Happy May and Happy National Meditation Month! As you may already know, National Meditation Month is celebrated during the month of May, and this is a great time to learn about meditation and its benefits. Moreover, if you’re so inclined, this might even be an optimal time to try meditation if you have never done so, join a meditation challenge, or even start a meditation practice.
Meditation, or Dhyana, (known as the 7th of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga), is not as separate from yoga as we would believe it to be. Meditation is very much a part of yoga even though we tend to, in western culture, focus less on the whole concept of what yoga is; and instead place our focus only the asana part of yoga, which is the 3rd of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the first 5 limbs of yoga help one prepare for meditation practice; while the last 3 limbs consisting of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi make up the stages of meditation.
Meditation is beneficial in that it can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. I can attest to this, somewhat, as it was an instrumental aid in helping me learn to deal with my grief. However, I can only speak for myself in this regard, and I am in no way claiming that meditation is a panacea for grief, but in my experience with meditation, I have found that it offers a sense of peace and provides greater clarity with regard to our purpose and being. I found that it helped me focus on the present, gently create space for what is to come in the future, while also enlightening me on all that there is to appreciate about the past.
Meditation can strengthen physical and mental health by helping to improve memory, foster better quality of sleep, lower resting blood pressure and resting heart rate. It can also increase creativity, self-awareness, patience and tolerance, help reduce negative emotions and increase the ability to focus on the present moment.
The benefits of meditation extend well beyond the end of your meditation practice. Especially when practiced consistently.
There are many types of meditation. Yet, most of us are more familiar with guided meditation, which involves listening to someone guide you throughout a meditation session, but there is also sound meditation, mindfulness meditation, walking or moving meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, body scan meditation and loving kindness meditation just to name a few.
Meditation is a practice that is found in many different cultures, but it is believed to have originated in India around 1500 B.C.E and in China around the 3rd and 6th Centuries B.C. It didn’t become popular in western culture until the 21st century.
Some believe that meditation is only for those who practice Buddhism or Hinduism, but that is a myth. Meditation may be practiced by anyone, as it is not a religion. Moreover, some have been known to choose to practice meditation by simply engaging in prayer, citing the rosary for example, or by reading sacred texts and poems, journaling, or simply reflecting on the meanings of what they have read.
So if you have been contemplating starting a meditation practice, there is no need to worry about it replacing your faith or religious or spiritual practice.
When thinking about the process of meditation, most of us tend to picture in our minds a lengthy process that involves sitting for a long period of time while trying to, at the same time, focus on clearing the mind, calming the body and thinking about whatever it is that we are supposed to be attempting to achieve while in a meditative state. This can be daunting for some because we live in a culture that celebrates “busyness” so much that many of us find it hard to slow down and sit with ourselves in silence – even for a just little while. But, the truth is meditation can be long, but – it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of short meditation sessions, guided or otherwise available. Furthermore, if you decide to create your own meditation, you have the luxury of creating one that suit your specific time needs.
You should also know that it’s okay if you have trouble concentrating and remaining focused while meditating. There are many strategies to help you with this. One example would be to try placing your attention on both your intention, and the experience that you are having while meditating. Still, this can take some practice; in which case it is important to remember to be gentle with yourself through the process of learning how to become comfortable meditating – especially if while meditating – you begin to become aware of any discomfort or conscious or unconscious reluctance. It may also be helpful to know that being able to get to that place in your meditation practice is something that is, (in all honesty), something that is going to take some time to fully achieve as it tends to become easier through the process of extensive practice.
Although meditation can be practiced by anyone, there are some who should be cautious when it comes to meditating, such as those who may have experienced unresolved trauma and find it challenging to “go within.” Therefore, be sure to consult your physician, therapist or other medical professional to find out if meditation is something that you should be practicing.
The most important thing to remember when practicing meditation, (just as with practicing yoga), is that – you practice. As it is the consistent practice that is going to help you best yield its science – based benefits.
So, I am curious, what are your thoughts on meditation? Do you practice meditation? Have you been thinking about starting a meditation practice? Have you tried meditating and had a wonderful experience? Or have you tried meditation and discovered that it is just not for you? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments section.
For anyone who is interested in starting a meditation practice I will be sharing brief meditations on social media, Spotify and on this blog this summer, with longer meditation offerings in the form of classes on the Salubrity and Soul Yoga website later this year.
Also, I will be sharing more information on meditation throughout May, and if you follow me on Instagram, you know that yesterday I started a 31- day meditation challenge for National Meditation Month. If you have decided to join me on this months challenge I would love to learn about your experience with this meditation challenge so don’t forget to chime in by messaging me. Thank you for reading.
Until the next time…
I’m sending you light, I’m sending you love
and as always,
Take care and be well.