I used to think meditation was something only religious or deeply spiritual people practised, to be honest I thought it was a pretty pointless exercise. What benefit can sitting quietly with your eyes shut for an hour possibly offer me? Surely my time could be better spent doing, well… pretty much anything else!
However, over the years I kept hearing about the benefits of meditation from different sources, benefits like, increased happiness, achieving inner peace, inducing greater creativity and improved concentration. I also heard about the health benefits which range from, having a positive effect on heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and metabolism to resolving psychological problems.
However, I also had lots of questions and fears about attempting to meditate, which delayed me jumping in and giving it a shot.
Questions about meditation like, what type of meditation is the right one? How exactly does someone meditate? How would I know if I was doing it right? How long should you meditate for? Which is the correct way to meditate, in silence or with music? You see, there weren’t that many Zen Monks around me to ask about the finer details, so I just kept putting it on the back burner and telling myself I would get round to it ‘someday’.
Fortunately I did take that leap, and I’m glad I did, and as I’m soon to release a series of meditation audio’s on this blog over the coming months, I thought I would answer a few questions about meditation which I would have liked answered before I started meditating, so this article is aimed mainly at people who are beginners, or are yet to take that leap into the stimulating world of meditation.
What type of meditation is the right one?
There are many different types of meditation; too many to list here, and this is where a lot of the confusion stems, so don’t get too hung up on which type of meditation you should be doing. The good thing about having so many different types of meditation is that there is a type out there for you, so it’s just a matter of finding which one suits you best.
When I started to meditate I began with guided meditations set to tranquil background music, it made me feel more confident about how I was meditating because as the name suggests, guided meditation basically talks you through the whole process.
Guided meditation, unlike traditional (unguided) meditation, requires less effort on your part as you don’t have to worry about keeping your mind focused and as clear as possible. Traditional meditation is fantastic in its own right, and once you’ve achieved the basics is something which can later be strived for.
What I love about guided meditation is the opportunity it offers to visualise effortlessly, and engage the imagination with positive suggestions tailored to the subject of your choice. This is certainly a good option if you’re new to meditation or not quite sure how to start out.
How exactly does someone meditate?
Again this depends on which type of meditation you are practicing, traditional meditation, unlike the guided meditation above, calls for the subject (you) to sit in a comfortable upright position with your eyes closed.
The goal is to clear your mind of all thoughts and be witness to any experience you may have. To clear the mind it is often suggested that you take a few deep breaths at the beginning of your meditation, and then breathe normally concentrating on each breaths inhale, and exhale.
This initially clears the concentrated mind of all but the thought of breathing, if other thoughts occur, which they will, the key is not to reflect upon those thoughts. You become a bystander of thought as you experience them, but do not get involved in reflecting upon those thoughts and what they might mean.
Don’t be miffed if nothing happens during your meditation, after all, that is exactly the point! Benefits from meditation don’t occur during meditation; they occur, and can be witnessed through measured transformation in daily life, over the course of time.
How long should you meditate for?
As mentioned before this depends on which type of meditation you are involved with. Guided meditations are pre set, and last for the amount of time the audio lasts. With more traditional types of meditation you are the one who decides the length for which you meditate.
If you’re new to meditation, start with a length of time you’re comfortable with, even if it’s only 5 minutes. You can build up minute by minute until such a time you can achieve half an hour, then an hour. I do need to stress there are no hard and fast rules about meditating; if it feels comfortable for you, then that is the right length.
Which is the correct way to meditate, in silence or with music?
There is NO correct way to meditate, if it feels good and you’re getting results from it, it’s correct. I like to meditate in silence and also with music; it really depends on how I’m feeling at the time. I also use binaural beat meditation and paraliminal meditation audio’s.
Binaural beat meditation
Binaural beat meditation uses the effect from different frequencies introduced into opposing ears, and therefore stereo headphones must be worn to achieve this. If a tone at 150Hz is played into one ear, and a tone of 155Hz is played into the other ear, the brain hears the difference between the two tones, (5Hz – called an auditory artefact) as a beat, which sounds more like a pulse.
This auditory artefact is then mimicked by the brain to induce a specified range of brain waves which occur naturally:
When in a relaxed or drowsy state (Alpha Waves)
Or asleep and experiencing REM dreams (Theta Waves)
In a deep dreamless state (Delta Waves)
all while still awake but in a meditative state.
These are the brain waves meditators are trying to achieve using the traditional meditation method, so for beginners binaural beat meditation offers the chance to experience a deep trance like state without the previous experience.
I use binaural beat meditation a lot, and I offer many free meditation audio’s with different binaural beat waves on my website.
I also use paraliminal meditation audio’s, which are very similar to guided meditations, but they use each ear for differing messages throughout the audio, so again stereo headphones must be used.
Paraliminal meditation audio’s are theme based on one subject related to personal development. They offer guidance with things like becoming more confident, weight loss, stopping smoking, public speaking or any other road block you may be experiencing in life.
They work by offering different hemispheres of the brain different messages, sometimes at the same time through different ears. The messages aren’t something you need to keep track of, as listening to two voices, one in each ear, would be pretty difficult, you are free to just let the audio play and do its thing.
Paraliminal meditation is another great way for beginners to get a taste for meditation in a fairly passive manner, without worrying about whether you are doing everything correctly.