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Meditation: A Beginner’s Guide

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I am aware that the idea of meditation comes with some baggage. Images of new-age hippies sitting cross-legged on pillows getting in tune with their chakras while rubbing a crystal are some of the stereotypes that come to mind. But I have found that in my experience, these stereotypes have been misleading. For those of you who might be interested in trying meditation, but have been uncomfortable with the concept – this article is for you!

Meditation isn’t something that changes our outside circumstances. But what it can do is change how we experience and process stress. You learn to view your own reactions and feelings from a more grounded distance. As Mark Sisson says, “We learn to talk ourselves down from our own trees.”

On top of all that, research shows that meditation has a biological effect as well. It lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, increases our capacity to learn, and may even slow the aging process.

In an age of incredible distraction, what I find most ‘enlightening’ about meditation is how it teaches me to be present. It helps sharpen my thinking and leaves me feeling more equipped to meet the challenges of daily life – which, in my case, includes three kids under 2 years old! Trust me when I say that meditation has definitely helped me navigate parenthood with more patience, awareness, and love.

So how do you meditate? Well, that depends on you, really. There are many ways to meditate. Personally, I like to lie in a darkened room on the floor after I get out of bed and just focus on my breathing, allowing myself to be totally present in that moment. I allow whatever thoughts I’m having to simply happen…I notice them, then let them go. Simple as that. Other people like to mindfully relax their entire bodies, using their breath, one part at a time. Simple. Others like to practice movement meditation, like Qigong, or focus on a mantra while they breathe.

There really is no right or wrong way to meditate. But there are a few suggestions I might offer to those of you who might like to try it:

1. Start small. Don’t imagine you need to sit or lie still for an hour the first time you try to meditate. Start with a 5 or 10 minute meditation, and increase in 5 minute increments as you become more comfortable with the exercise.

2. Try to do it in the same place every time. This allows you to start to make associations with the physical space that trigger your mindfulness state.

3. Start simple. Just focus on your breath. Breathe in, breathe out, and notice. Don’t judge, simply notice. If thoughts take hold, try to release them with your breath. If you notice tension in your body, do the same.

Just like any exercise, the only way to learn it is to start. The more you do it, the more you learn. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. All you need to do is simply…to begin.

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