A Beginner's Guide to Meditation

I was talking with my crunchy granola friend the other day about the stress and tension headaches I've been having lately (like the one I have as I type this) and she suggested I start meditating. I thought she was joking but she started listing off all the benefits of it - stress relief, mental and physical rest, increased self-awareness, better focus, improved immune system, and others - and, under her advisement, I decided to give it a try.

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't really understand how it's done. I thought you couldn't successfully meditate without beaded cushions, incense, and a Tibetan singing bowl. Turns out there are much simpler ways to do it. You don't need any props or even a lot of time; you can meditate exactly as you are, as long as you have a few minutes and a quiet space to do it.

Here's the process, as taught to me:

1. Set aside 5 minutes (or more, depending on your schedule) and sit down on the floor in a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.
2. Become aware of the weight of your body on the earth. Spend a few moments thinking about this.
3. Straighten your spine and lift up through the top of your head.
4. Relax your muscles, starting with your neck and moving toward the floor. Make sure that you mindfully relax each part of yourself.
5. Close your eyes or look downward with your eyes unfocused.
6. Turn your full attention to your breath. Inhale and exhale at a normal pace, but be aware of it.
7. If your thoughts start to wander or you find yourself getting distracted, repeat a word - "Thinking," "thoughts," etc - and let the distractions go. Return focus to your breathing.
8. When your time is up, don't rush to get back into your normal routine. Turn your focus from your breathing to your muscles, your surroundings, the thoughts that had distracted you during your meditation. Slowly bring yourself back to your day, then return to your normal activities.

I've only meditated a few times now, but I do feel like it's helped. I still get tension headaches but they haven't been as severe, and my meditation posture has made me more aware of how much I slouch so I can start to correct that. Time will tell if it's as beneficial as people say, but I'm optimistic!

Have you ever meditated? If not, do you think you would? Have any tips or tricks you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!


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