How to do Meditation
Meditation Essentials

Cultivating Peace and Focus in Your Daily Life

How to do Meditation

A group of Indian disciples was told to meditate like Christ. Confused, they asked their teacher, ‘How did Christ meditate?’ Teacher closed his eyes and was perfectly still for about 5 minutes. Finally, a tear fell down his face and he replied, ‘He lost himself in love.’ –By Sirqun Kaur- Spirit Voyage Blog- January 4, 2011.

Wondering how to begin meditating or enhance your current practice? This guide demystifies meditation, outlining steps to get started, benefits for your mind and body, and how to weave it into your daily life. No matter your experience level, you’ll find valuable insights to foster peace and focus through meditation.

Key Takeaways

  • Meditation is an ancient practice with diverse styles, acclaimed for improving self-awareness, focus, and fostering tranquility through techniques such as mindfulness, loving-kindness, and body scan meditation.
  • To start meditating effectively, one should select a meditation style aligning with personal goals, create a serene and consistent environment for practice, and establish a routine to ensure regular practice and progression.
  • Scientific research backs the benefits of meditation, highlighting its positive effects on mental health, cognitive function, stress management, and overall well-being, which can enhance performance in work, family, and academic settings.

Understanding Meditation: An Overview

Meditation is much more than just a relaxation technique. It is a journey of self-discovery, a tool for mindfulness, and a means to cultivate peace and focus in our lives. Its origins can be traced back to ancient India, where it was first documented in the Vedas. Since then, meditations have been practiced across various cultures and religions, each with its unique approach and interpretation. Despite these differences, universally accepted principles of meditation include focusing the mind on a particular object or thought, training attention and awareness, and achieving a sense of calm and peace.

When we explore mindfulness meditation, we discover a practice that urges us to remain completely immersed in the moment, experiencing our thoughts and feelings without judgment. It is a practice that fosters self-awareness, compassion, and peace, leading to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. However, this is merely scratching the surface. We should further explore the essence of mindfulness meditation, the range of meditation practices, and their significance across cultures.

The Essence of Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation originates from specific core principles which form an interconnected network of concepts. These principles include:

  • Non-judgment
  • Beginner’s mind
  • Trust
  • Non-striving
  • Patience
  • Acceptance
  • Letting go

The practice of mindfulness meditation promotes present-moment awareness by integrating mindfulness into daily activities and acknowledging emotions in the present moment. This mindfulness practice can be likened to a word orb, where each word or thought is acknowledged and then released, allowing the mind to remain focused on the present.

Mindfulness is a fundamental element in meditation due to its ability to slow down racing thoughts, release negativity, and bring calmness to both the mind and body. This soothing effect is comparable to observing celestial bodies in the night sky, eliciting a sense of peace and tranquility. Various mindfulness meditation practices, such as body scan meditation, mindful wakeup, and focusing on the breath, offer opportunities for individuals to find the most suitable technique for themselves.

The Spectrum of Meditation Practices

The world of meditation is rich and diverse, with numerous practices that cater to a wide range of needs and preferences. These practices include:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Vipassana meditation
  • Kundalini meditation
  • Zen meditation

Each practice has its unique characteristics and benefits, forming a circle of options for those seeking inner peace.

Every meditation practice possesses its own unique focus. For example, walking meditation is characterized by the combination of walking and meditating, offering a dynamic experience and a stronger connection to the surrounding environment, in contrast to seated meditation which is performed in a stationary position.

The fundamental difference between mindfulness and concentration meditation lies in where the focus of attention is placed during the meditation session. While mindfulness meditation emphasizes awareness of the present moment and observation of arising changes, concentration meditation involves a more narrow and intense focus on a specific object or point of focus.

Meditation's Role Across Cultures

Meditation, while universal in its benefits, is practiced differently across various cultures.

