Guide to Meditation E V E RY D AY A D V I C E F O R B E G INNE R S
Guide to Meditation E V E RY D AY A D V I C E F O R B E G INNE R S
Enjoy a calm, peaceful, and clear mind.
A Keystone Habit
“Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. What you repeatedly do ultimately forms the person you are.” — James Clear, a writer and behavior science expert.
The good habits that you have are important! Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect in your life that produces a number of positive outcomes. We believe that meditating every day can be your keystone habit. Your initial goal may be just getting more and better sleep, but this habit can also lead to positive, unintended outcomes, like becoming more productive each day, reducing stress, increasing focus and so on. Meditation is definitely a life-changing habit. It is as simple as breathing. Even a short period of time can be transformative. Itâ€™s not just a spiritual thing but a healthy practice for your brain. Letâ€™s take time for what matters. Soon you will notice more opportunities for selfimprovement from the meditation habit that youâ€™re forming.
Why is Breathing Fundamental?
Deep breaths are impactful because they help your mind to focus.
Focusing on your inhalation and exhalation can help reduce undesired distractions during meditation. Feeling the air as it enters your nostrils, filling your chest and abdomen, and release. The big secret of meditation is it gets you to a state where your mind is relaxed and alert at the same time. When your attention and meta-attention both become strong, your mind becomes increasingly focused and stable, but in a way that is relaxing. This meditation guidance book provides breathing techniques that help you practice at any time and any place. For more details, please see the step-by-step guidance in the following chapter. Letting your attention rest on your natural rhythm of breathing. You will feel great!
How Does Meditation Benefit Us?
When we do meditation, our mind not only becomes calm, it also becomes sharp.
Meditation undoubtedly has a great impact on our physical and mental health. It is well-known for enhancing a peaceful and restful mind. When we become more calm, we become more aware of the situation we are in, which is also called mindfulness. We reduce stress and gain more positive thinking, improving empathy through the meditation practice. On the other hand, from a scientific perspective, meditation has proven to physically change our brain shape and size. Studies found that after 8 weeks of a meditation practice, gray matter was more dense in areas associated with learning, memory processing, and emotional regulation. That is, we can improve memory function, concentration skills, and emotional intelligence. The massive benefits of meditation only come when you make it into a habit.
Dispelling the Myths
Despite the growing popularity of meditation, prevailing misconceptions about the practice are a barrier that prevents many people from trying meditation and receiving its profound benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Here are truths behind some misconceptions.
Meditation is difficult.
Meditation is not a complicated practice. Nor is it about “success” or “failure”. Even when meditation feels difficult, you’ll have learned something valuable about the working of the mind and thus will have benefited psychologically.
You have to quiet your mind in order to have a successful meditation practice.
Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind, it is about being aware of our minds. When thoughts arise, we don’t need to judge them or try to push them away. Instead, we gently return our attention to our object of attention.In every meditation, there are moments, when the mind dips into the gap and experiences the refreshment of pure awareness.
It takes years of dedicated practice to receive any benefits from meditation.
The benefits of meditation are both immediate and long-term. You can begin to experience benefits the first time you sit down to meditate and in the first few days of daily practice. Many scientific studies provide evidence that meditation has profound effects on the min-body physiology within just weeks of practice.
Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice.
Meditation is not a religion, it is a method of mental training. It is a practice that takes us beyond the noisy chatter of the mind into a place of stillness and silence. It doesnâ€™t require a specific spiritual belief, and many people of many different religions practice meditation without any conflict with their current religious beliefs. Some meditators have no particular religious beliefs or are atheist or agnostic. They meditate in order to experience inner quiet and the numerous physical and mental health benefits of the practice.
Meditation is escapism.
The real purpose of meditation isn’t to tune out and get away from it all but to tune in and get in touch with your true Self—that eternal aspect of yourself that goes beyond all the ever-changing, external circumstances of your life. In meditation you dive below the mind’s churning surface, which tends to be filled with repetitive thoughts about the past and worries about the future, into the still point of pure consciousness.
I don’t have enough time to meditate.
Mindfulness practice does not take a lot of time, although some patience and persistence are required. If you really want to make time for meditation, you will. Just like we have time for social media or hanging out, we can squeeze meditation into our daily schedule. We don’t have to meditate for an hour or 30 minutes. Ten minutes is enough every day, and as we feel more comfortable, we can increase the time.
What Does it Mean to Be Mindful?
