I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate
My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate
My faith don’t deviate, ideas don’t have a date
But see I’m growing and getting stronger with every breath
Bringing me closer to heaven’s doors with every step
These are lyrics from J. Cole’s song, Change. Would you believe it if I told you that as few as 10 minutes per day could make you feel the same way? If not now, I hope you will by the time you finish reading this article.
Meditation is, simply put, the act of doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are a lot of misconceptions about the practice, but in this brief article, I’ll help to dispel some of the myths, give you some tips on how to practice and describe the benefits that meditation offers.
Meditation means removing all thoughts. Many people veer away from practicing meditation because they “can’t stop thinking.” Don’t make this common mistake and confuse the act of doing nothing with the act of thinking about nothing. Just as you cannot stop the heart from beating, you cannot stop the mind from thinking. It is perfectly fine to have thoughts as you meditate. The main goals are to be OK with those thoughts coming into and leaving your mind, and to avoid following those thoughts down the path to anxiety.
You have to sit a certain way. Another common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit on the floor with your legs crossed and fingers in a certain position to do it. While this form can be beneficial to the practice, the most important thing is to be comfortable. Whether you are sitting on a couch, in a car or lying in bed, the most important thing is that you are in a relaxed state.
You have to meditate for long periods of time. A third reason people cite for not meditating is time constraints. While most experts do recommend spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on the practice, you can see benefits from just a few minutes a day, at home, at work, in the car or wherever else you are. Do not let a busy schedule get in the way of what could be the “best few minutes” of your day. The key is to develop a routine that works for your schedule. The length of your meditation session has an impact, but the most important factor is consistency.
Types for Beginners
One benefit of meditation is that there are many different types. Regardless of who you are, there is an approach for you. Here are three types that are suitable for beginning practitioners:
- Guided meditation. A simple internet search will reveal countless apps and videos that can literally guide you through your meditation session. UCLA Health’s website, for example, has a number of guided meditation recordings in English and Spanish.
- Visualization meditation. Visualization meditation involves directing your focus toward specific images or visuals that put your heart and mind at ease. This can be imagining loved ones or that artwork that you love so much.
- Breath-awareness meditation. Breath-awareness meditation uses mindful breathing as a way to gain focus and reduce anxiety. Simply sit up straight and follow each breath as it flows in and out.
Why Commit to Meditation?
So, what are the benefits of meditation? The Mayo Clinic says that the practice can have these effects on mental, emotional and physical well-being:
- a decline in negative emotions and feelings
- improved patience
- anxiety reduction
- lowered risk of heart disease
- reduction in sleep- and insomnia-related problems, and more.
Harvard Health reports that long-term meditation can even slow down the aging process.
The main takeaway is that meditation is an easy way to improve your overall health and quality of life. It is a simple exercise, it’s suitable for everyone and—best of all—it’s free! You may not be able to see or feel the benefits immediately, but there is a good chance that the people around you will. Be patient and do not give up on the process. It is a small investment of time to become the best, happiest version of yourself.
By Ben Harris
Ben Harris is an English teacher at Liberty High School in Louisville and a student in Bellarmine’s Doctoral Program in Leadership in Higher Education.