In Buddhism, meditation plays a significant role in cultivating factors on the Noble Eightfold Path, transforming the mind, developing concentration and clarity, and gaining insight into the nature of reality. Similarly, in Hinduism, meditation is a pathway to self-knowledge, and it is incorporated into Yoga practices.

In Christianity, meditation aids in:

  • delving deeper into Scripture
  • alleviating stress
  • focusing on God
  • providing rest

In Islamic traditions, it is considered an art of surrendering and being completely still, submitting to the will of Allah in a conscious state of mind.

Beginning Your Meditation Journey

Embarking on a meditation journey can be both exciting and daunting. It requires an understanding of different meditation styles, creating a conducive environment, and establishing a routine. Every novice should consider factors such as:

  • their meditation goals
  • personal preferences
  • comfort level
  • the desired level of guidance and structure

When selecting a meditation style, consider the impact on your aura and explore other forms that may suit your needs.

The place where you meditate should be tranquil and serene, and ideally, you should meditate in the same area consistently. It is also important to maintain an upright and attentive posture during meditation. Establishing a routine is crucial for novice meditation practitioners as it assists them in maintaining consistency and cultivating mindfulness, compassion, and a sense of being in the present moment.

Now, let’s further explore how to select your meditation style, create a suitable environment, and establish a routine.

Choosing Your Meditation Style

Selecting a meditation style that resonates with your personal goals and preferences is a pivotal step in starting your meditation journey. When selecting a meditation style, consider factors such as personal preferences, the desired outcomes of the practice, and the specific benefits being sought. There are various options available, including guided meditation, loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation, body scan meditation, and transcendental meditation.

Meditation styles particularly suitable for beginners include:

  • Guided meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation

Each style offers unique benefits, and exploring different types can aid in finding the one that best aligns with individual needs. Furthermore, various meditation styles can have substantial positive effects on mental health by addressing conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression, and promoting emotional well-being.

Creating a Conducive Environment

Creating an optimal environment is essential for a successful meditation practice. Essential components of a suitable environment include:

  • Establishing connections to nature indoors
  • Providing comfortable seating
  • Maintaining a calming atmosphere with soft lighting and minimalistic décor
  • Ensuring a calm and peaceful environment free from distractions

To reduce distractions in the meditation space, manage noise levels, close doors, or designate a specific area for meditation.

Suitable objects that can facilitate the establishment of a meditation area include:

  • Meditation cushions
  • Timers
  • Essential oils
  • Inspirational objects

The utilization of light in a meditation environment has a substantial influence. Gentle and calming lighting improves relaxation and concentration, while bright light may cause distraction.

Establishing a Routine

Establishing a routine is integral for maintaining a consistent meditation practice. To successfully integrate meditation into your daily routine, start with a modest and achievable schedule, identify a suitable time, preferably in the early morning, and refrain from preconceived ideas about meditation. Consider associating meditation with another daily habit.

It is recommended to engage in daily meditation, and research indicates that consistent practice over 8 weeks can lead to noticeable benefits. A meditation session can begin with five minutes and ideally extend to 15 to 20 minutes as proficiency increases.

Deepening Your Practice: Advanced Techniques

As you advance in your meditation journey, you might want to explore advanced techniques to augment your meditation practice. Some advanced techniques to consider are:

  • Body scan meditation
  • Visualization
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Integrating yoga with meditation

These techniques can enrich your meditation experience and further your practice, resulting in heightened self-awareness, emotional well-being, and mental clarity.

These advanced techniques offer unique benefits:

  • Body scan meditation fosters mindfulness and an understanding of bodily conditions, potentially contributing to relaxation and stress relief.
  • Visualization meditation aids in calming the nervous system and fostering emotions such as contentment, acceptance, and gratitude.
  • Yoga complements and enhances meditation by reducing stress, promoting healing, and improving self-awareness.

