Most people have heard of meditation and mindfulness these days. It's quite a buzz word these days and no longer seen as something just for monks and hippies.
So we can agree that meditation is cool now, but why should you try it and how to start?
The benefits of a regular meditation practice are plentiful. They include:
~ lowering blood pressure
~ improved sleep
~ reduced anxiety
~ better pain management
~ increased self awareness
~ higher energy levels
~ reduction in aggression and irritability
~ increased positive emotions and compassion
~ improved focus
Doesn't that sound good? So, how to start a regular meditation practice?
Meditation is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as "the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally". In order to formally meditate you need to sit still and be aware. Pay attention. See what thoughts you have. Watch those thoughts and watch as they leave. Feel your breath in your body. Pay attention without judging.
Does that sound easy? Well it's really not. Meditating takes many years of dedicated practice to master but you can begin to reap the benefits in a matter of minutes.
How to Meditate (some basic instructions by Sam Harris)
Sit comfortably, with your spine erect, either in chair or cross-legged on a cushion.
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel the points of contact between your body and the chair or floor. Notice the sensations associated with sitting—feelings of pressure, warmth, tingling, vibration, etc.
Gradually become aware of the process of breathing. Pay attention to wherever you feel the breath most clearly—either at the nostrils, or in the rising and falling your abdomen.
Allow your attention to rest in the mere sensation of breathing. (There is no need to control your breath. Just let it come and go naturally.)
Every time your mind wanders in thought, gently return it to the sensation of breathing.
As you focus on the breath, you will notice that other perceptions and sensations continue to appear: sounds, feelings in the body, emotions, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in the field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing.
The moment you observe that you have been lost in thought, notice the present thought itself as an object of consciousness. Then return your attention to the breath—or to whatever sounds or sensations arise in the next moment.
Continue in this way until you can merely witness all objects of consciousness—sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, and even thoughts themselves—as they arise and pass away.
If you are interested in learning about meditation there are a lot of wonderful resources out there. There are online and in person classes that you could take and there are a LOT of books on the subject.
A good place to start is by trying a few guided meditations. You can find a lot of excellent ones on Insight Timer. This is a completely free app and gives you a large selection of guided meditations, music to meditate to and short courses to give you tasters of the various styles of meditation.
If you're ready to dive in and learn more about meditation I would recommend the books by Jack Kornfield or anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn