“Crap, did I leave the oven on again?”
“Ugh, scratch my itch or keep watching my breath?”
“Eat or keep watching my breath?”
…All very valid questions when you’re quieting your mind. The good news is you’re not alone and thoughts like these still pop up to even those of us who have been meditating daily for years. The other news is they’re pretty unavoidable; we are born to think, after all. Chances are, you are not going to clear your mind completely during most meditation sessions, and that’s perfectly okay.
Meditation has been used since the dawn of time to better understand the forces of nature and mysteries of life . It’s our goal during meditation as modern Westerners to simply remember our breath or other “white noise” we choose to focus on (unless you left the oven on. That should probably be turned off before you meditate), usually for the benefits of reducing stress. There are countless reasons to meditate, though, and any one of them alone is sufficient reason to quiet yourself and your thoughts.
Limited on time? Like summaries? Skip the backdrop and head to the bottom of this post to find out the basics on how to meditate.
What are the benefits of a quiet mind?
it increases mindfulness (the awareness of the present and all that is going on)
it improves our control of the thoughts we think
it reduces stress hormones which reduces disease which reduces healthcare bills
it reduces heart rate and blood pressure
it improves positivity which improves our present and future
it improves compassion
it improves productivity; physical, mental, or emotional
it improves clarity on any subject
it improves memory
it slows (and can even reverse) aging
it increases self-awareness
it improves lung function and quality of breath
it improves the function of our senses
it improves our enjoyment of activities
it improves the pain response (both physically and emotionally)
it helps us handle stress more easily
it helps to decrease addiction to harmful substances
it helps us be happier and sustain that happiness
it increases creativity
& so much more…
I can vouch for all of these benefits, as I have noticed them in myself since starting a consistent meditation practice (about 6 years now). Most especially, I have found a decrease in pain and my reaction to it. Burns and scrapes don’t hurt as much as they used to but sorry to say, a stubbed toe still REALLY hurts.
I’m going to say right here and now that I am no expert in meditation. I put what I am taught into practice to see what resonates with me. I believe it’s not necessary to be an expert in meditation, as long as we are receiving the desired benefits from a consistent practice.
That being said, I think it’s important to get multiple perspectives on any subject to make up your own mind, so use the almighty Google, books, or online journals (or Bing if you’re that type of person) to research new techniques and types of meditations after reading this guide. A technique that works for me might not work for you and vice versa. There are countless meditation techniques out there so you’re bound to find many that work best for you and keep you from boredom.
**NOTE: there comes a point later down the road in your meditation practice that many recommend a guru (an expert that can further show the way to enlightenment through meditation) because of the extremes meditation practice can manifest in many individuals. Not in a negative or necessarily positive way, but take this how you will; there’s your warning 🙂
I’d like for you to experience the clarity that comes with a quieted mind. I’d love for you to see the ways meditating can improve your life in all areas. Here’s your guide as a beginning resource on how to meditate and how to benefit.
A quieter mind brings…
tapping into Source (the universe, the energy of life, God, Buddha, Allah, Queen Bey, whatever your preferred label)
alignment & synergy
…and so much more that helps us grow in the ways we desire, at a soul level, which will consequently translate to a material level. This all is based on my own experience and thousands of hard-evidence studies scattered all over the internet.
They did a study on mindfulness at Harvard University and created a detailed resource outlining the benefits, practices, and information backing up their findings in a PDF document, “Now and Zen” (kick-ass title if you ask me). Harvard researchers taught and studied participants practicing yoga and meditation consistently for 8 weeks, which improved physical health and brain function.
Harvard researchers found that participants were able to spend less on their doctor bills because of the improvement of health issues related to stress. Cortisol (a stress hormone which is the cause of an array of diseases when left without our help in minimizing it) levels plummeted and so did depression .
When you give your body and mind time to breathe with no distractions, stress has no where to go but out.
Here is what common effective meditation practice looks like:
*Main points are italicized.*
Meditation is used by many as a morning discipline, usually upon waking up. I notice how it affects my day more positively than if I meditate later in the day. Meditation is a skill, like a muscle being sculpted, so it helps to treat it as such. I won’t lie: I don’t always feel like meditating, but it’s like exercise. I do it because I know it will make me feel better, and it always does. Also just like exercise, some days I feel better than others and some days my meditation practice is far from perfect.
If morning meditation isn’t your thing, quieting your mind before sleep is a good choice for those who generally have trouble relaxing and falling or staying asleep, and it’s a good primer for some of your best dreams.
Arrange yourself in a comfortable place to sit or lie down that incites the least chance of moving for 20 minutes, with as few surrounding distractions as possible.
Common effective meditation usually sessions last around 15-20 minutes of watching the breath go in and out.
Focus on the subtleties of the in and out of the breath through your nose, the feeling of your belly inflating and deflating, or focus on the air conditioner in the background and that tiny high-pitched sound that comes with it that you can only hear when your mind is quiet enough.