Body Scan Meditation

Body scan meditation is an advanced practice that seeks to cultivate mindfulness by systematically scanning the body for sensations. Its origins can be traced back to the East Asian religious tradition of Buddhism. To practice body scan meditation at home, follow these steps:

  1. Find a comfortable position
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Begin with a few deep breaths to settle in
  4. Initiate the scanning process from the top of the body
  5. Attentively observe any sensations, pain, or tension as attention is gradually shifted downwards

While there is no rigid time constraint for a body scan meditation, it is generally advised to allocate approximately 20 to 40 minutes for the practice to achieve full effectiveness. Challenges that may arise during body scan meditation include fidgeting, physical discomfort, and apprehension about facing specific emotions. These challenges can be addressed by directing attention to each body part to minimize fidgeting, utilizing props to alleviate physical discomfort, cultivating acceptance towards restlessness and emotional difficulties, and adjusting posture as necessary to enhance comfort during the meditation.

Visualization and Loving Kindness Meditation

Visualization and loving-kindness meditation are powerful techniques that can enhance your meditation practice. Visualization meditation involves concentrating on positive images, thoughts, feelings, or sensations. It can be practiced by finding a serene and comfortable environment, focusing on the breath, and envisioning particular images or situations. One approach involves color breathing, where a desired state, such as tranquility or joy, is associated with a specific color.

Loving-kindness meditation involves cultivating emotions of love, compassion, and benevolence towards oneself and others. This practice can be performed in different positions and time frames and is known to enhance positive emotions and diminish negative ones, promoting positive social behaviors. Both visualization and loving-kindness meditation have been shown to have substantial positive effects on mental health and overall well-being.

Integrating Yoga and Meditation

Integrating yoga and meditation can lead to:

  • A reduction in stress
  • Facilitation of healing
  • Improvement in self-awareness
  • Improved mental and physical well-being
  • Assistance in memory retention and mental clarity
  • Reinforcement of the connection between the mind and body

Regular practice of yoga and meditation can provide these benefits and more.

Yoga poses contribute to the enhancement of meditation practice by stretching and strengthening the muscles, improving posture and balance, calming the nervous system, and creating a sense of stillness and strength that aids the transition into a meditative state. The practice of breath work in yoga contributes to enhancing mindfulness during meditation by improving attention and awareness, reducing anxiety, and promoting a deeper and more focused breathing pattern conducive to meditation.

The Science of Stillness: Benefits and Effects

The advantages of meditation reach far beyond the scope of spirituality and mindfulness. Science has begun to unravel the profound impact of meditation on the human mind and body. Studies indicate that meditation can induce favorable alterations in the brain and biology, resulting in enhancements in mental and physical well-being. These alterations allow individuals to:

  • Better filter out distractions
  • Alleviate pain
  • Boost mood
  • Promote healthy sleep patterns
  • Enhance overall cognitive function

Scientific research supports the cognitive benefits associated with consistent meditation practice, which includes enhanced attention, improved memory, and better executive function. It’s fascinating how engaging in meditation practices brings about changes in the functional and structural plasticity of neural networks, leading to enhancements in attention, self-regulation, and the integration of brain networks.

Meditation and Mental Health

Meditation can exert significant impacts on mental health. Research indicates that meditation practices such as mindfulness meditation and guided meditation can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, promote emotional well-being, and enhance work engagement and emotional intelligence. These benefits can greatly impact one’s quality of life, leading to improved collaboration, productivity, and job satisfaction while reducing workplace stress and burnout.

Mindfulness exercises suitable for the workplace include:

  • Active listening
  • The body scan technique
  • Practicing mindful appreciation
  • Setting a morning intention
  • Taking brief 60-second timeouts

Even in the midst of a busy workday, these small practices can contribute to better stress management, improved focus on the present moment, and overall well-being.

Physical Health Improvements

Consistent meditation practice provides physical health benefits, including:

  • Alleviating strain on the heart
  • Mitigating the body’s stress response and inflammation
  • Alleviating pain
  • Enhancing cardiovascular health by reducing heart rate and blood pressure
  • Lowering the risk of heart disease
  • Providing benefits for conditions like hypertension and diabetes

During meditation, the body undergoes a reduction in breathing rate, a decrease in heart rate, and a reduction in the size of brain areas linked to fear, stress, and anxiety. Furthermore, meditation has the potential to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, a hormone commonly linked to stress-related health conditions.

