by Carisa Holmes ~
What is meditation, and how do you know if you’re “doing it right?”
Meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness, of peaceful presence. In a state of meditation, one becomes a keen observer in the present moment, and projections of worry about the future or regrets of the past dissolve away.
It is important to understand that meditation is not a technique that you do, it is a state of being. With the Western tendency to turn everything into a marketable product, the misconception that meditation is a thing you can do or possess has been widely adopted.
Meditation is a natural and effortless state of being. You don’t have to earn it or buy it, or use a specific technique. A person who has never taken a single meditation class can be in a deeply meditative state while shooting hoops, while someone who sits for hours in a perfect lotus position surrounded by crystals can be far from it.
If Meditation is a Natural State, Why is it So Hard?
In our culture, we have been habituated toward and even rewarded for a busy, problem-solving state of consciousness. As most of us are unaccustomed to slowing down and becoming present, mindful, and aware, we can have trouble entering that state of being at will.
Fortunately, we have a wide array of meditation tools that can help. From special music, to facilitated instruction, mindfulness apps, breathing techniques and more, each person is invited to find the tool that works best for them. To prevent becoming attached to one tool or technique as the “right” way to meditate, keep in mind that the technique or tool that you use is not meditation, it is just a tool that helps facilitate the process of entering a meditative state of being.
For example, while a guided visualization or concentration exercise (focusing on a color, shape or object) can help facilitate entering a meditative state, the exercises themselves are not meditation.
Additionally, know that you do not need silence and stillness to be in meditation. Some people enter meditative states during creative activities such as ecstatic dance, playing music or singing, or creating art. Others find it while playing a sport in the state of “flow”, gardening or communing with nature, or even during emergency situations.
As your mind and the stillness of your heart are with you everywhere and at all times, meditation is always available to you as well.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
Studies show that regular meditation is associated with improvement in a variety of health areas, including reducing stress and anxiety, helping break addictions, relieving depression, and improving cognitive function. Research also suggests that meditation can reduce high blood pressure, pain response, and stress hormone levels, and can even improve overall cellular health.
In addition to the clinically quantifiable benefits, being in a meditative state allows us to feel the peace and contentment that is always with us, and that we can dive into at any time if we become masters of our minds.
What are Some Tools That Help with Meditation?
A simple internet search will yield thousands of options in an array of different styles and approaches. There are binaural beats meditation soundtracks designed to coax you into very specific brain states, thus helping you reach a state of quiet awareness. There is also music designed specifically for entraining the listener to a meditative state.
There are coaches that offer training for beginners, and audios that contain spoken guided meditations (these are more accurately called guided visualizations) and even videos that contain visual elements designed to assist with entering a meditative state.
There are also places where one can go to meditate in groups with others, either with music, chanting, or even in silence. The effect of being in a space with people whom have entered a meditative state can help others to entrain to that state of being more easily than they could on their own.
How Do I Choose the Meditation Tool That’s Right for Me?
One way to choose a tool that works for you is to select one and use it consistently for 2-4 weeks. If you like it, stay with it; if it doesn’t seem to resonate for you, trust yourself and move on to another choice.
Each person is a unique creation, and is wired differently. Some people find doing a concentration exercise first helps them prepare their mind to enter a meditative state, some find aromatherapy helpful, and still others find chanting or repetitive movements helpful.
Keep in mind that meditation is not a technique, it is a state of being that is natural and effortless for all humans. No matter how you get there, you will be glad you arrived.
If you would like guidance on developing a meditation practice, please contact a practitioner. Each practitioner listed has a unique meditation-based offering, and you are encouraged to explore and choose what feels right for you.