Continuing with our relaxation techniques for this month, I will be talking about meditation today since I am a meditation teacher here at the rec. Meditation is a new class being offered this year, and I have had a lot of questions about what meditation is. I compiled some commonly asked questions about mediation and will personally give answers to all of them!
- What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice where you use a technique to focus your attention on something specific such as the breath or paying attention to specific senses.
- Is meditation a religion?
No, although meditation is practiced by many religions, you do not have to participate in any religion to meditate.
- Do your eyes have to be closed?
No, there are some types of meditation that require that your eyes be open. Mindfulness walks for example, are done with the eyes open. I encourage my students to close their eyes during our sessions, as we are stationary the whole time, and closing the eyes helps the student to turn their attention inward, rather than being distracted by their surroundings.
- Where did mediation come from?
It is said that the Vedas contained the earliest written records of meditation. The Vedas are ancient texts from India.
- What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation helps control our thoughts, which helps us control our anxiety. Meditation also helps reduce stress, enhance our self-awareness and mind-body connection, increase our attention span, and help cultivate gratitude and compassion.
- When is the best time of day to meditate?
I think that mediation is beneficial any time of day. What time of day you meditate also depends on what you want to get out of your meditation. For example, I listen to a guided meditation at night to help me fall asleep, but you may want to meditate during your lunch break or study break to decrease stress, and that’s fine too.
- How long should you meditate?
As long as you can! Just meditating for five minutes at a time can be a great place to start if you are new to meditation. Ideally, it’s best if you can build up a regular practice, even if it isn’t for very long.
- Where should you meditate?
Anywhere! The great thing about meditation is that you don’t need any equipment or props. It is a free activity that enhances your health. My meditation teacher told us that you can meditate while doing things as well. If you are gardening for example, if you are focused solely on what you are doing in the present moment, you are meditating. So there are actually meditative activities you can do if you have trouble sitting still. You can meditate outside, in bed, in a class, in your room…etc.
- Do you have to sit cross-legged to meditate?
No. Meditation could be done in a variety of positions, although some people may have certain preferences. I allow my students to use bolsters and blankets, and lay on their backs or sit on their mats. The first week I taught the class, everyone sat up, and most said that it was uncomfortable for them. Now, most people chose to lay down.
- Should it be completely silent when you meditate?
Not necessarily. It can be helpful to have a quiet atmosphere, that way you aren’t as distracted by external stimuli, but it is not required. Whether it is loud or quiet, it is a challenge for us as humans to quiet our mind chatter.
- Do you need a teacher to meditate?
No, although there are many different forms of guided meditation-from apps to teachers, you can practice on your own.
- How do you learn to meditate?
You learn by doing it! It is a good idea to read up on meditation and learn some techniques so that you aren’t going into your practice not knowing what to do, but the best way to understand and really learn how to meditate is by participating in it. A teacher can be a great resource to guide you, and give you techniques that you can use on your own. If you have trouble with adherence, going to a class can help as well.
- Can anyone meditate?
Yes, you don’t need anything but yourself in order to meditate. It’s nice to have props, but they certainly aren’t necessary. A lot of people have the impression that you already need to be “a zen person” in order to meditate, but any type of person can meditate. Just like anything in life, you can’t expect to be good at it without practice.
- Are meditation and mindfulness the same thing?
Mindfulness is a type of mediation. Mindfulness is about focusing on one thing such as the breath, and meditation is about finding inner peace with oneself. In meditation, mindfulness is often used as a way to become aware of our habits or thoughts, to help us achieve a more peaceful state.
- How are yoga and meditation connected?
Yoga is a form of meditation in which we are moving. Just as in meditation we still want to be present in the moment, and focus on something specific-our breath, asana, or transitioning from one asana to another.
I hope this article cleared up any questions that you may have had, but if you have more, feel free to reach out to me! The meditation class I teach is held on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 7AM, hope to see you there!