Meditation is defined as the practice of focusing on a particular thing for a period of time to improve the functions of your mind. Meditation originated from the term meditatum which means “to ponder” in Latin. My first encounter with meditation was in early middle school. My English teachers dedicated the beginning twenty minutes of class to sit down, close our eyes, relax our minds, and focus on breathing slowly. My teachers preached the practice would improve our focus and memories, and I immediately doubted them. I thought, How could sitting unoccupied, doing nothing, possibly benefit me? It wasn’t until doing my own research that I found out meditation has a lot of benefits. For example, it improves memory and sleep, creates a better sense of self awareness, a better emotional health, and can even help cope with mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
The earliest forms of the practice likely originated in India 1500 BCE in reference to Vendatism, one of the first philosophies of spiritual enlightenment. Enlightenment means an experience of insight into the true nature of reality, which is pretty much just meditation. There are many types of meditation, but my personal favorite is called “mindfulness”. The most talked about type of meditation today, was developed by the Buddha around 500 BCE; this was called Satipatthana. Mindfulness meditation is all about centering your mind, and bringing awareness. This can be practiced at any time of the day, but the most common times are after waking up, and before going to bed. To do this, you’ll want to start by finding a comfortable seat, sit up straight and relax your body. After sitting, most prefer to close their eyes but that’s totally optional. Focus on breathing in and out, and it’s up to you whether you take deep breaths, normal breaths, or a combination of the two. You may get distracted by a sound or feeling, or a random thought that pops into your mind; we’re human, this is how our brains operate, it’s completely normal. When this happens, don’t get angry at yourself. Be ‘mindful’ of the thought, then let it go. What may help is centering your attention on a part or function of your body, for example, I use my hands. After relaxing the rest of my body, I try to focus on how my hands feel, are they warm or cold? and How do they feel against the surface they’re resting on? Usually I set a timer or play a soundtrack, or sometimes I just go impromptu. Either way, whenever you’re ready, slowly open your eyes (assuming they’re closed) and reflect. Bring your awareness back to everything around you, and appreciate the whole day of possibilities you have ahead of you, and what you want to do with it.
It will take a while to see the long term effects, like improved memory, focus and awareness, but these things are easily achievable from at least 10 minutes of meditation a day. My favorite thing about mindfulness is how calm I feel afterwards. It helps me have a positive outlook for my day and has also been very beneficial for staying present and quieting anxiety. In the midst of a pandemic, a lot of people are experiencing excessive anxiety right now, which can increase feelings of isolation, making meditation more important than ever.
Mead, Positive Psychology