What is meditation?
It is an exercise for the mind. Just like the muscles of the body, the mind needs to be exercised – and allowed to rest. Meditation for the mind is like exercise for the muscles. Meditation can help the mind to work better: for example, to be able to relax deeply or, conversely, to concentrate better on the task at hand.
Is meditation something religious?
Not necessarily. Meditation is indeed practiced by followers of some religions, but the average person can also meditate; it doesn’t require rosaries or chanting bowls or mantras. For example, mindfulness practices are taught to employees of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other companies.
Does meditation really work?
Yes, it works. For example, studies show that people who practice meditation experience physical changes in the brain. In one experiment, after eight weeks of meditation, subjects had increased gray matter density in the left hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with short- and long-term memory function). In another, scientists found meditators had increased gray matter volume in several parts of the brain at once. According to numerous studies, meditation and other mindfulness practices help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and chronic pain. They also promote relaxation, improve sleep quality and train concentration.
What’s the right way to meditate?
There are many options. For beginners, guided breathing meditation is a good idea. Sit in a comfortable pose with a straight back, close your eyes, and breathe naturally. It is possible to make some breaths and exhalations, counting about itself to four – it will help to smooth breathing. Focus your attention on the sensations that arise in your upper lip and nostrils as the air passes through them. If you’re distracted and thinking about something else, don’t worry – sometimes it happens, it’s perfectly normal. Just go back to observing how you feel. Getting your attention back is part of meditation.
Over time, you will learn to notice when your thoughts begin to wander and you can easily stop the process. This exercise trains your ability to concentrate and quickly shift your attention away from distracting phenomena and thoughts.
When meditating, is it always necessary to be in the “lotus pose”?
Not necessarily. You should sit in any comfortable position with a straight back – for example, in a chair, placing both feet on the floor and placing your hands just above your knees. Most likely, this is the most comfortable pose for beginners. It is also possible to sit cross-legged, but it is more difficult to keep the back straight and may cause pain in the knees and lower back, which may distract from meditation. Another option is to sit with your legs bent at the knees (make sure you do not have pain or discomfort in your feet, ankles, shins and knees).
How long does it take to meditate?
No, not long. It is advised to start with five minutes, of which only two minutes should be devoted to meditation. A couple of minutes should be devoted to preparing for the exercise; after meditation, one should spend another minute in silence, adjusting for the rest of the day.
It is better to practice a little bit every day – so it will be easier to form a habit. After a week, it is possible to slightly increase the duration of the exercise.
When is the best time to meditate?
It is best to meditate in the morning, right after waking up. If for some reason this is not possible, choose a time during the day when you will not be distracted and a place where you can be in silence.
Where is the best place to meditate?
Choose a secluded room with natural light. You have to sit motionless on the floor for at least 10-15 minutes, with your legs crossed or your knees tucked in. Use a yoga mat and a flat cushion to prevent the practice from turning into agony. If you don’t have a yoga mat or pillow handy, lay a soft plaid rolled up several times on the floor. This will help keep you from being distracted by physical discomfort.
How do you create the right atmosphere for meditation?
Anyone who has ever tried meditating knows that even sitting in the lotus position is not as difficult as freeing your head from thoughts. When you try not to think about anything, you think about everything at once – the birds are singing too loudly, the neighbors are arguing somewhere, and you also need to finish two tasks for work, there are discounts in the store in the evening, you need to call your girlfriend…
To interrupt this internal monologue, try closing your eyes, turning on meditation music or sounds of nature. You can also direct your attention to contemplating an object. Ideal is a houseplant or a candle flame during evening practice.
For evening meditations it is good to use aroma diffusers or sticks with a scent of lavender – it will help to calm down and recover after a hard day.
Another unusual way to tune in to meditation is to set an hourglass. Observing the grains of sand will help you focus and move on to practice. And if the clock is big enough, it may well replace the stopwatch that counts down the time of meditation. Try it!
How do I know that I have succeeded in meditating?
You can’t at first. Some days it may even feel like I didn’t get it right – that’s normal. Meditation is like sports training, and it takes time to show its effect (that’s why they experiment for a long time when researching mindfulness practices). If you do it correctly, after a few weeks there will be a feeling of relaxation in the body and clarity of consciousness, and the concentration of the mind will increase.
What is the main mistake when meditating?
A common mistake of the first meditations is to try too hard and expect instant results. You may meditate so diligently in pursuit of quality and effect that instead of relaxation and tranquility you get tension and frustration.
Can someone teach me how to meditate?
Yes. For example, you can use educational phone apps (though most of them are available in English).
What are the best apps for meditation?
- Insight Timer is free. Rating 4.9. The app allows you to create and join group meditations in real time.
- meditopia – free, there are in-app purchases. Rating 4.8. Over 1000 meditations in different languages of the world.
- Mo – 7 days free. Rating 4.7. There are not only meditations, but also interesting bedtime stories.
- Nimbus Mind – 3 days free. Rating 4.7. The application contains many programs for different levels of practice.