Have you always wanted to meditate but never seem to have time?
You know it would be good for you but for some reason you haven’t started yet? The end of the year is the perfect opportunity to prepare for the year ahead by starting a meditation practice.
Nowadays most of us are aware that meditation can improve many different aspects of our life: it strengthens our immune system, improves cardiovascular health, helps with stress, reduces anxiety & depression and enhances cognitive function. And those are only a few of the benefits of meditation that we can seen in recent research. But none of helps unless we do it. As always the beginning is the hardest part so here are some ideas on how you can start to meditate and change your life by "doing nothing". But first lets talk about some of the benefits of meditation.
We can’t always reduce the stress in our lives but we can change our own reaction to it.
We can’t always reduce the stress in our lives but we can change our reaction to it. Stress can have an extremely negative impact on our body and mind. Cortisol & adrenaline are the two main stress hormones in the body and between the two of them we see a widespread effect on many different organs & systems of body. Meditation can be a key player in reducing & regulating the release of these stress hormones which can have major health implications ranging from its effects on heart health to metabolism to energy levels and optimizing our digestive & immune systems. The best part is that meditation also helps to handle stressful situations with ease.
Most of us are familiar with the importance of a good nights sleep, however actually getting a good nights sleep can be a lot trickier than it sounds. If you have ever struggled with your sleep, you know that the hardest part can be the dreaded anticipation of being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. There are many reasons why we are not able to fall asleep or why we wake up in the middle of the night, for many peope it can be stress & mental rumination on tasks or unsolved problems that keeps them awake at night and for others it may simply be low melatonin levels. Either way the main enemy here is stress which inhibits our natural sleep cycle. Meditation can help regulate melatonin levels to help you fall asleep & stay asleep for a deep restful night of sleep.
It's actually been proven by modern science that we only use a fraction of our brain. Recent studies have shown that meditation boosts alpha brainwaves which are responsible for learning, memorizing and studying. Neuroscience has also proven that meditation and mindfulness training stimulates creative thinking while minimizing depressive symptoms and other mental conditions. When alpha oscillations are prominent, your sensory inputs tend to be minimized and your mind is generally more clear & focused – ready to be at your service.
OBSERVE. PERCEIVE. BE MINDFUL. Nothing less and nothing more. Some people think of meditation as some kind of special activity, but it’s more about stopping, being present. In our daily lives we run around, doing, performing and achieving goals. With meditation we want create time to simply stop and notice. And as soon as you do so ... there you are, you are about to meditate. You simply hear, smell, listen – you observe the present moment.
You can meditate anytime and everywhere you want. It doesn't need to be a special place and it does not need to be done for a long time. You can meditate for a couple of minutes or half an hour – either way you will feel the effects.
Frequncy is Key - Find a time slot in your daily life where you commit to your daily meditation routine. Keep in mind that frequency is more important than duration. Research has shown that it's to do 3 minutes daily than a 20 minute meditation once a week. You can always increase the time whenever you feel ready for it.
Find a time slot that fits you - Meditate on the same time during the day – which can be in the morning right after getting up, during your lunch break or in the evening before you go to bed. Whatever time slot works for you the best – just commit to it and make it a daily habit.
Choose a quiet location - It does not really matter where you sit as long as it’s quiet and nobody can disturb you. Mornings are normally the best time when everybody else is still sleeping. Or hang a sign “Meditation in progress” for your family / roommates. Shut off your phone, close the door and you are ready to go.
Set your timer - Even if you just sit for a couple of minutes, a timer is helpful so you don't need to keep checking the clock. Find a comfortable seat - Find a comfortable seated position. It can be on a cushion or on a chair. Sit upright, relax your neck muscles and let your shoulders drop. Your hands can rest in your lap or on your knees.
Close your eyes - if you can or keep them open. Closed eyes will help you to focus without getting distracted. But open eyes work as well - just keep the eyes relaxed as you turn your awareness into the body.
"Do nothing”, just observe - In the beginning or on a busyday the “do nothing” part is often the hardest part. With your eyes closed focus your senses on your breath. Be an observer and perceive how you inhale and how you exhale. If your mind starts to wander, simply notice this and bring it back to the observing the breath. This is just you breathing –right here, right now. When your mind starts to calm, welcome the stillness inside.
Always keep in mind that “Every journey starts with the first step”. Why not start the new year with a new journey - one step after the other without any expectations or any judgements, just committing to your daily meditation practice.
About the author: Almut Schotte is a senior Yoga Medicine teacher, and the owner of two yoga and pilates studios in Stuttgart, Germany. Almut discovered yoga as a way to heal a spine injury after years of competitive sports. »Faster, higher, stronger« got eventually overwhelmed by mindfulness. Based on her own experiences as well as 1000+ hours of training Almut loves to empower people to unleash their own healing capacities.