How to meditate

Caroline Cassidy

Amidst the stresses and strains of modern life, a little peace and quiet can go a long way. For centuries meditation, in various forms, has been used to quiet the mind and achieve a state of deep relaxation and awareness. With practice, it can become an invaluable resource that allows you to dispel stress and better control reactions in emotional situations.

How to meditate
How to meditate

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Where and when?

To fully reap the benefits of meditation, it is vital to find a quiet and relaxing environment. This can be outside or indoors but be sure to remove any distractions - TVs, phones, appliances... the dog! Many people prefer to play music during meditation and a calm and repetitive sound may help you to focus.

When to meditate really depends on your lifestyle. Ideally you should set aside a time each day for meditation but how long and when you do so is down to personal preference. Many find the morning is the perfect time as you are less tired and less focused on the events of the day. Others prefer to focus on clearing the mind at the end of a busy day. However, meditating immediately after or before a meal is not advisable as it is easy to be distracted by stomach rumblings!

The ideal position for meditation is sitting on level ground with a straight back. If you are using a cushion, tilt the pelvis forward a little. There is no need to struggle into the lotus position, comfort is more important - just make sure you are not so comfortable that you'll end up falling asleep.

The idea is to align your spine so that your body is perfectly balanced and the weight of your upper body is supported. When this is done correctly, you will feel as though holding your torso upright requires no effort at all. Then try to relax every part of your body (including your face muscles). As you begin to relax, you may notice some areas tensing up and you may need to adjust your position or posture until everything is relaxed.

Focus your attention on your breathing - listen as you slowly inhale and exhale and allow the inevitable thoughts cluttering your mind to fade gently away. Some find reciting a mantra, either out loud or in their head, helps but beginners may find it easier to simply count their breaths from one to 10 before starting again at one.

If you struggle to clear the busyness from your mind, try visualising a calm place, either real or imaginary. You may even find that calmly replaying the events of the day (without becoming emotionally involved) helps to clear their mind of those very events.

Do not expect to reach nirvana on your first attempt at meditation! Focus not on results but on the effect meditation has on your lifestyle. You may not feel as though anything has changed but, as a little experiment, skip your meditation time for a day and see whether it affects your mood and wellbeing.

As a beginner, you may find your mind wandering during meditation - this does not mean you have failed. You are merely becoming aware of your wandering mind. When it occurs, just gently refocus your attention on your breathing and continue. Remember, completely clearing your mind takes plenty of practice and self-discipline so try to train yourself to focus on one thing at a time to begin with.

Done regularly and consistently, meditation can ease stress and leave you peaceful, relaxed and refreshed... and in this day and age that's an invaluable tool.