The A, B, Cs of Meditation
Meditation, deep breathing, dhyana, mindfulness, being present, calm, collected and so on and so forth. Whatever you read, watch or listen to, you would have most likely heard of meditation. This Eastern practice has slowly become a more accepted in the West, although when most people think of meditation they think of a spiritually connected (or sometimes slightly hippie) person sitting in full lotus position (a.k.a. crossed legged) and humming 'om' as they breathe. Whilst that is perhaps one form of meditation, it is so broad and varied that there is a style to suit everyone.
I once read (or maybe I heard) that everyone should practice meditation daily for 20 minutes, and those who say/believe/claim they don't have time should practice for one hour daily. Just think about that for a moment. Basically, meditation is the ultimate antidote to stress, busy-ness, anxiety, rushing, to-do lists and all the other maddening elements of our lives. And the list of benefits is almost hard to believe: sleep better, feel more positive, happier, calmer, better sex, abundance in life, be more mindful, present, accepting, tolerant, lose weight, eat better, reduce risk of heart disease, reduce high blood pressure, tension, stress levels, reduce free radical damage and improved concentration and many more. Google it, if you really want to know. If not, just take my (and many thousands and millions of people before me) word for it, it's good for you. Really good!
But how do you meditate? How long should I do it for? Do I have to think of nothing? What do I think about? Where do I meditate? Do I need a CD/DVD/guide? I just can't meditate!
There are many answers to these questions, except the last one, to which I say (excuse my French) bulls***! Anyone and everyone can meditate. Whilst in the ideal world we would all meditate for 20-60 minutes daily, I realise that this is simply not possible for everyone (including me, who once meditated for 19 minutes and 37 seconds before I opened my eyes and looked at the stopwatch...).
To begin with, it doesn't have to be complex. Find a comfortable place to sit, perhaps on a pillow, or lay on your back with arms and legs extended. Take a few long, slow, deep breaths before closing your eyes. If you are sitting I also recommend rolling your shoulders up and back a few times to release tension. Then it's almost a simple as sitting and breathing.
With regard to thoughts, the idea behind meditation is not to think of nothing (because honestly, who can do that?) or to think only divine, spiritual thoughts (again, really?). It is more to observe your own thoughts. Let them run free for a while and then take a metaphorical step back, observe your thoughts and even think about your thoughts. Observe any patterns emerging. Are you constantly in the future, thinking of things ahead or yet to be done? Are you thinking about or dwelling on the past? Are you allowing negative thoughts to run wild in your head? At first just observe these patterns, then bring your conscious back to your breathing. Allow the thoughts to go and just focus your attention on each inhale and exhale. Are they deep? Shallow? Do you feel them in your chest? Belly? Throat? Are you breathing fully or just half way? Focus.
Another thing I like to do during meditation, whilst my thoughts are like putty in my hands, is to repeat affirmations. Whatever positive affirmation you like, whether that be 'I am......' (fill in the blank), or whether you just use the universal affirmation 'I accept myself unconditionally right now'. Repeat them over and over and over and over whilst breathing deeply. You will be amazed how much more positive you feel at the end of it all.
And if you are still convinced you simply don't have the time/space/energy to meditate, let me tell you this. You can meditate anywhere, anytime. If you are standing at the bus/train stop, just take some slow deep breaths (eyes open) and focus and observe your thoughts. If you are stuck in traffic, do the same. If you are on the bus/train, do the same. If you have been sitting at a desk all day, do the same.
Meditation, even if only a few moments a day, is powerful.
P.S. I am no meditation expert, this is just my experience. For more awesome articles on meditation, check out this page on Mind, Body, Green.