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

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

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

gaiam.com

6

Key Ideas

Meditation

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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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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.

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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.
Guided vs. unguided meditation
  • In guided meditation, a teacher guides you through the basic steps of the practice. This is useful for beginners to get the most out of the experience.
  • In unguided meditation, you ...
Calming vs. insight meditation

The intention of calming meditation is to cultivate a quieter, more peaceful state of mind and improved concentration.

Insight meditation often sets an intention to transform the mind by developing qualities such as wisdom and compassion. 

Many meditation techniques combine elements of both.

Focused attention

It uses the object of your breath to focus attention and maintain awareness. If your mind starts to wander, return your attention to your breath.

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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.

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Your approach to meditation

There is not a right or wrong way when seeking a meditation style. Do remember that influences have an impact on you that will affect your approach to meditation.

Types of meditation

There are many different meditation styles to suit your personal approach to meditation. Beginners usually choose to start with guided meditation and then experiment with other different approaches.

Length of meditation time

The length of meditation will impact on how successful it will be.

  • One study reported 5 hours' worth of meditation over a two-week period was enough for smokers to reduce their intake.
  • Another study noted that regular 30 minutes meditation sessions can increase the density of brain matter in areas associated with memory, stress and empathy.

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Benefits of meditation

...include stress reduction, sharpened concentration, and improved circulation to start.

Once you begin to practice, you'll soon experience a quieter mind, a more open heart, and a sen...

Be comfortable in a quiet place

To get started, it doesn't matter whether you sit or lay down as long as you are comfortable. 

You can sit cross-legged, on the floor, or on a chair. Then have the palms of your hands face the sky.

Become "present"

Become totally aware of your current surroundings. What do you hear? How does it feel to sit? Do you feel tension? Where are your thoughts?

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Kundalini Meditation

It involves yoga poses in order to extend your energy from the base of your spine all the way to your mind.

Qigong Meditation

The purpose of the practice is to focus on both your breath and posture together in order to gain full bodily control, allowing the energy flow to increase all throughout your body.

Vipassana Meditation (Mindfulness Meditation)

The purpose is to become aware of your thoughts by simply observing them. It allows thinking about why you're thinking your thoughts.

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