Meditation 101

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Meditation offers a wide range of benefits for your mind, body and spirit.

Nevertheless,it’s a topic that evokes strong feelings: people either love meditation and are dedicated to the practice or are put off by the subject, frequently feeling intimidated by it.The “I need motivation” blog (http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/) provides a creative list of 100 benefits of meditation.

12 particularly compelling benefits:

– Helps you control your thoughts
– Increases will power
– Slows mental aging
– Strengthens immune system
– Slows physical aging
– Develops compassion
– Increases your focus and concentration
– Leads to deeper relaxation
– Increases sense of peace & happiness
– Increases self-acceptance
– Decreases blood pressure

Quite an impressive list of benefits, wouldn’t you agree?  For those that still need convincing and are interested in giving meditation a try, consider this: it’s both free and anyone can do it. Keep in mind though, that similar to any new skill meditation takes guidance, practice and patience at the start.

Here are some tips to help you begin a meditation practice:

1. Start small. Set yourself up for success by meditating for brief periods of time to start. 5 minutes is a common beginning time, and set a timer. This enables you to just relax, and not constantly wonder how much time has gone by.

2. Choose a specific spot in your home to meditate. Make it a comfortable, happy place!

3. Morning is the best time to meditate, but if there is an interruption to your schedule, try for later in the day.

4. Eliminate distractions. No cell phone, devices, TV or radio on to disturb you.

5. Sit comfortably but with good posture. If you are seated in a chair, put both feet flat on the ground, and sit up with a straight spine (a pillow behind your back can help with this), shoulders relaxed and down.  Rest your hands on your legs, palms up.

6. Close your eyes and begin taking slow, deep breaths, where your belly expands with the inhalation, not your chest. You may want to try the technique of inhaling to the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, and hold for 4 seconds again before inhaling.

7. Clear your mind but know that it is normal for some thoughts to crop up, and that’s okay. Don’t judge them or yourself, simply observe (there’s a worried thought, there’s a judgmental thought, etc.). Just watch them go by like clouds in the sky.

8. If your mind is active and difficult to calm try creating a simple mantra of what you desire from this practice. For example, “Peace and tranquility,” or “Forgiveness and joy,” or “Health and energy.”  Repeat your mantra silently, over and over.

9. Be patient with yourself and don’t analyze your progress daily. In everyday life our minds are relentlessly active. To train your mind to calm down and be still takes time and practice.

10. Lastly, if your feel you need more help, there are various guided meditations available for free on the Internet, or as apps, and can be very helpful.

It has been said that the mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. Meditation is a practice and discipline that will keep those roles distinct and clear.

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