Ultimately, the goal of meditation practice is to help us be more mindful in our daily lives. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. When we are not mindful, we speak without thinking. We allow our emotions to get out of control. We are worrying about the future or regretting the past. We feel the victim of circumstances, events, and others. When we are mindful, we are in the moment acting, not reacting, to life. When we become more self aware, we instinctively begin to see aspects of your personality and behavior that you didn’t notice before. Mindfulness also involves non-judgment, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings with the attitude of an impartial witness—without believing them or taking them personally. Start your meditation practice today.
“Mindfulness means giving full attention to only your present thoughts, feelings, and sensations.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Refuction program
Learn to Meditate in 8 Simple Steps
Set a regular schedule
The first step is committing to a regular, daily practice. Setting aside time for formal meditation is an important way to establish a routine and get comfortable with the practice. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. Try to make it a regular part of your schedule. There is no correct length of time to practice meditation, however when first beginning it is often easier to sit for shorter periods of time (5 to 10 minutes). As you become more comfortable with your practice, meditate longer. Set an alarm if you prefer to sit for a predetermined length of time. Mornings seem to work best for most people, but find a time that works for you.
Sit in a comfortable position
Find a quiet space where you can relax. Sit up straight— on the floor, on a cushion, or in a chair—a straight spine will help you to stay alert for your meditation. Don’t perch or lean back. By being still, you will feel directly whatever you are experiencing in your body in the moment because you are not moving away from it.
Meditation isn’t only about the mind— it’s also about the body.
Lying on your back is usually not recommended because most people fall asleep in this position. The most important rule is that meditation can be practiced anywhere, as long as you’re comfortable and awake.
If you would like to sit on the floor, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. You can also sit on cotton battings or cushions which can support your body in sitting with better posture.
If you sit on a chair, sit comfortably with your hands resting in your lap or on your knees. Keep your back straight —sitting at the front of the seat might help. Your neck should be relaxed, with your chin slightly tucked in.
Gently close your eyes and begin by taking some deep breaths. Try taking a few â€œcleansing breathsâ€? by inhaling slowly through your nose and then exhaling out your mouth. After a few cleansing breaths, continue to breathe at a normal relaxed pace through your nose with your lips gently closed.
Scan your body
Slowly turn your mind inwards. Scan your body from head to toe, observing any tension or discomfort. Donâ€™t try to change what you find, simply take note of it. Gently observe your posture, and notice the sensations where your body touches the chair and your feet meet the ground. Feel the weight of your arms and hands resting on your legs. As you meet each part of your body, you might feel warmth, tension, lightness or nothing at all. Just notice, but donâ€™t linger on any particular sensation. If thoughts arise, and they probably will, just be aware of them and return your attention to the body scan. You will probably have to do this repeatedly as thoughts tend to be persistent at first.
Let your thoughts float
After few minutes of meditation, your mind will wander away from the focus on the breath in the lower abdomen to thoughts, planning, daydreams, drifting along, and so on. Observe the inner dialogue playing in your mind. Let it float by. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Just observe; donâ€™t engage.
Acknowledge when you catch your mind wandering. Congratulate yourself each time on reconnecting with your experience in the moment, gently escorting the attention back to the breath, and simply resume following in awareness the changing pattern of physical sensations that come with each inbreaths and outbreaths.
Guide your attention back to breathing
Then try to bring your attention to your breathing. Don’t make any effort to change it, just observe the rising and falling sensation that it creates in your body. Notice where these sensations occur—be it your belly, your chest, your shoulders, or anywhere else. For a few moments, focus on the quality of each breath, noting whether it’s deep or shallow, long or short, fast or slow. Begin silently counting the breaths.
End your practice
When you are ready to end your practice, bring your conscious attention back to your surroundings. Acknowledge your presence in the space around you. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes. Begin to move your hands, feet, arms, and legs. Open your eyes. Move slowly and take your time getting up.
Take it with you
Before standing up, form a clear idea about what you’re going to do next, like brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, or getting your keys to leave the house. It’s so easy to just jump up off the seat and lose the calm and spacious quality you’ve just created. Try to carry this awareness with you to the next activity. Throughout the day, find small moments to remind yourself what it felt like to have that clarity and focused attention. Maybe when you first sit down at your desk at work, when you drink your morning coffee, or when you’re on the bus. You don’t need to do the whole exercise —just take a couple of deep breaths, notice how you feel, and observe any areas of tension.
“The purpose of meditation is to become mindful throughout all parts of our life, so that we’re awake, present and openhearted in everything we do.” — David Gelles, editor, The New York Times
Tips for Meditation Beginners
1. Start small Just as you would train your physical muscles, your mental muscles have similar phases of development. Practicing even 3 minutes of stillness can feel like a long time when you first start meditating, so do whatever you can.
