People have been asking me for years about meditation and how to get into it. I’ve been meditating off and on since 2004, but I’ve been doing it every day for the past several years. Meditation has tons of amazing benefits, including reducing stress; improving concentration; encouraging a healthy lifestyle; increasing self-awareness, happiness, and acceptance; slowing aging; and improving cardiovascular and immune system health. Since it is so crucial to better living, let’s talk about it!
What is meditation?
First off, let go of that myth that meditation needs to be done cross-legged in a forest wearing the robes of a Buddhist monk. There are tons of different types of meditations out there and numerous ways to do them.
Meditation is just a mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a higher level of awareness. I like to think of my own definition of meditation as simply be-ing — being without trying to be anywhere, or be anyone, or be anything. It’s not even necessarily being still or un-still — just being. And if that doesn’t make sense right now, that’s okay. With practice, you’ll begin to understand the meaning of just being.
What’s the best kind of meditation?
Having tried a variety of forms over the years — breathing meditations, walking meditations, body scan meditations, guided imagery meditations, regular guided meditations, group meditations, Transcendental Meditation, and even meditation apps — I currently meditate in a variety of different ways, and I change it daily.
I first got started with meditation because I was having trouble sleeping. Somehow I stumbled across some audio recording that used guided imagery to take the listener to a calm, restful place. I found that I could never make it through a whole recording because I would fall asleep a few minutes into it. Bingo!
More research led me to discover other guided meditation audios that I could use any time of day, which is a very easy way to get introduced to the practice.
Consistency is Key
Of course, when you first try meditation, you might feel uncomfortable. You might have tons of thoughts coming through that you just can’t seem to let go of. This is just the mind’s way of saying it doesn’t like what you’re doing. The mind wants to go go go and be stimulated all the time, especially in today’s social-media-scrolling, cat-video-clip-watching, fast-paced world. And that’s totally fine and expected!
But with regular practice, you will begin to find tiny moments of simple awareness without judgment. With more practice, preferably daily, those moments might become longer. It’s all part of the process.
I owe my daily practice to Transcendental Meditation, or TM. TM is a very popular meditation technique among many people, including celebrities such as Katy Perry (I’m sure you’ve heard of her. Right?), but there are plenty of people out there who have an aversion to it because it costs so much money to learn. (The argument is that meditation should always be free to learn, and I can’t agree more, but curiosity had me dropping the cash to find out what the hype was all about.)
While the results are profound, I believe it isn’t necessarily because of the technique itself. Instead, I believe that it is the money spent on it that makes the difference.
But wait… shouldn’t meditation be free?
Of course it should! What I mean about money making the difference is that I spent so much money to learn this technique that I will be damned if I don’t meditate every day.
Therefore, I believe any meditation technique practiced regularly makes the key difference and produces profound effects.
Will meditation go against my religion… or lack thereof?
Nope. None of the meditations I have ever practiced have had any religious association or philosophy to them, which makes them suitable for anyone. In fact, one could even argue that if you pray or simply notice the breath, those are forms of meditation.
How do I learn to meditate?
If you’d like to try out some meditations, I suggest starting with these resources:
- UCLA Free Guided Meditations (Audio)
- Meditation Oasis Podcast Guided Meditations (Audio)
- Timeless (App)
- Calm (App)
- Headspace (App)
These are just good places to start, but there will be more on meditation in the future!
Love and light,
Alyssa a.k.a. That Yoga Teacher