Cognitive Enhancements

Beyond its mental and physical health benefits, meditation can also result in substantial cognitive enhancements. Regular meditation practice improves cognitive functioning by diminishing distractions and refining attention and memory. Research has demonstrated that meditation can augment memory function, enhance working memory capacity, and improve cognition, attention, and short-term memory.

Meditation also has the potential to enhance creativity by building skills or ways of being that support creative thinking. Studies have shown that short-term meditation can foster creative thinking. Regular meditation practice improves cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and executive function by facilitating the brain to rewire and optimize processing and communication between various brain areas.

Meditation in Everyday Life

One of the appealing aspects of meditation is its adaptability. With a little creativity and intention, it can be woven into the fabric of our daily lives, bringing calmness, clarity, and connection to our everyday experiences. From the workplace to family life and academics, the practice of meditation can be a powerful tool for achieving balance, reducing stress, and enhancing focus.

Whether it’s through brief mindfulness exercises during work hours, meditation sessions with family members, or using meditation techniques to enhance academic performance, integrating meditation into everyday life can lead to significant improvements in mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Mindfulness at Work

In the rapid-paced work environment of today, stress and burnout are prevalent issues. Mindfulness meditation can be a powerful tool for managing workplace stress and enhancing productivity. It reduces stress levels by promoting calmness, clarity, and compassion, improving mental and physical health, enhancing work engagement and emotional intelligence, and leading to improved collaboration, productivity, and job satisfaction.

There are several mindfulness exercises that are easily adaptable for practice in the workplace. These include:

  • Active listening
  • The body scan technique
  • Mindful appreciation
  • Setting a morning intention
  • Taking brief 60-second time-outs

Even amidst a busy workday, these small practices can help individuals better manage stress, stay focused on the present moment, and improve overall well-being.

Meditative Moments for Family Balance

In the hustle and bustle of family life, moments of stillness and connection can often be overlooked. Meditation can serve as an effective tool for upholding equilibrium within families by:

  • Assisting family members in staying composed and attentive
  • Enriching their mental and physical health
  • Reinstating balance through relaxation, movement, and breathing techniques
  • Fostering mindfulness in children and the family collectively
  • Addressing stress while enhancing sleep quality

Leading a family meditation session can be as simple as fostering an environment where family members can release distractions and concentrate on the present moment. Various meditation techniques, such as breath awareness, sound meditation, or incorporating movement into the practice, can be engaged in as a family. Even children as young as 3 or 4 years old can be introduced to meditation, making it a practice that the whole family can benefit from.

Meditation for Academic Success

For students, meditation can be an invaluable tool for enhancing focus, reducing stress, and improving academic performance. Research indicates that meditation practices can heighten concentration, improve academic performance and time management, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, enhance learning focus, as well as enhance memory and attention span. Furthermore, it contributes to a strengthened immune system.

Meditation improves cognitive functioning in students by diminishing distractions, refining attention and memory, and enhancing short-term memory and cognitive flexibility. Furthermore, a consistent meditation practice has been shown to significantly decrease levels of stress and anxiety in students, resulting in a more serene and focused state of mind.

When it comes to exam preparation, meditation can provide significant assistance by alleviating stress, managing test anxiety, promoting emotion regulation, and enhancing response flexibility.

Overcoming Challenges: When Meditation Gets Tough

Like any new skill, meditation presents its own set of challenges. These challenges can range from distractions and physical discomfort to emotional resistance and plateaus in progress. However, with patience, perseverance, and the right strategies, these challenges can be navigated successfully, leading to a deeper and more fulfilling meditation practice.

Let’s explore how to navigate distractions, deal with discomfort, and move beyond plateaus in meditation practice.

