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An Introduction to Meditation

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE 

Article by Courtney Sheber

Photography by Courtney Sheber

What is Meditation?

Meditation is training your awareness, attention, and compassion to experience what is already present. This happens when the mind becomes quiet. It is not turning off our thoughts, but trying to observe them without judgement. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains that when we realize our longing for temporary and material things can never be satisfied, that is when meditation begins. Our external desires turn inward and we shift into a state of pure consciousness. All of the tools you need to meditate, you already have. That is empowering!

How to Meditate? 

There is no right or wrong way to meditate and different methods help different people. Here are some ways to meditate:

  1. Visualization - Imagery can be a powerful tool to help the mind focus. You can visualize things like clouds, plants or white space. Some people meditate on energy centers in the body called chakras, sometimes using colors. 
  2. Sound - Mantras or affirmations can be useful to guide your meditation and keep you present. Chanting is another way to incorporate sound and is a tradition that can bring us to an expanded state of awareness. An example of a chant could be the sacred chant of “OM” over and over. 
  3. Breath - You can count breaths, observe your breath, or incorporate breath retention into your meditation. The simplest way is to allow yourself to notice your inhales and your exhales as they are. 
  4. Gaze - This is your drishti, a soft gaze on an object or body part. Some practitioners use candle light as a gazing point, others use a statue or a picture. Find what works for you. 
  5. Physical Senses - Bringing your attention to a specific body part. Feeling the grounding sensation of your palms on your thighs or feeling your brain rest into the back of your skull. This is helpful in keeping you in the present moment. 


Starting Your Own Meditation Practice:

Find a comfortable position for you. This can be seated on a cushion, lying down, or even standing up. Be patient with yourself. Creating a routine is very helpful, but just like life, some days are more challenging than others. Start with a two minute meditation each day when it works best for you and then build from there. Mornings are optimal, but not necessary. You can even set a timer or use a guided meditation to help you get started with your practice. A great resource for guided meditations is Insight Timer. There are thousands of free meditations on this app as well as meditation music and resources. Don’t be discouraged if your thoughts wander. When you realize that your mind has drifted off, simply return to your breath. You’ll know your meditation practice is serving you when you feel calmer, have a clearer mind, and more patience throughout your day. Just do your best and hold yourself accountable each day to make time for you! 

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