HOW TO MEDITATE
Meditation is an essential, amazing tool to promote deep-reaching, long-lasting positive changes and benefits into your life.
A question that I am continuously asked is: “HOW TO MEDITATE?“
Meditation is an essential, amazing tool to promote deep-reaching, long-lasting positive changes and benefits into your life.
lowers stress levels,
helps managing anxiety and fears,
reduces pain and discomfort,
improves commitment, compassion, awareness,
increases our focus and concentration skills,
grows our ability to connect and feel oneness
stops self-limiting behaviors
just to name some of the gifts we can expect.
How do you learn to meditate? It all starts with controlling your breath and developing self-awareness through mindful practice.
Meditation is great at creating space in your life. Mental and spiritual space, where you can have time to make better choices for yourselves, your family, your job or business, your local and broader community.
In this short primer, I will explore some of the practices you can start practicing with. Each of these practices is an integral part of the MMQG Syllabus.
The first exercise to try is as simple as focusing on your breath. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s see the details:
Dedicate 5 to 10 minutes to meditation. Dedicate some minutes exclusively for you and this exercise. Turn off notifications, get in airplane mode, and find a calm, quiet spot where you can be alone and undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.
Practice deep, abdominal (belly) breathing. In this exercise, you will inhale from your nose and exhale from your mouth. Start by a full exhale with the mouth, emptying completely your lungs, then take a deep inhale, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly, contracting your belly. Exhale should last twice the inhale.
Focus on your breath. Concentrate on the physical sensations you get from breathing. Where do you feel your breath? Do you feel your belly moving? Are you able to notice the air passing through your nostrils? Remain focused on breathing and start counting. Every time you exhale, add one to the count. If you lose the count, start again from one. Try to get to 10.
So, what happened? Did your mind wander away while you were counting your breath? Was your mind busy, full of thoughts? Did you struggle in keeping your focus? Were you thinking about other things like job, family, worries?
We learn to control our breath to begin practicing meditation so we can become aware of how often our mind goes through “free” thoughts. By focusing and controlling our breath, we can detach from our thoughts, noticing them without remaining attached to them. In this way, we can choose what we’d like to focus on.
I am sure that you experienced these distractions (and that’s perfectly normal, at the beginning of your journey into meditation). Now you have learned that your mind is not living here and now, so it’s not practicing mindfulness.
Very often you are living in our heads, into your thoughts and worries, on automatic pilot. In this kind of situation, your thoughts are like untamed monkeys screaming and jumping everywhere. You are also bringing with you the weight of the past and the worries about the future, so, to make it short you are not being present in the moment.
YOU ARE LITERALLY LOSING EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE.
WHY SHOULD I PRACTICE MEDITATION?
Meditation is an extremely powerful practice that will help your life in many aspects. It’s worth all the effort you may make in learning and establishing a routine or habit.
Here are 20 awesome, science-backed benefits of meditation!
Fight depression, low self-esteem
reduces stress and anxiety
Relieve headaches and lowers blood pressure
Gives you a better mood
Boost memory and your ability to focus
Improves your workout
Increases your study and learning skills
Improves sleep and recovery
Helps your intimate, personal, and professional relationships
Foster your wellness and digestion
Lets you work better
Lets you reduce medicines
Increases your resilience and grit
Relaxes you and helps in improving your perceived health status
Fights negative mindsets
Makes you more compassionate
Improves your sex life
Lets you develop your commitment in any activity
HOW TO MEDITATE
Meditation is actually quite a simple process, but it is for some people what makes it so (apparently) hard to practice.
Following the next steps you will be able to start your meditation journey with no effort:
Find a place to sit where you can be comfortable, undisturbed, and calm. You can choose a chair, or sitting in the lotus (or half lotus) position. I suggest you sit and not to lie down as you get sleepy otherwise. Try to find a warm, quiet place to start.
2) Set an alarm
As you are just starting, set up an alarm at 5 or 10 minutes. This will help you build the habit without the worry of taking too much time from your daily schedule, at the beginning. You will be able to add minutes as you want!
3) Be aware of your bodily sensations
As you will need to keep the same position for some time, just make sure that you are stable, comfortable, with no tension in any part of your body. Be aware of how your body feels as you want to avoid becoming stiff or feeling aches during your practice.
