The first time I offered a meditation class I was amazed by the barrage of questions I received. Some people were concerned I was teaching some strange religious philosophy. Some were just confused as to why anyone should or would want to meditate.

What is the purpose? I get a lot of different reactions when I speak to people about meditation. It seems that there are many misconceptions about what it is, and why someone should do it. I hope to clear up some of these misconceptions and hopefully, even if you are only mildly interested in a meditative practice, that you will give it a try.

What is meditation?

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The word meditation conjures up all kinds of ideas in people’s minds and within the scope of meditation there are many types both religious and otherwise. I practice and teach a very simple type of meditation that anyone can easily do.

Through the meditative process the practitioner is seeking to quiet the mind and reflect inward. In our connected world of constant email, text, phone calls, social media, and the fact that we are often juggling more than one of those items at a time, never has there been more of a need for quiet reflection and being in the moment than now.

Taking a few moments to relax your body, concentrate on your breath and just “be” is an extraordinarily productive practice for gaining some perspective and decompressing from the day’s events. It is also a great addition to your martial arts workout. Either adding it before or after, but including some meditative practice, is a great way to condition your mind. You will feel a sense of calm and peace that will help you make better choices and the things you do more meaningful. So how do you do it?

How to meditate?

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The one rule I have for success in most any endeavor is to keep it simple and start with small amounts of time. If things are complicated and take a long time, you will probably be less likely to do them, whereas if things are simple, and not too intrusive, you will be more likely to give it a chance. Let’s apply this rule to meditative practice.

The first thing to consider is where to do it. Any quiet or out of the way place should be fine. You don’t need to sit in the lotus position, but if you prefer sitting on the ground, you should sit on a small pillow or rolled blanket to raise your hips. However, for starting out, I suggest just using a chair as shown.

Follow these instructions:

  • If you use a chair, sit with your feet flat on the floor and sit back all the way. If you are sitting on the floor, choose a posture that is comfortable for you.
  • Imagine your head floating up
  • Your body should be straight, but not stiff
  • Drop your shoulders and relax
  • Let your hands rest on your thighs or in your lap as shown
  • Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth
  • Use abdominal/diaphragmatic breathing rather than chest breathing
  • Focus on your breath
  • You can count (5, 7, or 9 for example) to even out your inhalation and exhalation, or just breathe in a relaxed manner
  • Your eyes can be open or closed. If you keep your eyes open, focus on one spot
  • Sit, relax, and focus on the breath

Start Meditation Now

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As you sit, and focus on your breath, other thoughts will come into your mind. You will likely start to get bombarded with random thoughts like: the shopping list, sending that email to a client, worrying about something you said or did. Thoughts will race. This is normal. As these thoughts occur, just gently brush them aside, remember to relax the body, and go back to focusing on the breath. As you continue your practice you will get better at this process.

How long someone should meditate is totally up to them. I think that if you are just starting out, you should try for a length of time that you know you can do and go from there. Use a timer once you start. Can you start with 5 minutes? If so, start there and add more time as you go. However, as with anything you are trying to do and become proficient, it is the frequency and not the length of time that is important. If you meditate for five minutes every day, you will start to feel benefits. If you do half an hour once and then maybe ten minutes a week later, it won’t have the same effect.

Now that you have some tools to work with, try it out for yourself. In the near future, I will do a second part to this piece and provide some other techniques, such as visualization, that can be included in your meditation practice. For now, just find a quiet spot, set a timer, and get internal. What are you waiting for?

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