I attended my first-ever Meditation class recently after hearing of its many benefits in helping to manage anxiety and stress. Among the wonderful points the teacher taught us about Meditation, there was one that really stayed with me. She told us of how Buddhists describe life being full of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, and how these joys and sorrows travel through our consciousness. She said our consciousness is like a big river full of thoughts and Meditation is about getting on the bank of that river.
As a beginner to Meditation, I liked this visual picture to gain a better understanding of what it is you are trying to do when you meditate. It can be difficult when you are first starting out, as your mind can wander so much (as I found out) and you can feel like you are failing at it. You are supposed to keep your concentration on your breath or listen to the guiding voice, and instead you find yourself effectively falling into the river of your conscious thinking over and over again and getting preoccupied with all your thoughts!
But this river analogy helped me to realize that Meditation is about strengthening the process to getting on the bank, i.e. in getting to a tranquil place, and therefore it made me much more relaxed about the whole process. It helped me to understand that it is a practice. Your thoughts will always be there and you will find yourself off down the river of your thoughts, but you just keep gently coming back onto the bank through focusing on your breath again.
After my first Meditation class (in which I experienced mixed success), I felt I had gained a great visual of how the Meditation process works, but later I found that it also gave me a greater sense of awareness of our consciousness. When you think about it, our consciousness is really the most extraordinary tool we have. As far as we know, we are the only species who have been able to fully develop our consciousness. Meditation was developed over three thousand years ago for the purpose of calming and expanding our mind and consciousness, and can lead to state that brings peace and calmness.
For our fellow humans to have invented it they must have seen a very real need for it, and judging by how mainstream Meditation is becoming in this day and age, it would seem that they were absolutely right. In our beginners class alone, there were people from many different walks of life, including businessmen and women, a new mum, a grandmother, several Uni students, many 30-somethings, two surfers, a landscaper, a retiree, and a stay-at-home dad. When we were asked to say why we came, the answers were all mainly the same–to learn how to relax and calm our minds. As a side note, it was quite touching to think about how each of our different paths had lead us to that class that night.
Our teacher told us that in our consciousness everyday we have 60,000 thoughts and a high percentage of those we have had the day before. Can you believe it? Our consciousness is therefore very busy churning away, and that obviously has a big impact on our physical self. Meditation helps to calm our consciousness, to let go of that excessive repetitive thinking which can often be quite stressful, and help to give our bodies a well-earned rest by teaching us to be in the here and now, in the present moment. Some of the many benefits that can be experienced through Meditation include reduced stress, anxiety, anger, and tension; improvement in concentration, clarity of thought and memory, improved sleep, and the ability to know when to rest, just to name a few. There are also many physiological benefits that are well documented.
Here are five tips for learning to calm your consciousness through meditation. They are made up of things that I would have found handy to know before my first Meditation. I hope they are helpful and that you and your consciousness will enjoy the many benefits of Meditation as I am discovering.
5 Helpful Tips to Know Before Your First Meditation
- Have an open mind. Try to let go of an preconceptions or judgments you have about Meditation before trying it for the first time. Try to have a “beginners mind” and view it with the freshness you would of seeing something for the first time.
- It’s not about getting anywhere. So often we set expectations of where we want to be, we are always trying to get somewhere. Meditation is all about just being with yourself in the present moment, which is the challenge!
- Your thoughts will come in. It is almost impossible to think you won’t find yourself taken away with your thoughts while you are learning to meditate. Try not to fight them or get frustrated and just let them go and return to your breath. My teacher said think of your thoughts like a playful puppy dog that wants to keep distracting you. That way, you don’t get as frustrated and angry or too enraged with them, just gently keep returning your focus.
- Don’t take it too seriously, stay relaxed. It is overall an enjoyable and relaxing experience, and one that has many proven benefits, so relax and enjoy it. Much of the meditation practice involves acceptance and non-judgment, so don’t take it–or yourself–too seriously and trust in the process.
- No meditation is ever the same. Each practice will be different depending on a variety of factors, including the kind of day you have had or stresses that you might be facing. Some days you might have a wonderful meditation practice and other days might not be so great. It’s always different. But it is a practice, so keep practicing and discovering the wonderful tool that Meditation can be in your life.
I hope you find peace in your inner thoughts as I am learning to do. Another wonderful tool I have found to clear my consciousness is Bikram Yoga, which I recently wrote about while also listing the pros and cons of the “hot yoga.”