When a thought comes up, observe it and immediately let it float away and come back to the breath or “file it away” for the future, if it’s useful. It’s helpful to visualize: picture a cloud or a wave taking the distracting thought away and then coming back to focusing on the breath again.
With practice, you’ll get better at simply coming back to your breath without a visualization, but some days it’s a bit more difficult to quiet that inner voice. Intend to treat yourself with compassion in coming back to the quietness of your mind. Annoyance and anger don’t support a healthy meditation practice. The whole point is to enjoy your zen time, however that means in the moment.
With a quiet mind, we tend to receive thoughts that help us through certain topics of our lives. It’s intoxicating, the clear-headedness that comes with the detachment from thinking, like a bunch of eureka moments in a short period of time on any subject.
If I’m at this point–which, I’ll be honest, only happens when I am not expecting or chasing after it–I might ask a question I want clarity on, trust that it will come without my searching for the answer, then receive such a clear answer I start to wonder why I didn’t think of it before. I’m aware this all sounds a little counterintuitive— stop thinking so you can think? But that’s the trick. Quit making up thoughts and just start receiving them.
Many would call this “Mindfulness Meditation”. Truthfully, I forget about the labels and just do what feels good. Sometimes meditations are to focus solely on our breath, and other meditation sessions are focused on the thoughts that come after we have quieted our minds.
And then there’s Visualization Meditation.
Are you yet aware of the Law of Attraction? Are you aware that you are a giant magnet? Are you aware that on that which we focus–that which we are–we will receive more of, through all cases, in all moments? (If not, you’re a little late in the game, but here you go :)) This is why Visualization Meditation is so powerful.
Either guided by a voice recording or done with your own imagination, pick a topic you want to visualize, clear (or rather, quiet your mind of thoughts by focusing on your breath or another repeating noise or sensation) and let your imagination take care of the rest.
Remind yourself to enjoy the ride. This shouldn’t be a ton of effort, nor should we force ourselves. Imagining the reality of your dreams should be fun and natural, like when you were a kid. Intend to have a child-like imagination, one that is effortless and flows freely, as this is when we are most effective at creating the future we desire.
Set the scene and incorporate all senses in some way: What does the scene look like? What kind of colors are present? What does it smell like? What are you tasting while you are observing what you want to create for yourself? What do you feel under your feet and fingers? Are you barefoot or do you have clunky shoes on uneven ground? What kind of noises surround you and this scene? Every little detail helps.
Meditation may be simple but there are so many facets to quieting our minds that can only be learned with experience. I invite you to tap into your power I know you know is there and find your clarity, freedom, and alignment…
Do you go fishing? Dance? Play a sport? Sing? Draw? Do you follow a passion, any passion? You’re probably already quieting your thoughts in certain moments of your days. Why not hit the ‘Limitless’ button? Sit down for just 10 to 15 deliberate minutes a day, stick with the habit, and you’ll forget why you ever went without.
Too long, didn’t read? Here’s a quick snippet on how you can meditate:
~ Find a comfortable place to sit or recline, keeping in mind the more comfortable you get, the higher chance you’re going to fall asleep. Nature is the perfect place to be mindful, but a comfortable and quiet room with limited distractions works well, too.
~ Close your eyes and relax your entire body, starting with the top of your head and ending at the tips of your toes, allowing every muscle to be at ease.
~ Feel your breath going in and out of your body. Focus on the way it feels going in and out of your nostrils, inflating and deflating your belly, re-centering your energy throughout your body. Focus on the way it feels to fill your muscles with oxygen, letting your pulse carry it throughout your blood.
~ When a thought comes up (and it will as our brains are designed to think), simply observe it and let it go, coming back to your breath. That’s it! To transition out of meditation, gently wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch your muscles, and open your eyes, coming back into the present moment and the rest of your day.
PRO TIP #1: CONSISTENCY IS KEY to the benefits of meditation.
PRO TIP #2: use visualization techniques to come back to your breath, such as inhaling a white light and exhaling and releasing negative darker light. There are no rules here; you could also imagine yourself as a little pebble drifting through a cleansing stream, dodging other pebbles or “thoughts” that get in your way. Visualizing certain scenes helps us stay focused on our meditation and remember to come back to the breath (plus it’s kinda fun..)
PRO TIP #3: nature is helpful because it almost always has a background noise to focus on. Using the natural energy of the earth to ground yourself is also a good way of keeping concentration and allowing your vibration to lift.
PRO TIP #4: the more relaxed you are, the easier it is to have a successful meditation.
- It’s not the zestiest of reads but it gets the job done for those who prefer the dummy’s guide to meditation:
- Headspace.com is an app and meditation resource for simple and/or guided meditations. They provide “packs” to help teach users to meditate effectively.
- A meditation I found useful for my practice: