Did you know that people who meditate are scientifically proven to be happier and healthier? It’s true. And they have greatlyextended life spans, too. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous studies showing that meditation dramatically reduces, and even reverses disease of all types.
But the benefits of meditation don’t stop there. Studies also show that experienced meditators – those who are able to achieve the deepest levels of meditative states – are able to tap into dormant levels of brain function they never thought possible – levels of function that exist in each and every one of us – resulting in increased intelligence, creativity, and success in life.
Sit on your cushion or chair with a straight back. The upright posture helps you to concentrate on your breathing as you purposefully inhale and exhale. If you’re sitting in a chair with a back, try not to lean back against it or slouch. Stay as erect as possible.
Position your legs in whichever manner is comfortable to you. You can extend them out in front of you or cross them beneath you like a pretzel if you’re using a cushion on the ground. The most important thing is that your posture remains straight.
Don’t fret about what to do with your hands. In the media, we often see people holding their hands at their knees when meditating, but if that’s uncomfortable for you, don’t worry about it. You can fold them in your lap, let them hang at your sides — whatever allows you to clear your mind and concentrate on your breathing.
Tilt your chin as though you’re looking downward. It doesn’t matter if your eyes are opened or closed when you meditate, though many people find it easier to block out visual distractions with closed eyes. Either way, tilting your head as though you’re looking down helps open up the chest and ease your breathing.
Set your timer. When you’re in a comfortable position and are ready to get started, set your timer for however long you’d like to meditate. Don’t feel any pressure to reach an hour-long transcendental state during your first week. Start small with 3-5 minute sessions, and work your way up to half an hour, or even longer if you’d like.
Keep your mouth closed as you breathe. You should both inhale and exhale through your nose when meditating. However, make sure your jaw muscles are relaxed, even though your mouth is closed. Don’t clench your jaws or grind your teeth; simply relax.
Focus on your breathing. This is what meditation’s all about. Instead of tryingnot to think about the things that might stress you out on a day-to-day basis, give yourself something positive to focus on: your breath. By focusing all of your concentrating on your inhalations and exhalations, you’ll find that all other thoughts from the outside world fall away on their own, without you having to worry about how to ignore them.
Concentrate on your breathing in the way that’s most comfortable for you. Some people like to focus on how the lungs expand and contract, while others like to think about how air passes through the nose when they breathe. You might even focus on the sound of your breathing. Just bring yourself to a state of mind where you’re solely focused on some aspect of your breath. Observe your breath, but don’t analyze it. The goal is to be present within each breath, not to be able to describe it. Don’t worry about remembering what you’re feeling, or being able to explain the experience at a later time. Just experience each breath in the moment. When it passes, experience the next breath. Try not to think about the breathing with your mind – just experience it through your senses.
Bring your attention back to your breath if it wanders. Even when you’ve gained a lot of experience with meditation, you’ll find that your thoughts might wander. You’ll start thinking about work or bills or the errands you have to run later. Whenever you notice the outside world creeping in, don’t panic and try to ignore them. Instead, gently nudge your focus back to the sensation of your breath in your body, and let other thoughts fall away again.
You may find it easier to maintain your focus on inhalations than on exhalations. Keep this in mind if you find it to be true. Try to concentrate especially on the feeling of your breath as it leaves your body. Try counting your breaths if you’re having trouble refocusing your attention. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept that focus will be hard for you when you’re just starting out. Don't berate yourself––all beginners experience the inner chatter. In fact, some would say that this continual return to the present moment is the "practice" of meditation. Furthermore, don’t expect your meditation practice to change your life overnight. Mindfulness takes time to exert its influence. Keep coming back to meditation every day for at least a few minutes, lengthening your sessions when possible.