These are great questions—and we've got you covered here, with some equally excellent answers …
The first thing to know is that there are many different types of meditation. So a natural question would be: Is there something that all of these various techniques have in common?
In Meditation Now: A Beginner's Guide, Elizabeth Reninger offers a general definition of meditation as:
"The art and science of silent introspection—of giving your body and mind a rest, while remaining fully awake and observant."
Meditation also involves:
".. training the mind and tuning into the aware presence that is the background of all of life's experiences."And here Ms. Reninger compares meditation to some physical activities that you may be more familiar with:
And here Ms. Reninger compares meditation to some physical activities that you may be more familiar with:
"Simply put, meditation techniques are tools for knowing, shaping, and liberating the mind. In the same way that cardio or weight-training helps you cultivate a healthy, strong, and flexible body, meditation practice helps you cultivate a healthy, strong, and flexible mind."
The common thread of all meditation techniques is their experiential nature. In other words, to know what meditation is, we have to actually do it. It's only when we directly experience meditation—rather than just talking or thinking about it—that we get a taste of its true benefits.
So what are some of these benefits of a meditation practice?
Meditation practice has a host of scientifically verified physical, mental and emotional benefits, including:
Most importantly, meditation practice helps us connect with our essential nature, the core of our being. And this infinite source of peace, joy and freedom is entirely independent of external circumstances. It is the causeless happiness that we most deeply desire.
When we're rooted in the indestructible peace and joy that meditation reveals, our ability to skillfully navigate our lives is greatly enhanced.
Before embarking upon a meditation practice, it's useful to dispel a couple of common myths.
Myth #1: Meditation is like a magic pill that will fix all of our problems instantly.
The Truth: While the benefits of meditation are indeed profound and wide-ranging, they appear only with ongoing commitment and practice. If you expect instantaneous results, then you're likely to be frustrated. Consider your meditation practice as being something like planting a seed. No one expects a seed to instantaneously become a piece of fruit. Instead, sunshine, rain, fertilizer, and patience over time are all required—in order for the seed to sprout, grow, blossom and bear fruit.
Myth #2: Meditation is super easy.
The Truth: While in its essence meditation is indeed simple, to do it well is not necessarily easy. Like any skill, a meditation technique requires patient cultivation. Almost anyone can hold a basketball in their hands—but to play like Stephen Curry requires years of practice. That said, being a beginner is wonderful too! And even brief daily practice (15-20 minutes) can, over time, yield very sweet benefits.
Now that we've dispelled some common myths, let's recap and build on what we've learned so far, with a list of meditation do's and don'ts.
There are lots of ways that meditation is relevant to your daily life.
In Napoleon Hill's Think & Grow Rich, for instance, we learn how meditation can be a vitally important component of becoming successful in business or creative endeavors—by unleashing the full power of our creative intelligence.
Whatever activities you engage in during the day, they tend to become more enjoyable and effective when infused with the energy of meditation.
1. First thing in the morning, or right before bed, find a quiet place to sit—either in a straight-backed chair or on a cushion on the floor. Allow your spine to be in its natural upright position.
2. Close your eyes and turn your attention inward—noticing sensations in your body, including the sensation of your breathing: the inhalations and the exhalations.
3. Make sure the muscles of your face, neck and jaw are relaxed—as though you're saying "ahhh." Smile gently (which helps this relaxation of the face/neck).
4. Now simply observe the flow of your breathing. Remain gently focused on the cycle of inhalation and exhalation. If your mind wanders, no problem—just come back to the breath. You can also label the in-breath as "In" (spoken out loud or internally, to yourself) and the out-breath as "Out" to help you remain with the breath.
5. Continue like this for 15-20 minutes—and then continue with your daily activities.
There are lots of great books and online resources for meditation practice. Here are some excellent ones to get you started, and help you deepen and refine your meditation practice:
Remember, the only way to really know what meditation is—is to actually do it! Then, and only then, will you reap its remarkable benefits. So dive in, commit to the process, and have fun!
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