4) Concentrate on your breath
As I told before, inhale from your nose and exhale from your mouth.
Start by a full exhale with the mouth, emptying completely your lungs, then take a deep inhale, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly, contracting your belly. Exhale should last twice the inhale.
Follow all the physical sensations you feel while breathing in and out.
5) Leave your thoughts to pass like clouds
Something that you cannot avoid is that your mind creates thoughts while you are meditating. What you have to do is simply noticing your thoughts without getting attached to them, as if they were clouds brought away by the wind. When you notice that your mind is wandering, simply focus again on your breath.
6) Awake slowly
At the end of the practice, slowly lift your gaze or open your eyes. Notice the sensations you get from your body and from the environment, taking a mental snapshot of how you feel in that precise moment. Notice your body, mind, and soul.
Congrats, you did it! That was your first meditation practice. Welcome to the community of meditators.
MEDITATION TIPS AND TECHNIQUES:
Now that you have seen the easiest way to meditate, let’s see together how you can build up on that.
The goal is to let you incorporate meditation into your life as a loyal and helpful companion, that will donate you more than you give to it.
How to Make Mindfulness a Habit
Scientific studies tell us that most of the time (up to 95%) our behavior runs on autopilot. Of course, from an evolutionary point of view, that’s an extremely effective thing as we are able to manage the huge amount of data we get from our senses remaining able to select the most important events or signals to live (and survive). Alas, these shortcuts are also what makes us rely on automated reactions and behaviors that limit our creativity in finding more efficient or better ways to deal with a specific situation.
Practicing mindfulness means opposing these default processes. It means getting full, conscious control of our actions, getting rid of automated reactions. The point is that to become proficient at selecting and choosing every time the best option instead of the standard one requires focus and practice. The good news is that it’s a skill that we can improve, by practice, stimulating our brain’s NEUROPLASTICITY, activating new neural connections that don’t rely on the old ones, dedicated to the “autopilot” reaction.
To gain more control on yourself, and to create a meditation habit, here is what I can suggest:
Find your why. To create a new habit you need to define and understand WHY you are doing it. Is that a personal need? A professional one? Something you feel you are missing? A curiosity? Once you are able to give a clear answer to that first question, you are on the right path!
Define your how. Say you decide to use sticky notes to remind yourself of a new intention. That might work for about a week, but then your autopilot brain and old habits take over again. Try writing new notes to yourself; add variety or make them funny. That way they’ll stick with you longer.
Build up motivation and commitment. Motivation and commitment are both essential in building a habit.
Motivation relies on our feelings and feelings change, so it’s not enough to build a reliable habit.
Commitment implies following a plan and going on even when it gets difficult and you don’t feel like doing something. Motivation is helpful as can drive us with the reward mechanism of our brain and commitment is essential as it is what will keep us going on, with grit and resilience.
Create new patterns. Intentionally create space for the new habit into your schedule, dedicate time, space, attention to it. Each intentional action to create a meditative practice will strengthen the part if your brain that creates habits.
SOME SPECIFIC TYPES OF MEDITATION
Once you have explored a basic seated meditation practice, you might want to consider other forms of meditation including walking and lying down. Whereas the previous meditations used the breath as a focal point for practice, these meditations below focus on different parts of the body.
Introduction to the MMQG Meditation
MMQG is a holistic, modern approach to Meditation, Mindfulness, and Qi Gong.
The way you practice Meditation in MMQG is peculiar in the sense that it encompasses your mind, body, and soul so to help and heal you in an easy to practice, yet extremely effective way.
Dedicate a specific time of your day to this practice. You just need 10 to 15 minutes a day, possibly at the same time of the day. I usually practice as soon as I wake up in the morning, at 4:30 AM.
Stand, keeping your feet parallel, at shoulders’ wide. Start with belly breathing, inhaling from the nose and exhaling from your mouth. When inhaling, push your belly out, and when exhaling contract it.
Focus on your breathing and on the feelings coming from your body. Feel the ground under your feet, feel your body aligning, feel your belly moving in and out, feel the air entering from your nose and coming out from your mouth. Do 5 deep breaths and completely relax your body.
