HOW TO MEDITATE
FOR BEGINNERS

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION?

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening right now, by observing what’s going on inside (your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) and outside (your interactions and surroundings) with an open mind and without judging.

Mindfulness helps us stay focused and present when we practice the two kinds of meditation offered in SB&T: Active Thinking, where we intentionally direct our thoughts and imagination to think positive thoughts and feel positive feelings (like kindness and compassion) – and – Resting the Mind, where we let it all go.

WHY SHOULD I TRY IT?

“Research has proven that mindfulness training integrates the brain and strengthens the important executive functions that support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success.”

-Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Clinical Professor, Mindsight and forthcoming Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.

Studies have demonstrated the many positive side effects of kindness and compassion:

  • Kindness makes us happier – acts of kindness cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain which creates a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
  • Kindness makes us healthier and is good for our hearts – the emotional warmth associated with kindness produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which expands the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
  • Kindness keeps us young – Kindness and compassion reduces inflammation in the body. Oxytocin reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source.
  • Kindness creates better relationships – when we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, and existing ones are strengthened.
  • Kindness is contagious – when we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to 3-degrees of separation.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

THOUGHTS AND THE BRAIN

You can rewire your brain just by meditating because our brains change based on how they are used. Every time you have a thought, neurons connect like little impulses across the map of your brain. When these neurons connect, your brain grows thicker and stronger in certain places based on the thoughts you think. We can actually change the circuitry of the brain to help us be more peaceful and compassionate, simply by directing our thoughts and imaginations. Just like a bodybuilder lifting weights to build muscle, the more you think positive thoughts, the stronger the part of your brain that allows you to experience positive feelings will become!

 

 

 

STRESS AND THE BODY

Many of the body’s functions work automatically, like breathing, blood pressure and digestion. These functions are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is divided into two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) – the “fight or flight” response during stress, intense activity, and emergencies, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) – the “rest and digest”, or calming response.

When we practice mindfulness and meditation and focus on deep relaxed breaths, we can turn off the SNS and turn on our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), also known as “rest and digest”, which calms us down and helps us to relax. When the PNS is activated, your heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, breathing slows and deepens, pupils shrink, and muscles relax. This promotes good digestion, supports your immune system and just makes you feel good all over.

HOW TO MEDITATE FOR BEGINNERS

Basic Tips

  • Choose a regular place to practice. It can help to set up a cushion or chair that is just used for mediation, which becomes a helpful physical reminder.
  • Keep it simple: Try starting small with 5 minutes a day, and slowly build up from there.
  • Find the best time: Most people find they are more likely to meditate consistently if they do it first thing in the morning, but experiment for yourself.
  • Create a routine: Make meditation part of your daily routine. Try thinking about it in the same way you think about brushing your teeth or washing your face.

 

SIMPLE MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION

  • Meditation can be done anywhere, but it can help to create a quiet space. The most important thing is to find a place where you can sit or stand comfortably.
  • The basic technique is to focus your attention on your breath–the inhale and exhale–with openness and curiosity.
  • Whether you are standing or sitting, become aware of your posture, and straighten your spine so that you feel alert and relaxed, but not rigid.
  • Experiment with how you hold your head, shoulders and body until you find a balanced, upright position.
  • If you are sitting, place your hands on your thighs or knees, wherever they can rest comfortably, without pulling you too far forward or backward.
  • Let you gaze fall just at the tip of your nose or close your eyes if you wish.
  • Feel the weight of your body on your seat or on the floor, and take a few deep breaths.
  • Now bring your attention to your breath. Follow each breath as it enters through your nose, fills your lungs, and goes back out through your nose.
  • Settle into a relaxed focus as you follow the sensation of each inhale and exhale.
  • When you notice that your mind has wandered (which it will, often!), simply acknowledge the sensations, thoughts or feelings that arise with open curiosity, and then let them go.
  • Continue to gently redirect your attention back to your breath for as long as you’d like.