Thinking of getting into meditation? With all the incredible benefits that meditation has to offer — from aiding in the relief of stress and anxiety, to slowing down the aging of the brain — it’s no wonder more people are starting to wonder how to meditate properly so they can reap all the mental and physical health benefits for themselves.
In the beginning, it’s normal to have a lot of questions about meditation. Something that looks as if it should be so natural and relaxing to do can feel foreign and complicated to those who are used to being busy and on the go all day long.
Like every journey in life, you’ll learn a lot about meditation as you go. The trick is getting started, being willing to learn, and not worrying too much about trying to be perfect.
Here are five of the most common questions and concerns most beginners have about starting a a meditation habit.
1. “I don’t consider myself to be a follower of the religious or spiritual beliefs associated with meditation.”
Many people know that meditation has been a practice of Buddhists and Hindus for thousands of years. For those who believe in something else (or possibly even nothing at all), these religious/spiritual ties to meditation can make it less appealing.
But meditation isn't really religious, unless you want it to be. It's more about being present and finding inner peace — something that all humans can do regardless of their beliefs. It’s a state of being that is a deeply personal experience, which can be made as religious or as non-religious as you choose.
You also don’t need to sit cross-legged in the lotus position to meditate, a common practice in Hindu forms of meditation. Find a seat on a chair, couch, or the floor, and sit in the most comfortable position while maintaining good posture.
2. “I don’t have enough time or a quiet place to meditate where I can’t be interrupted.”
To get the full benefit of meditation, making a regular daily habit of it is ideal. Unfortunately, having a busy work schedule and a hectic family life can make it hard to get any time alone so you can sit quietly with nobody to bug you.
If you want to make it work, you may have to get a little creative. Schedule a short slot of time in the morning before everyone wakes up, or at night before bed, so you can have an uninterrupted meditation session. Even just five minutes can be beneficial.
In terms of finding a place to do it, almost anywhere will work -- even a public setting. Just bring along some headphones and turn on some soothing music to listen to while you’re at lunch in your office or cubicle, sitting on a park bench, or even on your subway or bus commute to work.
3. “I find it really difficult — even painful — to sit still in silence, all alone with just my thoughts.”
From the Organic Authority Files
To the true beginner, meditation often seems as if it’s supposed to be the most calming, tranquil state a person could ever experience. In reality, however, some people discover it to be almost torturous to become so aware of what’s going on in their own minds, along with all the aches, pains, and itches that are felt in and around the body.
People who are used to moving around and having their minds stimulated throughout the day may notice negative thoughts, emotions, or even feelings of anxiety pop out of nowhere. If these types of cases, shortening your meditation session to just a couple of minutes, or as much as you can handle, may be a good idea. You can build it up over time as it becomes easier to quiet your mind.
As for the bodily aches and pains, it will take some experimentation with body positioning to minimize those. It helps to sit straight up against a wall or chair with good posture, using a cushion to keep your seat nice and soft. Propping your legs up on a table or ottoman straight out in front of you can also help stop them from falling asleep.
4. “I can’t make my mind go blank because I just can’t stop thinking.”
You’re half right to assume that meditation should be thoughtless. In truth, meditation is really about awareness, which doesn't exactly mean you should consciously be suppressing your thoughts so that the mind is totally blank. If this is what you're doing, and it's making you frustrated, it's time to take a different approach.
Everyone has thoughts during meditation. The trick is to avoid getting swept up in them and instead become the observer. Simply be aware of the thought and acknowledge that it’s there, watching it appear and then disappear. This gets easier with practice.
5. “Am I doing it right?”
Perhaps one of the most difficult questions to answer is whether you're meditation efforts are really paying off. And because it’s such a personal experience, only you can really answer that. There's really no right or wrong way to do it, and you can try different types of meditation to see what works best for you.
Although it may take quite a bit of time and regular daily practice, a few good signs of progress include better sleep, increased awareness of your surroundings throughout the day, decreased feelings of anxiety or depression, and even feeling like time seems to have slowed down a bit more in your everyday life.
On some days, meditation may seem difficult to get through. Other days it may be a breeze. You’ll always have ups and downs, but as long as you commit to making a good habit out of it over the long-term without getting too hung up on short-term results, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get better at it and notice some beneficial changes in yourself at some point.
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