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Meditation 101: Techniques, Benefits, and a Beginner's How-to

https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/meditation-101-techniques-benefits-and-a-beginner-s-how-to

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Meditation 101: Techniques, Benefits, and a Beginner's How-to
by: Inner IDEA Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. But many meditation techniques exist - so how do you learn how to meditate? "In Buddhist tradition, the word 'meditation' is equivalent to a word like 'sports' in the U.S.

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Meditation

Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body.

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Concentration meditation

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. 

In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

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Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. 

Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns.

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Other meditation techniques

  • A daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion.
  • There are also moving meditation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation.

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Benefits of meditation

Studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lower heart rate
  • Less perspiration
  • Slower respiratory rate
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower blood cortisol levels
  • More feelings of well-being
  • Less stress
  • Deeper relaxation

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How to meditate

  1. Sit or lie comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods. 

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Loving-kindness meditation

Also known as Metta meditation; the goal is to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness toward everything.
During meditation, practitioners send and repeat messages of loving-kind...

Body scan or progressive relaxation

The goal is to notice tension and to allow it to be released.
Practitioners start at one end of their body, usually their feet, and work through the whole. They might tense and then relax muscles or they might visualize a wave moving over their body to release tension.

Mindfulness meditation

It encourages practitioners to notice their surroundings without judgement, instead of dwelling on the past or future.

Mindfulness can be done almost anywhere, even in a grocery store, for example.

Reducing Stress

Many styles of meditation can help reduce stress.

  • In an eight-week study, a meditation style called "mindfulness meditation" reduced the inflammation response caused by stres...

Controlling Anxiety

Less stress leads to less anxiety.

Regular meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety-related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Promoting Emotional Health

Some types of meditation can improve depression and help you maintain these benefits.

  • Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.
  • One study found that participants experienced a long-term decrease in depression.

Mindfulness Meditation

Practitioners of mindful meditation focus their attention on only one thought. The goal is to be firmly affixed to the present moment. This typically means concentrating on the breath - observ...

Changes to the Brain

Buddhists have meditated for literally thousands of years. Buddhists are trying to hack their own minds, to harness them.

Only in recent times have neuroscientists discovered that meditation changes the brain physically.

Health Benefits

  • Meditation improves attention. Studies show that 20 minutes a day are sufficient to get beneficial results.
  • Meditation reduces stress after eight weeks of training.
  • Meditation has also been shown to increase levels of empathy.