Meditation: A Beginner's Guide

Have you ever thought about meditation as a way to handle stress?

I’ve been regularly meditating for over a year now and I’m excited to share that it’s become essential to my morning routine. Why is it so meaningful? I get to start my day with something just for me. It connects me to my purpose and intention for the day ahead.

It's funny how practicing stillness allows you to accept and even anticipate the ebbs and flows of life. I wouldn’t say that I no longer react to the things that bother me, but I do so with less judgement of myself and I snap back quicker and easier than I have in the past. 

So where does meditation come from?

Meditation has been around for over 5,000 years (WOW!) and emerged first in ancient India. It was used traditionally in Taoist China and Buddhist India for thousands of years. It was not until the 1960s that meditation gained more popularity in secular society in the Americas and Europe as a way to increase mindfulness, promote cognitive function and reduce stress. Even in the past half century meditation was only quietly gaining popularity.

Far cry from the trend we see in headlines and TV shows today. In the past 20 years, meditation has blown up! In 2007, almost 10% of Americans said they tried it at least once. It's the new cool kid on the block, except it's not new. It's 5000 years old, LOL. The practice is now championed by high-ranking executives and the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins as a crucial success ritual. Interestingly, Clint Eastwood, now 87, has been practicing for 40+ years. 

Right now, if you google “meditation centers” in your area, I’m fairly positive you will get at least half a page of places to browse. It's insane how mainstream meditation is now! 

What are the benefits to mediation anyway?

The studies on meditation are few but they are growing as the practice has increased its presence in the wellness field. What the studies have found so far all point to the same conclusion: meditation is THEBOMB.COM.

Here's a few of the many, many benefits:

  1. Meditation preserves your brain as you age. According to a UCLA study, meditation protects the brain and reduces age-related brain tissue decline. Meditators who saw this affect had been meditation for 20 years or longer. Time to hop aboard this train!

  2. Mediation helps us to live in the moment. We all try to practice living in the moment but our incessant chatter in our brain makes us dwell on the past or ruminate about the future. This voice in our head often brings down our mood or prevents us from putting ourselves out there. A recent study at Yale University shows that by meditating on a regular basis you can decrease this internal chatter (called the default mode network) and snap yourself back to the moment much quicker. Hello, happier days!

  3. Meditation helps reduce anxiety. Many people self-medicate for feelings of anxiety with drinking, smoking marijuana, video games, TV and the like. In a study done by Johns Hopkins, those with symptoms of anxiety/depression went through mindfulness meditation and saw their symptoms decrease by a factor of 0.3 — the same amount that medication for anxiety/depression provides. Talk to your doctor before decreasing or dropping medication.

If you’re new to mediation as a wellness ritual, it can be hard to figure out where to start. That’s why I’m releasing a guided meditation for the Well By Me community, a simple 5-minute meditation that will get you into the right headspace for your journey within. Sign up to my e-mail list to get access!

Another avenue you can take is to try a local meditation center for your first session. Last week, I went to InScape Meditation Space and it was totally something a first-timer would enjoy.

I’ll give you a quick rundown so you know what to expect.

Shortly before class, I was greeted by our facilitator saying hello and applying a sandalwood essential oil on my wrist (this is optional). We entered a dome structure with decor that can only be described as “ethereal chic” — soft indigo lighting and plenty of cushions and blankets. So comfortable and enjoyable — even if I just sat there for 35 minutes and had a nap, it would have been worth it!

A recorded soothing female british voice graced our presence thanking us for joining the space and asking us to set an intention for today’s meditation. She then guided us into several breathing exercises. As we inhaled and exhaled in sync, I drifted further and further into an inner healing space.

When the meditation was about to end, we were given the opportunity to “come back” into our bodies. When I opened my eyes, I felt a profound sense of calm and clarity. And strangely, a feeling of a “second wind,” even though it was 7pm on a Monday.

I left the class feeling positive, serene and ready for whatever life was going to throw my way!

Meditating isn’t as intimidating as you may expect from a Google search. Yes, it can be very spiritual, but it truly is what you make it. I like to think of it as time for myself, a quiet time where I can slow down and enjoy the serenity of just being. Nowhere to go. Nobody to please. Just sit there and do my thing.

What’s the worst that can happen? I say, try it. Try it twice. And let me know how meditation helps you in the comments below.