Meditation is an ages-old practice that has been used to promote relaxation, build internal strength, and clear the mind since prehistory. The oldest written records of the practice were found in ancient India circa 1500 BC, and continue on through the religious practices of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism to today.
Meditation itself is not only a religious practice. Meditation can be used to organize your mind and relieve stress. In the field of psychology, meditation has been used to bring about a higher state of consciousness and focus. Forms of meditation can be as physical as a chant or mantra or as mental as focusing on positive thought. Techniques such as slow breathing and deep reflection have been found to increase the sense of peace and relaxation, as well as helping to cope with stress.
A trained professional can help guide your meditation practice, but certain techniques and tricks can help to organize your mind and relieve stress at home or on the go—once you learn these tools, they become applicable in many aspects of one’s daily life.
Clear Your Mind and Focus on Breathing
Clearing one’s mind may be easier said than done, but the first state of practice for those learning meditation skills is discovering how to get into a meditative state. Just like any other form of physical or mental exercise, meditation requires steps. A beginner would find meditating in one still position for several hours quite difficult, but by building meditative practices, this strength increases.
The first and easiest way to start meditation is to focus on your breathing. Make sure your body is in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Notice how you make no effort to breathe, how you breathe naturally—in and out.
Focus your attention on the movement of air, in and out. Notice how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Maybe your throat opens, or your abdomen clenches, or your chest rises. Keep noticing your breathing process without controlling it. Any time your mind wanders, bring your focus back to the body and the act of breathing.
Meditate in this way for two minutes to start, and then extend it by a minute each time you need to focus and relieve stress.
Try A Walking Meditation Practice
Sometimes, sitting with oneself may not be the ideal form of meditative practice. Some don’t have the patience to sit still for minutes and focus on breathing. For more active beginners, a walking meditation may be a great way to organize your mind and relieve stressors.
Find a walking path you enjoy and take a ten-minute stroll. Just like the breathing meditation, clear your mind of all other thoughts to focus on the body. Instead of thinking about the past or future, give attention to the feeling of your body walking—feet hitting the ground—and the sensation of wind on your skin. Notice the breathing in and out.
Take a few minutes and observe the world with a clear mind. Notice what you can hear and what you can see. Instead of looking for attractive objects, let your mind take in all that is around you. This is called open meditation. Any time your mind begins to focus on the past or future, bring your attention back to the physical acts of breathing or walking and refocus that energy in a positive way.
Create a Small, Steady Practice
Meditation is not an all-or-nothing technique and its practices can be used and modified to benefit the practitioner. Instead of worrying about the act of meditation, take just a few minutes every day to let your thoughts go and focus on your breathing or your walking.
By completing a small bit of meditative practice every day, your meditative muscle grows and grows. Studies show that those who meditate for longer than ten days in a row will continue their daily meditative practices afterwards. Schedule some time out of your day—after waking up or before going to bed, for example—and take this time to build a meditative practice that helps to relieve stress and keep a clear and open mind.