visualization

Our brains are super powerful. In fact, scientists are still actively trying to understand our brains; there’s a lot we don’t even know.

They’re so powerful, it turns out, that we can ultimately create situations and have our bodies respond accordingly, without the situation actually occurring. Confused? Here’s a great example: imagine you have to give a public speech. Before you even get up there to deliver the speech, you already know what happens. Your palms get sweaty, your heart rate increases, you feel weak and nauseated.

But wait, you haven’t even given the speech yet. Your brain has successfully tricked your body into thinking you’re seconds away from getting in front of that crowd and spewing out your monologue.

We can see how powerful it actually is. Now it’s time to use the brain’s power to your advantage, but this time in a good way.

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Close your eyes and put yourself in a situation that you find peaceful. Is it sitting on a porch by the lake? Is it sitting on the beach, overlooking the ocean? Is it on top of a mountain soaking in the incredible valley view?

Whatever it is, really put yourself there. Feel the breeze. Smell the air, whether it’s tinged with the salty ocean or crisp pine from the forest. Hear the sounds. See the sights. Get into it. You can snap back to reality in a couple minutes, but in the meantime, you’re there — wherever you choose.

Once you make it back to the actual present moment, you’ll feel more relaxed.

Go on and be calm

The bad news is that stress is real and it’s nearly impossible to shed from your life. To try would be fruitless; life is about navigating those moments as they arise.

The good news is that there’s a multitude of tools at your disposal to help you in the moments where you’re feeling overwhelmed. You just need to be aware of them and realize they’re not hard to implement.

So the next time you’re feeling like the stress has gotten the best of you, try to use some of the techniques above. Whether it’s one, two, or all five, you’ll feel more relaxed and calm as the day wears on. Besides, knowing that you have the power to reset your day at any time should give you confidence that stress, while rough, is only temporary.

Featured photo credit: Isabell Winter via unsplash.com

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