• Maud Vanhoutte

The benefits of everyday meditation (we tried it for you!)


Did you know that meditation itself could make your life better?

Meditation used to seem like an obscure art to us, reserved to a handful of monks and yogis isolated from our daily lives and struggles. Trying to learn more about it, we soon realised that meditation is instead a very approachable tool for everyone. Like any other form of art or sports, it requires a bit of theory to get started, and regular practice to get better. What is meditation? When thinking of meditation, the first thing that usually comes to mind is someone sitting down on the ground of a big, empty and quiet room with their eyes shut and appearing to do absolutely nothing, even thinking. This is a wrong perception of meditation. Meditating is everything but being passive. Meditation, especially for a beginner, isn't the stopping of all thinking. It's concentrating on one thought or object for a certain period of time. Meditation isn't even yoga poses or stretches. Meditation is about focusing your attention to achieve your goals. Meditation is about becoming more aware and getting perspective on your life. When you meditate, thoughts, ideas, memories will come up. You shouldn't try to avoid it, or get mad at it, because it will happen. Meditating is accepting that it will happen and trying to observe them as a phenomenon, without judgement, instead of letting yourself get carried away by them. Why should you meditate? What's so good about meditation is that its effects will last even after the end of the session. Thanks to modern tools, scientists were able to prove the impact of meditation on our brain activity. With MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) made on subjects before and after meditation, it appears that the subject process less information at the end of a session than at the beginning. Activity in your brain overall slows down. With this impact on the brain, studies have shown that meditation allows us to better focus on our tasks. Less anxiety, better memory, less stress and overall feeling of focus and peace are a few long-lasting effects of meditation. First, adopt the right posture. - You should be sitting cross-legged on the ground or on a yoga pillow, with your back straight. It's best if you can face a blank wall rather than a window facing the street, to diminish the number of outside stimulations that may break your focus. You may also prefer to find a peaceful outdoor spot in nature. For some of us, meditation is more powerful when looking at or touching an element (earth, water, fire)

-Your eyes can be mid-open or completely closed.

-Your hands should rest open and palms up on your knees. Try wearing comfortable clothes, or if you're not at home try loosening your tie or unbuttoning your pants.

-You will have a better result if you are bare feet. Tips: You should be comfortable, but not to the point where you feel yourself getting sleepy. Be aware of that, especially if you meditate in the morning.

Once you get comfortable, think about how long you want to meditate for. Two minutes, five, ten or thirty, it doesn't really matter at the beginning as long as you stick with it. Consistency is key. Tips: Set an alarm with a gentle ring to slowly get you out of your session. You are now all set to start meditating. Start focusing on your breath. Become aware of your stomach's movements as you breath in and breath out. Don't try to change your respiration to make it faster or slower, just observe it. Some thoughts, ideas and memories will come up, don't try to discard them but observe them from afar. Try to think of them as trains that want to take you somewhere, but instead, you choose to stay on the platform and watch them fade away. Do not criticise yourself or get mad because of these thoughts, they are part of the meditation process. After focusing on your breath, move on to your sensations. Start at the very end of your feet, by feeling your toes, the contact they have with the floor or with each other. Slowly, focus your attention on each and every part of your body: the sensation (cold, hot, still, busy), the points of contact (soft fabric, cold floor, warm skin) and what's happening inside of your body. Work your way up to your head. How to incorporate meditation in your everyday life? Meditation isn't only for a specific time of the day when you have time and get a calm energy. During stressful times, try to take a few seconds to focus on your breath to take some distance from the situation. It will help you deal with your emotions and get some perspectives. It is definitely not a habit that is easy to take but is it one of the most powerful habits to deal with stress and unpleasant emotions.

Help of apps:

Even though meditation is a way to disconnect yourself from the fast-paced digital world we live in, there are some apps that can help you start meditating. The mindfulness app has 5 minutes of programs that are good to get started with. Headspace connects you with other people that practice meditation to remain motivated. For more advanced practitioners, Buddhify has more advanced programs.

Clara Peter & Maud Vanhoutte

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