What is Meditation and How Can You Try it?

Army soldier meditation.

Meditation is the process of focusing the mind on an object or activity, and research shows it has real health benefits. When you use meditation to relax, you turn your attention inward, concentrating on a repetitive focus such as breathing or a word, prayer, a simple smile or a gaze. If you are new to meditation and want to give it a try, here are some tips.

Get yourself in a comfortable position where you will not have any distractions, and plan to stay there for 10 to 20 minutes. Use an eye pillow, blankets on your chest, music, laying or sitting upright in a sunny spot, whatever feels like "comfort" to you.

Place your hands:

  • At your sides, or
  • Over your heart (we call this having mercy on ourselves), or
  • In the prayer position, or
  • In your lap with your thumbs making the shape of a heart.

Quiet simple breathing is one of the keys of meditation. As you practice, take a few breaths to help turn your attention inward. Then allow your breathing to follow its own natural rhythm.

You can focus on your breath. You can also focus on a word such as "peace" or a phrase such as "I am here." Some people like to use religious phrases such as "the Lord is my shepherd" or "shalom." Others like a long, drawn out "om." Try a few different words or phrases until you find something that feels good to you.

If you cannot seem to clear your mind, don’t get discouraged or judge yourself. Develop an attitude of acceptance towards whatever happens.

Take the position of observer or witness as thoughts and feelings arise and pass. When you become distracted, bring your mind back to focus on a word, phrase, gaze or your breath. Some people imagine their thoughts as waves that they can bring in and push back out when needed. Eventually the body and mind will quiet down.

Have you tried meditation? Have you seen its positive effects on your life? Please share.

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