2. Do it your own way Don’t feel confined by strict practices like sitting. If you’re getting outdoors, try a 10-minute walking meditation. Pay attention to each of the following: the physical sensations of your body walking; the flow of your breath; the sensations of air, wind and gravity on your body; what you hear; what you can see.
3. Meditate with purpose It seems ironic, but meditation is a very active process. The art of focusing your attention on a single point is difficult, and it really helps the process to be purposefully engaged with what you are doing. Although there’s no need for repetitive mantras or forceful objectives, it is nice to have a positive intention for each day
4. WatchÂ your attention Your biggest block to meditation is yourself or, more specifically, your mind. This is great news for success because you can control your mind. If you notice yourself getting caught up in a train of thought that pulls you strongly from the present moment, simply bring your attention back to your breath. This truly gets easier with practice.
5. Remember: The practice is a process Be compassionate with yourself when your mind drifts so as not to discourage your progress. Pretty soon youâ€™ll be able toÂ meditate anytime, anywhere, regardless of circumstance or environment.
6. Regularity is key Consistency is more important than quantity. Meditating for 5 minutes every day will reward you with far greater benefits than meditating for two hours, one day a week.
7 Ways to Calm Your Worried Mind
Think youâ€™re too busy to meditate? Think again. There are Eight simple meditations will help you change eight common, troublesome mind-sets in just 10 minutes. Get ready to solve the problems in fornt of you, one deep breath at a time.
“I feel stressed from the minute I get to the office until the minute I leave. ”
Try a traditional Tibetan technique called sky-gazing meditaiton. Look out the window, relax your whole body, and let your gaze expand into the spaciousness of the sky. Repeat the “ahhh” sound silently — it’s the most open sound you can make, and it amplifies the feeling of relaxation. Let your attention go, and sit still for a few minutes. If you’re not near a window, substitute your computer screen for the sky and rest your attention on your monitor instead.
“I’m going through a very emotionally taxing time.”
Try loving-kindness meditation. Sit quietly, breathe normally, and gather your attention around the repetition of the phrase “may I be happy, may I be peaceful.” Whenever your attention wanders, gently let those thoughts go, and come back to the phrase. At the end, after repeating that phrase for yourself, offer it up to include all beings everywhere, saying, “may all things be happy, may all things be peaceful.”
“Help! I can’t seem to focus. ” Sit in a comfortable place, breathe naturally, and settle your attention on your breath. With each inhale and exhale, mentally repeat the words in and out. If your mind wanders, don’t worry. Just let go, without judgment of whatever is taking you away from the breath, and bring your attention back to it.
“I have too much on my plate, and I feel totally overwhelmed and anxious.” Stand and feel your feet on the ground, the distribution of weight between them, and, with your eyes open, begin walking at a normal pace. Slow down and notice the sensation of your legs moving up and down. Your mind will wander, but that’s okay — when it does, bring it back to those sensation. This will help ground your energy and make you feel balanced again.
â€œI want to feel a deeper connection to the people around me!â€?
The ancient Tibetan technique called meditation on the benefactors. Sit quietly and think of someone who has unconditionally loved or supported you, someone who saw what was best in you and helped it flourish. Close your eyes and visualize that person behind and slightly above you. Imagine hime or her radiating love, and that love is showering down on you in the form of beautiful , golden light. Sit and allow every cell of your body to be bathed in it. Then visualize someone in front of you, someone you want to share the light with. Let it pour down through you, through your heart center, and bathe the person in front you. You can visualize one person, your whole family, the whole world. It fosters a sense of connectedness.
“I’m permanently attached to my smartphone... ” When that impulse to whip out the phone strikes, whether you’re waiting for a friend who’s running late or just waiting to cross the street, resist. You’re going to feel a wave of anxiety, a feeling that you may be missing out on something fun or important. Don’t panic, though—that wave is supposed to happen. Recognize it and notice what it feels like in your stomach and your chest. Don’t try to repress it or make it go away, but let it pass through you. Once it rolls through, you’ll see that there’s something good in its wake: silence. Freedom. Just be in that natural silence for a few minutes and see how good it feels.
“My boyfriend/best friend/boss drives me crazy!” Visualize the person with whom you’re having difficulty as a perfect, enlightened being radiating a pure, tranquil light. But she’s stuck inside an eggshell, and all the actions that you find difficult or problematic are just this person trying to peck away at that shell. Now visualize yourself gently helping to peel away that shell so that she can become her best, enlightened self. Next time you see that individual, you’ll frame your relationship in this new context: she’s just struggling to be the best version of herself. You’ll feel more supportive and compassionate.
