The Spring is always a very hectic time with work or school projects. Whether its work stress or midterms, a helpful way to gain mindfulness and stay calm is practicing meditation.
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. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing,” University of Wisconsin neuroscience lab director Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., told The New York Times. And different meditation practices require different mental skills.
It’s extremely difficult for a beginner to sit for hours and think of nothing or have an “empty mind.” But in general, the easiest way to begin meditating is by focusing on the breath — an example of one of the most common approaches to meditation: concentration.
Our brain’s counter to default mode is its focus mode. Imagine if, as you were reading, a giraffe walked up to you. Chances are, you’d stop reading and thinking about emails, dinner and Instagram, and focus entirely on the giraffe. Meditation is essentially the process of cutting through our brain’s static and finding focus.
I’m no meditation expert but I have found the app Headspace to be an amazing tool that has hooked me into meditating every day. It’s a fantastic way to start the day and feel motivated for what’s to come.
Here are some other great tips and ways to begin meditation:
1. CONCENTRATION MEDITATION
Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.
In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.
2. MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.
Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.
In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.
I hope this article was a useful tool to try out meditation techniques for a clear, positive mind.