Inhaling, raise your hands with the palms facing up, like if you were keeping something on them and imagine bringing positive energy and thoughts with fresh air. Hold your breath for a while, relaxing your body and freeing your mind from any thought. Exhale slowly while turning your palms outwards, and opening your arms, like if you were opening a curtain in front of you. Imagine being exhaling all negative thoughts, mindsets, worries. Repeat 5 times and completely calm your mind.
Now that your body and mind are calm and relaxed, let the feelings you receive from them disappear so that you begin feeling one with universal consciousness.
You no longer need perceptions in this third phase as there is only warmth (more than just physical), peace and feeling of love and oneness. There are no words to accurately describe this profound spiritual experience!
You are raising your spiritual awareness by raising your vibrations, transcending habitual negative and repetitive thought and behavioral patterns. Now you grow your awareness of oneness with all creation. You could start being aware of the movement of energy in your body and beyond your body.
You start becoming aware that everything around you, and even you, are just energy, at its core. You will start losing the sense of “self” and feel compassion, commitment, and love for your fellow humans and other life on this planet.
YOU LOSE THE DISTINCTION AND THE LABELLING OF YOUR RATIONAL BRAIN. THERE IS NO LONGER “ME” AND “YOU”.
Remain in this awakening spiritual state for a while, until your awareness delves deeply within yourself and then it expands to encompass everything. You are different, being equal.
Completely nurture your spirit and come out of this meditation.
Now you will feel energized, holistically healed, and cleansed.
You are now full of love, joy, peace, gratitude, energy!
Introduction to the Body Scan Meditation
With this technique, you will focus on various parts of your body. Like as in the progressive muscle relaxation, you will start with your feet and then come up. With the body scan meditation you will focus on the way each part of your body feels in an objective way, so not labeling a sensation as positive or negative.
To apply this technique, lie on your back, keep your legs uncrossed, your arms relaxed at your sides, your eyes open but relaxed. Use the deep breathing technique for about two minutes until you start to feel relaxed.
Turn your focus to the toes of your right foot. Take a mental note of any sensations you feel while continuing to keep your breathing deep and relaxed. Imagine that each deep breath brings and takes warm energy to and from your toes. Remain focused on your toes for one to two minutes.
Then, move your attention to the sole of your right foot. Check and pay attention to any sensation you feel and imagine each breath bringing warm energy to and from the sole of your foot. After one or two minutes, move your focus to your right ankle and repeat the sequence.
Come up on your right leg, moving to your calf, knee, thigh, hip; then, repeat the full sequence on your left leg.
From there, move up along the torso, focusing on the lower back and the abdomen, the upper back and the chest, and finally the shoulders, the neck and the head.
Pay attention to any area of the body that causes you pain or discomfort, and concentrate on deeply breathing until that sensations changes.
On completion, relax for a while, then slowly sit up and stretch.
The moment you notice that your mind has wandered, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember.
Introduction to the Walking Meditation
Meditation is not just practiced sitting.
You can practice it while moving, and one of the most easy way to do it is walking.
What you need to do is simply to become aware to what you feel with each step, mentally and physically.
Find a place where you feel relaxed and safe. Walk at a natural pace. Keep your hands where you are comfortable: in your pockets, on your belly or your back, or even loose at your sides.
You can start by keeping a belly, deep, and relaxed breath, and walking while counting your steps.
With each step, pay attention to the physical sensations coming from the sole of your foot. Notice the movement in all your body. Notice how the weight shifts from side to side.
As in sitting meditation, don’t follow your thoughts, but observe them going away without attachment.
If you are outdoors, remain aware of the environment around you, staying safe.
HOW MUCH CAN I MEDITATE?
Meditation is a wonderful practice and there are no limits on how much you can practice. It is a simple, yet challenging tool that will improve your life, from many different angles.
The key to an ideal practice is to find what best suits you and your life-style and specific needs, but try to commit to meditating every day, possibly at the same time of the day, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MEDITATION IS PRACTICING IT.
When you practice, you’re telling yourself that you want to change, you want to understand yourself, and you’re taking concrete actions to improve and grow.