Meditation is a form of mental training and skill development that uses clearly defined techniques to focus attention in the present.
Simply put, the act of turning your attention inward is meditation and it can do wonders for your body and mind. Numerous scientific studies have documented the positive effects of a regular meditation practice: from calming the nervous system and lowering blood pressure and heart rate; to calming the mind and reducing stress.
A recent study, conducted by Harvard researchers, determined that meditation actually rebuilt the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces structural changes in the brain’s grey matter. This is the area of the brain involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation and perspective taking.
One of the greatest benefits meditation can offer is freedom from the tyranny of thoughts that typically occupy the mind. You know, those negative thoughts that tell you that you aren’t good enough, or that there’s only one way to do something, or that you don’t have time for meditation in your busy life. Just to be clear: in meditation you don’t have to control or stop your thoughts. Rather, you’re invited to focus your attention on something that lets you disconnect from your thoughts for a while…be less caught up in them…which offers you freedom from their influence.
Would you like to give meditation a try? Here’s a simple practice that can get you started on the road to freedom.
Choose a quite place where you won’t be disturbed. Turn your electronic devices off or set them aside so they won’t be a distraction. Sit in a comfortable upright position in a chair or on the floor on a cushion or meditation bench. Start with 5 minutes a day and slowly work your way up to 20 minutes a day. If you like, you can use a timer so that you don’t have to concern yourself with time.
Focus your attention on your breathing. You’re using your breath as the anchor for your awareness while your thoughts continue to come and go in the background. You might notice the movement of air in and out of your nostrils; or the rise and fall of your belly and chest with each inhale and exhale. You don’t need to change your breathing in any way; simply watch it with your mind’s eye. When you find that you’ve become distracted by a thought (which is inevitable, so don’t beat yourself up about it), gently refocus on your breathing and begin again.
The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.