Modern day science is confirming what many have personally experienced for thousands of years; meditation is one of the most powerful practices around. Leading researchers regularly publish new studies demonstrating the many benefits: it reduces stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue while improving mood, focus, creativity, productivity, sleep quality, and energy. It’s a simple, effective, free-of-cost wonder drug for improving all areas of life.
If you’re anything like I was a few years ago, you may have heard about meditation, but you’re kind of skeptical, and you’ve got a lot of questions.
Let’s clear some of those up.
Note: The following is adapted from Meditation: What, Why, and How To Meditate (Hint: Breathe In. Breathe Out.)
What is meditation?
Meditation is about learning how to work with your thoughts so you can put your attention where you want it to be, when you want it to be there. It accomplishes this in a simple way: with practice. Over time, it also helps you be healthier, and develops your understanding of who you are and what goes on in your mind.
People from all walks of life: celebrities, CEOs, athletes, Marines, gurus, businesses, students, and teachers. There’s probably someone who meditates on your street or in your apartment building!
Why should I meditate?
Because meditation’s many benefits can help you live happier, healthier, wiser, and more successfully. Among other things, meditation can improve brain health and functioning, reduce stress, increase focus, and slow aging. It can also increase creativity, help manage emotions, help you make better decisions, benefit organizations, and develop safer communities.
How do I meditate?
The easiest way is to sit, close your eyes, and breathe.
I’m a devout Christian/Muslim/Jew/Atheist… can I still meditate?
Absolutely! There’s nothing inherently religious about meditation, and you definitely don’t have to become a Buddhist (I’m a practicing Catholic). In fact, if you have experience with the contemplative rituals of any religion, you’re already familiar with many of the ideas behind meditation. By learning more, you can become an even better member of whatever community you belong.
Is meditation the same thing as mindfulness?
Although not exactly the same, they are so similar that the two terms are often used interchangeably (as they are in How to Meditate). Mindfulness is defined as “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment,” and meditation can be thought of as a way of practicing that awareness.1
Nothing is happening, am I doing it right?
Are you showing up and trying? Then yes, you’re doing it right! Meditation isn’t about having some mystical experience where you reach Nirvana and start floating around your home;2 it’s about being more aware of where you are, at this moment. Try not to be judgmental with your practice. If you’re taking the time to sit, and work with whatever your mind is giving you at the time, you’re doing well!
I can’t stop thinking thoughts! What do I do?
Our brain has around one thought per second (sixty-thousand per day).3 You shouldn’t expect to stop them completely, but you will get better at slowing them down over time. It can help to focus on where you want your attention to BE, not where you DON’T.
I don’t have time to meditate!
I get it; we’re all busy. But if Oprah, Richard Branson, Phil Jackson, and Russell Simmons have time to meditate, maybe you can figure out how to make it work too! Plus, investing time in meditation pays off by helping you accomplish more during the rest of the day.
Seriously. I still think I don’t have enough time…
Squeeze it in where you can: meditate during your commute, on your lunch break, or break it up into smaller meditations and just do a minute or two every hour.
Are there any additional resources I can use?
You bet; check out the resource section here for recommended books, audio programs, videos, and more.
I’m not sure this “sit and breathe” thing is for me; are there other ways to meditate?
Tons. Almost any activity can become a meditation if you give it your sole attention. Some great examples include yoga, getting a massage, going for a run with no music, body scans, guided meditations, chanting, visualizations, even just waiting in line at the supermarket!
I’m interested… tell me more!
Grab a copy of the book Meditation: What, Why, and How To Meditate (Hint: Breathe In. Breathe Out.) Think of it like Meditation 101. You’ll learn what meditation is, who does it, and the benefits they get to practicing. We’ll also cover meditation basics, what to expect when you get started, how to develop a meditation practice, and how to meditate like the pros.
Can I share this guide with others?
Please do! You can send interested family and friends to www.michaelbalchan.com/meditate for a copy.
- Holzel, B. K. et al. (2011). How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science. Vol 6. No. 6 537-539 doi: 10.1177/1745691611419671 PDF available at http://pps.sagepub.com/content/6/6/537.abstract [↩]
- Johnson, B. (n.d.). How to Meditate without Moving to the Himalayas. en*theos. Retrieved Jun 15, 2013 from https://www.entheos.com/academy/classes/how-to-meditate-without-moving-to-the-himalayas [↩]
- Aesthetic Machinery. (n.d.). every – thought. Retrieved Apr 1, 2015, from http://www.aesthetic-machinery.com/every-thing.html [↩]