Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Benefits of Meditation: How to Start Your Own Practice

Mindfulness meditation has been practiced as part of the Buddhist philosophy to promote peace and reduce suffering. In the West, the benefits of meditation focus more on relaxation techniques and meditation's ability to ease physical pain, reduce stress, create a sense of well being and, for some people, further their spiritual development.

Types of Meditation

Beginners may find themselves confused by the variety of meditation techniques to choose from. If you're new to meditation, it may help to remember that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. No matter what philosophy provides the basis for a meditation technique, the overall objective is the same: to quiet the mind and silence the inner chatter we carry on with as we move through our days.

Meditation teaches us to quiet our minds in several ways:

  • Breath awareness
  • Focusing attention on a single thought, image or sound
  • Repetition of a mantra
  • Observing thought patterns
  • Walking

Although you may be drawn to one type of meditation to start, you might discover over time that you're drawn to others. Again, there's no right and wrong: try a different form or combine elements from different forms of meditation that interest you. After some trial and error, you'll begin to get a sense of what does and doesn't work for you. 

Meditation Techniques 

Follow the breath. With eyes open or closed, start by bringing your attention to the breath as you naturally inhale and exhale. Focus on the inhalation as you breathe in, and the exhalation as you breathe out. Don't try to force, control or change the breath, just allow it to be. Eventually you can begin to pay attention to the space between the in breath and the out breath-the place where there is no breath. When thoughts arise-and they will-simply acknowledge their existence and gently bring your attention back to your inhalation and exhalation. Watch your breath in your mind's eye as you'd watch waves crash onto and recede from the beach.

Simply sit.

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