Meditation: How to Begin
You can start with just two words.
Inhale. Exhale. Two very simple words that can help bring an almost instantaneous change to your physical, mental and emotional state. Transforming the “monkey mind” that’s always jumping from thought to thought; always thinking, always moving.
Do you take a moment for yourself during the day to consciously breathe or meditate? If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone.
The idea of stopping to connect with your breath or to begin a meditation practice is still foreign to many. But the number of people in the U.S. who are turning to daily meditation practice is significant—in 2012 it was 8% of adults (over 18 million) and 1.6% of children (927,000). This level was reported by the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health—part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—and has continued to grow since then.
Research has shown that meditation can physically change the brain and body and could potentially help improve many physical health problems—such as reducing blood pressure, easing symptoms of anxiety and depression—as well as help people with insomnia and assist in promoting healthy behaviors. Ongoing research is investigating meditation’s effectiveness for pain and as a treatment to quit smoking.
As a meditation practitioner, I’ve noticed shifts in my own body in reducing health symptoms, including pain, and know of many others who have similar experiences through meditation.
Interested? Read on.
Where to begin? Forget the idea of needing a specific place or even having to be seated to begin a meditation practice. Everyone is different, so the approach to the practice will be different.
There’s no need for a studio setting, complete with meditation cushion, spa-like music, incense and the soothing voice of an instructor. Those conditions are all great! If you’d like to try them, they create good ambiance, community and learning. But none of those things is required for effective meditation. Nor do you need money or equipment.
You build up your own timetable to what feels right for you. And you can start as simply as with these two words—inhale and exhale.
Wherever you are and whether you’re sitting or standing, follow the words in the next few lines, physically responding with your breath and body.
Through your nose, inhale in and slowly exhale out through your nose.
Inhale slowly, deeply in through your nose. Exhale slowly out through your nose. Soften your face, unclench your jaw.
Inhale, taking a deeper breath through your nose. Exhale, sighing out of your mouth.
Inhale slowly, deeply, through your nose. Exhale slowly out of your nose.
Inhale through your nose as your belly expands. Exhale through your nose as your belly retracts towards your spine. Keep your jaw soft.
Inhale as your belly expands out like a balloon. Exhale through your nose as your belly retracts towards your spine.
Inhale as your belly expands out like a balloon. Exhale through the nose as your belly retracts towards your spine.
Take one final big Inhale in through your nose. Open your mouth wide and Exhale. Let it ALL go!
Begin breathing normally again. Take a moment to check in with your body and thoughts. Did anything change for you in that one minute—physically or mentally? You can repeat the steps above for as long as you’d like, ideally increasing your meditation practice by a minute every day for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes.
There are many different types of meditation practices. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, the exercise above or some variation may have seemed familiar. There are also visual, mantra, transcendental and spiritual meditations, plus so many more, along with practices such as reiki, qigong and tai chi that incorporate methods of meditation.
Some people prefer to learn or practice with a meditation teacher or in a group. There are many opportunities locally.
In the end it comes down to two simple words and actions. Inhale and Exhale …
Jacque Maldonado is a certified herbalist, energy worker, yoga teacher, Usui/Holy Fire Reiki Master, and founder of The Prana House, a new age, organic apothecary and holistic wellness shop at 109 N. Church St. in West Chester. Learn more at ThePranaHouse.com.
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