Meditation for Beginners
I’m a mess when it comes to meditating. I feel like I break all the rules. I fidget. I daydream. I am a stream of thoughts. (Not a relaxing stream. Think more of the whitewater rafting variety.) Thoughts about what I’m wearing later that day. Thoughts about how this meditation is torture. Thoughts about what I’d like to eat. Thoughts about what I’m going to do in 2012. I feel like I’m in a constant battle with my brain and body (and they’re winning).
Many people also get frustrated with meditation or simply have no idea where to start. Meditation is meant to be enjoyable, according to Mary NurrieStearns, a licensed clinical social worker, yoga instructor and co-author of Yoga for Anxiety: Meditations and Practices for Calming the Body and Mind.
Below, she talks about what meditation really is, its tremendous benefits and how people can start meditating without getting overwhelmed.
What is Meditation?
The word “meditation” has many definitions. NurrieStearns’s favorite definition of meditation comes from Father Thomas Keating, who says that meditation is like sitting down in the lap of G-d and being with the divine. It is that “which is quiet, transcendent [and] lives in the stillness of our hearts,” she says. Of course, being religious is not a must for meditation.
NurrieStearns also offers a more technical, as she puts it, definition of meditation: Meditation gives one’s mind something gentle to focus on, so it has an anchor to hold onto. Anchors include saying a mantra (syllables, a word or phrase used in meditation) or breathing.
Holding onto these anchors helps quiet our minds. It’s from this “safe place [that] we learn to observe how the mind is working,” and “we connect with something that’s eternal [and] more essential than our worry thoughts, our ruminations and the busyness of the mind,” she says.
“Meditation is like sitting at the shore of the ocean of your mind and just watching the waves come and go,” another definition that NurrieStearns likes. This means that you’re not pushing your thoughts away, shaming or judging them. Instead, you’re simply watching your thoughts as you’d watch the waves while sitting on the shore of the ocean, she says. There’s also a sense of connection to something bigger than you can comprehend. As you feel a “palpable presence at the ocean,” you can feel that same palpable presence during meditation, she says.
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation offers a variety of benefits which have been well-documented. For instance, meditation can produce healthy physiological changes. One study found that saying “Sa Ta Na Ma,” a meditative practice of Kirtan Kriya tradition, helped to improve memory.