Anyone who isn’t familiar with meditation might immediately envision a bunch of people sitting cross-legged in some kind of Zen garden-type setting with lots of candles and incense and Buddha stone statues.
I’m totally guilty of this.
While it’s true that the ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Indians were basically the first to incorporate the concept of meditation into their beliefs and traditions, I had no idea that I didn’t have to be a member of one of these spiritual belief systems in order to practice meditation for myself.
In fact, you don’t have to be a “spiritual” person at all.
Meditation is really just a form of mental training that gets you to focus, relax, and unload all of the crap that’s been buzzing through your mind.
Anyone can do it, and you can do it almost anywhere.
When you meditate, you’re not summoning a bunch of spirits from the netherworld, nor are you typically supposed to have some type of out-of-body experience.
Meditation is all about learning to quiet your thoughts, focusing on the present moment, becoming aware of your body and your breathing, and ridding your mind of all distractions.
But why meditate at all?
If you’re not aware of the the vast variety of benefits you can get of mindful meditation, your’re probably not ever going to try it.
Personally, I think everyone can benefit from it — and the busier or more stressful your daily life may be, the more you should probably consider making meditation a part of your life.
The benefits of meditation include:
- a better ability to focus throughout the day;
- increased productivity;
- improved creativity;
- improved memory;
- enhanced observational skills;
- decreased feelings of information overload;
- less anxiety and stress;
- better control over your daily habits;
- more feelings of positivity;
- more stable emotions;
- more feelings of compassion and gratitude; and
- calmness of mind and better relaxation, which may even lead to improved sleep.
Stop, Breathe & Think is a really fabulous beginner’s app for meditation that allows you to check-in daily and pick out a selection of emotions you’re currently feeling so it can suggest an appropriate meditation for you to do.
It was developed by Tools for Peace originally as an app to help students develop more kindness and compassion toward their peers, but it’s so simple and effective that even adults and older folks can use it for regular meditation.
The app includes a handy guide labeled Learn How to Meditate, which takes you through the general practices of effective meditation.
When you press Begin, the app will ask you if you want to dim the screen for 10 seconds so you can close your eyes and focus on what you’re feeling at the moment.
After that, you’ll be asked to select how you’re feeling on both a mental and physical level, and then you’ll be taken to a list of emotions.
You can choose up to five emotions, and then the app will match up a meditation for you based on the emotions you chose.
Of course, if you want to skip the whole check-in process all together, you can simply select List of Meditations from the home tab to browse and choose a meditation for yourself manually.
Each meditation is delivered in the form a short audio track that guides you through the whole process of what to do, how to breathe, and what you should be focusing on.
Some of the meditative audio tracks as as short as three minutes, with longer ones up to about 9 or 10 minutes.
They all have different themes — like gratitude, compassion, change, joy, and more — so you never get bored or used to doing the same thing.
You can track your progress by tapping the My Progress option on the home tab, and you’ll earn fun stickers along the way as you keep practicing more meditations.
It’s not weird, it has nothing to do with religious traditions or rituals, and the best part is that you can do these meditations anywhere just by popping in a pair of headphones to your iPhone or iPad.
One of the meditations included in this app is called Mindful Walk, which is one of the few that gets you up for a walk instead of requiring you to sit in one spot with your eyes closed.
So, if you could use the opportunity to de-stress and relax a little, go ahead and download it.
You don’t have to to be a meditation master right off the bat by doing it perfectly the first time, because you probably won’t — especially if you’ve never done anything like this before.
Like most difficult things in life, you have to keep it up in order to see results.
You’ll get better with more practice, and over time, you’ll eventually find peace of mind.
Photo via Pastilla the Mannequin
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