What is Meditation and how does it help?

Everywhere you look today you hear something about how beneficial meditation is. I do talk to clients about it week in and week out. I also try to find time to practice meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation regularly. It may only be for a few minutes each day and at the end of my yoga practice but know I feel better when it's a part of my day. It can be intimidating to begin a meditation practice especially if you think you have to dedicate 30-60 minutes each day to reap any benefits. But much of the research on meditation shows that even 10 minutes a day can give you benefits. There are many different kinds of meditation, from various religions and philosophies around the world. In fact sometimes researchers include prayer as a type of meditation. It should also be noted that many types of meditation, including the one I'm referring to here does not have religious or spiritual aspects to it. Meditation can help all of us and has more to do with observing your mind and body.

Put simply the type of meditation I believe is most accessible is one where you observe your breath as a way to come back to the present moment. Most of us spend more time than we realize reliving the past (I should have said or done X) or imagining the future (what if X happens) and very little time fully observing each moment as we live it. Taking time in a quiet and comfortable place to close our eyes and observe our breath and then noticing any tension or sensation in our bodies is how you begin your meditation. Coming back to being the observer when our thoughts invariably come in to take our focus away from our breath is the "practice" part of meditating. You will do this over and over in ten minutes because our thoughts will always come in. Noticing that you are not your thoughts, your thoughts instead are automatically being generated, is an important aspect of meditating. As you continue to practice you will begin to notice the thoughts you have and how they affect you. Even though nothing has outwardly changed our bodies react to these thoughts. Learning to soothe yourself and calm down your physiological reaction is where you will begin to feel the benefits and effects of meditating. I have seen many people with panic attacks learn to manage their anxiety and soothe themselves with their breathing so they learn to avoid panic attacks in the future.

If you suffer from anxiety or just want to learn to be more present and less reactive meditation has been shown to help. So try to take a few minutes each day to practice. After all it is not something you can read about to understand, it is really a process you can only understand by experiencing it.