Meditation is credited with countless benefits, from calming the mind and elevating consciousness to promoting long-lasting mental and physical wellness. Dating back to 1500 BCE India, meditation first came to light under Vedantism, an ancient Hindu tradition. In fact, historians believe it may have even been practiced as early as 3000 BCE.Today, meditation remains widely regarded as a transformative method for finding overall bodily wellness and emotional balance. While learning how to do it appears simple, meditation requires great patience and dedication to master.
Meditation isn’t about forgetting your troubles or becoming someone new, but rather it’s a process intended to teach how to become truly present through awareness and observation of one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions without judgment. It can also offer a new perspective and a refreshing insight to life. Whatever the reason for trying meditation, a warm, rewarding refuge is surely in store.
Reaching meditative enlightenment can be accomplished in many ways, such as body scanning, mindfulness, breath-work and yogic practice. Finding what works best for each individual is the key. Tools such as crystals, music, essential oils or sound healing can act as great catalysts for shifting oneself into a space of calm and openness—but it’s believed that the benefits of meditation can only truly be activated from within.
Luckily, this practice does not require hours of sitting and breathing to reap the rewards. Just a few minutes and a couple of simple steps, and meditation can be achieved.
Here are five steps to learning how to meditate. Try it out and experience for yourself!
Find somewhere quiet to sit
Pick a setting that will allow you to stay still, undisturbed and without distraction. Once you’ve picked your spot, find a comfortable seat. You can relax on a pillow, sit cross-legged on the ground or upright in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back supported so you won’t be disrupted by physical aches or pains. Get cozy and prepare to be still for a few minutes.
Focus on your breath
Once settled, close your eyes and begin to draw attention to your breath. Notice your natural inhalation and exhalation. Is the breath coming from your chest or your abdomen? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth or both? Notice if your breathing is hurried, forced and shallow, or if you feel a lightness and a deep calming to your breath. Everything you are experiencing is OK. You are exactly where you need to be. This observation is the most vital part of entering meditation.
Follow your breath for two minutes, inhaling deeply and expanding your belly, then exhaling slowly, elongating the out-breath as your belly contracts.
Allow thoughts to come and go
Your mind will attempt to distract you throughout your meditation. As you get better at observing instead of chasing your thoughts it becomes easier to stay in this meditative moment undisturbed. One way to allow thoughts to come and go with ease is imagining your thoughts gently drifting down a river, like a leaf resting atop the water heading downstream. Do not judge anything thoughts or emotions that arise, just notice them. They will come, and they will go.
If this process becomes too much of a battle between you and your thoughts, you can also choose to simply observe your surroundings. With eyes closed, take note of the many sounds, smells and sensations around you. Resting in the awareness of your surroundings without having to act on any impulse or attach any sort of meaning to what you experience is the essence of meditation. Sit in this space for a few minutes, breathing and observing.
Grounding, also known as earthing, is a technique intended tos physically and spiritually connect oneself to the earth’s electrical charge. This can be done through a “rooting” visualization or observation of your surroundings. Grounding can also be done through barefoot walks through the grass or sand, hiking and spending any time in nature. For my meditations, I like to envision that I have plant-like roots sprouting from my sit bones that grow deep into the ground and anchor me to the earth’s core, which allows me to feel stable, secure and safe. You also can picture a gold cord that travels from the top of your head and down through your body to root you into the earth.
Close with kindness and gratitude
There is no optimal time a meditation must last. When you feel you’ve reached a more centered space and are ready to go about your day, gently open your eyes and lift your gaze. Take a few moments to notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels and if there are any new or lingering thoughts and emotions.
And that’s it! You just finished your first meditation. While a daily practice of just a few minutes is common, meditating as often as you can will do your mind, body and soul wonders.
Do not worry if every meditation feels slightly different or appears to be better or worse, easier or harder than others. Meditation is meant to bring your attention to the present, no matter what you are currently experiencing. Each time you sit and take this time, you are allowing space to freely express whatever you feel without judgment.