Breaking Down Meditation

Clearing the Clouds

When I say the word “meditation,” what comes to mind? I’ve observed that people, especially teens, have an odd perception of meditation. Maybe you picture a monk or yoga mom sitting on the floor with their legs crossed and hands tea-cupped on their knees. Perhaps they are humming “Ommmmm” in a low tone or repeatedly chanting something with a stoic expression and closed eyes. Meditation is something often seen as new, only for certain people, or just plain weird. And I get that; there was a point where I didn’t know much about it and never sought to try it as well. Before I start, I want to clarify this presumption: this isn’t what meditation is all about. There are few limits on who, how, when, where, and especially why you can do it.

If you aren’t familiar, meditation is a practice people can use to clear their minds, release stress, improve focus, or reach an emotionally calm and stable state. This definition isn’t fully inclusive of all meditation, but it does cover a good majority. As you explore meditation, this definition is likely to shift based on your own experiences. Now, how to meditate. There are tons of different ways and even various types of meditation: mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation, and transcendental meditation, all of which can help achieve specific goals. For the most part, though, meditation is done sitting down in a relatively quiet place. While the stereotype of crossed legs and closed eyes is accurate, it certainly isn’t the extent of its appearance. Some people meditate in chairs, in yoga poses, and even while standing or walking. Personally, I use the cross-legged position paired with either mantra meditation or mindfulness meditation in my practice. 

Meditation is indeed an ancient practice from thousands of years ago. It’s seen in many religions, including Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Daoism. But that doesn’t limit who can practice it. More so than a religious experience, meditation is a calming experience open to all regardless of their beliefs. Additionally, your age, gender, and ethnicity are irrelevant. The Dalai Lama says, “If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” I don’t know about you but I think that would be pretty great. 

Some Benefits

During a rough time in my life, I started meditation to reduce stress. After hearing how it might benefit me, I dove into it without really thinking after hearing how it might benefit me. With time, as my practice developed, I began to understand how it worked and saw the benefits. I discovered mindfulness in addition to the calm I initially sought out. Mindfulness taught me a new way to look at things in my life. I found that I have more control over my circumstances and how I feel than expected. Mindfulness is a whole other article for another time, but it’s one of the excellent outcomes. Another result of meditating was becoming much less stressed. I was just much more calm in life and more capable of dealing with whatever was going on at the time. Especially during the pandemic, meditation has been paramount for me. While balancing college applications, personal life, and preparation for the new school year, meditation has helped me ease my thoughts and enjoy the present. My meditation is the most calming part where I can sit isolated and release my thoughts many days. It feels quite lovely. Another benefit that I’ve enjoyed is the enhanced focus. It has shown a clear improvement in my attention span and focus, which has been very useful for me academically and in general. These are most of my experiences, but other reported benefits include: reduced anxiety and depression, assistance in reducing substance abuse, higher pain tolerance, managing ADHD, and dozens of other things. For a more extensive list, check out 76 Benefits. There’s something about self-care and meditation that innately makes you feel better about yourself.

Getting Started

Now, do I see myself as some enlightened teen monk who has seen the other side and wants to show others as well? Absolutely not. However, I do count myself lucky to have tried meditation. I’m merely encouraging you to do the same in the chance that you reap benefits similar to my own. I feel like a handful of my articles have been action-oriented recently. Still, all I’m trying to do when I write these types of essays is to share my perspective in hopes that it has a positive impact on your life and mental health. If there’s one more hook I can throw, it’s that Kobe Bryant was a daily meditator. He reported improvements in his athletic performance as well as his overall well being. 

To get started, I’ll leave it to the Pros. There’s tons of meditation apps and youtube videos out there for you to use. Oak is the app I use, it’s got a simple design and few choices making it very useful for beginners. Some other apps are Calm and Headspace, both of which have more extensive options. I’d recommend trying them out after you’ve developed your practice a bit more. One essential part of meditating is removing judgments. You can get the most out of your meditation practice by setting a few expectations about how you want to feel afterward or how it will go. In terms of your practice’s longevity, around 10 minutes per session would be good to start. How often you meditate is up to you. You can do it as often as twice a day or as spread out as a few times a week. Keeping routine is helpful, and you should expect to see more concrete results after five-ish sessions. The more often and consistently you do it, though, the stronger your skills will develop, making meditation an expendable tool for you to improve yourself. So give it a go, and feel free to comment below how it went. Happy meditating!

Sources:

Bertone, Holly J. “6 Types of Meditation: Which One Is Right for You?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 9 June 2017, www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1.

Giovanni. “76 Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness (2020).” Live and Dare, 26 Aug. 2020, liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/.

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