“By going with what’s happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s driving your concerns.” — Bob Stahl, editor, mindful magazine
Instant Stress Relievers
“Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which can damage our brains and weaken our cardiovascular and immune systems over time.” — Rick Hanson, Neuropsychologist
When we were 5, we might have sucked our thumbs for stress relief. As adults, many of us self-soothe wih junk food, a glass of wine, maybe some mindless TV. But those are fixes that lift your spirits and lower your stress that actually create positive shifts in your brain and body. These findings in neuroscience, nutrition, and psychology reveal the fastest ways to reduce tension and actually change your brain for the better. Follow these tips and you’ll be saying “aah” in not time.
1. Dig in the dirt According to a Dutch study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, 30 minutes of gardening reduces stress levels more effectively than 30 minutes of reading quietly in a room. The researchers say it’s the result of physical activity. But perhaps the secret lies in the dirt itself. A few studies have shown a link between a common bacterium found in garden soil and increase serotonin levels,meaning less anxiety and better concentration. Gardeners may inhale this bacterium while digging in the soil.
2. Put on a happy face Smiling soothes you, even if you’re just going through the motions. A University of Wisconsin study found that people who’d had Botox injections were less prone to anger because they couldn’t express it. What’s the lesson? Just fake it till you make it.
3. Think: hot hands When fear and anxiety take hold, the nervous system directs blood flow to the largest muscles, an evolutionary response to protect against physical danger. This redirected flow often results in cold hands. So when you warm them, that automatically signals to your nervous system that it’s okay to calm down, says neuropsychologist Marsha Lucas. “Even simply visualizing warm hands can be enough to help turn off the fight-or-flight reaction,” she syas.
4. Focus on the exhale We’ve all heard that deep breathing is crucial to feeling tranquil, but the most important part of it is breathing out, Hanson says: “When you elongate your exhalations, you spark your parasympathetic nervous systm, which slows down your heart rate.” Take three long exhalations, making them twice as long as your inhalations.
5. Be a jaw dropper “Relaxing your tongue and jaw sends a message to your brain stem and limbic system to turn off the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol,” says Lucas. Simply let your tongue go limp in your mouth, then open your mouth slightly, which will instantly loosen up your jaw. “These exercises help bring our parasympathetic nervous system online, which tells our bodies to rest and restore,” Lucas says.
6. Load up on whole grains “If you’re feeling grumpy, the best idea is to eat an all-carb whole grain snack and you should feel happier within a half hour,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Sexy. “The carbs raise blood sugar, which boosts serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with calm, postive feelings that last.” Aim for 30 g of carbs: 4 cups of air-popped popcorn or half of a whole wheat English muffin will do the tricks, Somer says.
7. Give yourself a hug When you think negatively about yourself, the brain’s amygdala sends signals that increase blood pressure and raise adrenaline and cortisol levels. Researcher Kristin Neff of the University of Texas recommends the “surreptitious self-hug” — wrapping your arms around yourself and squeezing. Even your own touch release oxytocin and other biochemicals that promote well-being.
8. Think sensually Next time you’re feeling frazzled, try a tactile solution. During peak moments of stress, endorphins released into the brain relieve pain and begin a recovery period. Doing things that feel good physically — such as taking a warm shower or listening to a favorite piece of music — mimics this process and shuts down the stress deluge.
9. Just move it John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School professor and the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain , says just 2 minutes of exercise in enough to change your mood, as long as you raise your heart rate. “Anything from squats to jumping jacks supplies a surge of neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin — the same targets as antidepressants,” he says.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams, who looks insides, awakes.” — Carl Jung Carl Gustav, Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist
Success with a keystone habit like meditation happens when you take that first step. Set a time to meditate for just 5 or 10 minutes to start. Then focus on forming this habit over the next 30 days. Youâ€™d be surprised at how this small change can generate many positive outcomes.
Enjoy a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.
Book design copyright ÂŠ 2018 by Annie Wei-Hsin Lo. All rights reserved. Annie Wei-Hsin Lo firstname.lastname@example.org Published by Annie Wei-Hsin Lo for the course GR 850 03: Thesis 03â€“Refinement, instructed by Carolina de Bartolo in Spring 2018 at Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording, or otherwise without the express written permission of the publisher. All information design has been reinterpreted and redesigned by Annie Wei-Hsin Lo.
BreatheIn, an MFA thesis project.