Meditation, what does this even mean? If I have to shut off my brain for an hour and try to keep every thought that flits by from dropping into my “state of unconscious bliss” (or whatever it is), then I’ve already failed. Luckily, that isn’t what meditation is or has to be at all.
First, let’s start with what meditation is…a salve, or complete rest, for your nervous system. Yes, you rest during sleep, but this is more of a deep, conscious rest that your body doesn’t necessarily get during nighty night time.
What is meditation not? It is not sitting in an uncomfortable upside-down criss-cross applesauce position for two hours with your back rod straight and your fingers meeting your thumbs in circles while resting on your knees. It is not aggressively batting away every errant thought you have with a mantra.
What does meditation look like? Well, if you look up “types of meditation,” or a similar key word search, you’ll find a range of sites. Some say there are 7 types, others say there are 23…and every number in between. In my personal (albeit short) meditation journey, I have found that instead of types, components of meditation are most important. There are three major components you should concentrate on during your meditation (in my humble opinion).
Components of Meditation
Mindfulness is the art of being able to concentrate on all five of your senses to bring you in the present moment, to truly revel in the act of existence.
Why is mindfulness important? 1.) it gets you out of your own head; mentally, it is difficult to be think about the present and simultaneously lament about the past or fret about the future. 2.) It is the first step in giving gratitude; to acknowledge and be thankful for what you have in this very moment.
How do you practice mindfulness? There are several ways you can do this. One is called body scanning. This is where you move from your toes to your head and take careful mental note of the sensation and functioning of each area. My preference, though, is to concentrate on my five senses instead of body scanning. You can “scan” your senses by acknowledging and reveling in the sensation on your skin, what you see behind closed eyelids, what you smell, what you taste and what you hear.
Relaxation of the Mind
This is where you put your mind at ease and use a mantra to help you focus. The trick, I’ve learned, is to not use the mantra to beat away thoughts, but to ground you when the thoughts try to carry you away.
Insofar as positioning, some experts will tell you to sit in comfortable chair or position. They often warn against lying down, for fear you will fall asleep. I'll be honest with you...I still meditate lying down. I don't care, it's comfy and they can't stop me.
How often and long should you meditate? Again, you’ll find all kinds of opinions out there…and what you are reading here is no different, just an opinion. What I do know for sure, as an occupational therapist, is that habits and routines are essential to optimal human functioning and overall life satisfaction. So I can tell you without hesitation that your meditation practice should be completed regularly, at least daily. Insofar as time, I choose to spend 10-15 minutes twice a day. That’s about all I can manage to offer up to nervous system. I spend about five minutes on mindfulness and the rest of my time on relaxation of my mind.