Navigating Distractions

Distractions frequently occur during meditation. They can be internal, such as thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, or external, like noises and visual stimuli. These distractions, however, can be managed effectively with certain strategies. Here are some strategies to help you minimize distractions during meditation:

  1. Select a tranquil environment.
  2. Focus on breathing into the core of any tension arising from distractions.
  3. If needed, jot down intrusive thoughts to deal with them at a later time.

By implementing these strategies, you can enhance your meditation practice and experience deeper levels of relaxation and focus.

Internal distractions can be managed during meditation by:

  • Directing attention towards any bodily tension and consciously releasing it through controlled breathing
  • Choosing not to engage with distractions
  • Selecting an appropriate time and location
  • Utilizing a focal point
  • Permitting thoughts to enter and exit without attachment
  • Practicing self-compassion
  • Employing the breath or a mantra as a centering method

These strategies can enhance one’s focus and concentration during meditation.

Dealing with Discomfort

Physical discomfort and emotional resistance are typical challenges encountered by meditation practitioners. Emotional resistance in the context of meditation denotes any instance where an individual does not completely accept the present moment and does not allow all emotions to surface during their meditation practice. Emotional resistance during meditation can be observed as a reluctance to completely accept the present moment and a propensity to regulate or redirect the mind’s attention.

In order to facilitate emotional release during meditation, it is important to allow oneself to experience any emotions that need healing without passing judgment. This approach creates a compassionate environment for the emotions to be released. Furthermore, if there are lingering unresolved emotions after meditation, it is beneficial to acknowledge them and allow the release and healing process to take place.

Physical discomfort during meditation can be managed by focusing on the reaction to the pain rather than the pain itself, as this is where the real insight lies. Additionally, for minimal pain, one can try sitting on a yoga block and rolling the pelvis forward to create a gentle sway back in the seated meditation posture.

Moving Beyond Plateaus

Similar to physical training, experiencing plateaus in meditation practice is common. A plateau is recognizable when one experiences a sense of stagnation and slower advancement. When facing a plateau in meditation, it is advisable to:

  • Identify the cause
  • Experiment with new techniques
  • Set achievable goals
  • Consider seeking guidance from an experienced practitioner.

Indeed, altering meditation styles and exploring various approaches and techniques can be beneficial in overcoming a plateau in meditation practice. Each meditation style offers unique benefits and provides a fresh perspective that can help rejuvenate your practice and overcome any plateau. Some meditation styles to consider are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Body scan meditation

Spiritual Meditation

Spiritual Meditation is connecting to Spirit Realm. It is a meditation to heighten your spiritual awareness and connection to spirit guides. It is a form of achieving an altered state of consciousness. 

Some individuals struggle with meditation. They either fall asleep or get distracted by other thoughts, and as a result, they give up easily and miss out on the benefits of meditation.
While it's true that meditation can be challenging initially, it's not impossible. All it takes is a bit of persistence.

The first few times, you may experience a difficult time focusing. Instead of enjoying the many benefits of meditation, it is viewed as a grueling task.

One mistake people make initially is not being able to let go completely. This creates anxiety. It causes the body to become tense, allowing the inner thoughts to wander. Eventually, frustration will take over, causing an abrupt end to the session.

Proper breathing techniques are vital for achieving relaxation and letting go. Although we have been breathing since birth, we often neglect the importance of correct breathing.

When you begin focusing on your breath, you will notice a gradual relaxation of your body, and letting go of stress and tension will become easier. Your body will feel lighter, and your muscles will become less tense. With each meditation session, you can delve deeper into your inner self and enjoy the benefits of spiritual meditation. 

How to do Meditation

Easy Spiritual Meditation Exercise

Find a safe and comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. It can be the bedroom, the living room, the bathroom, etc. Do not forget to turn your cell phone off or in silent mode. Now, sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. You can sit on a chair, bed or floor. The choice is yours.

It is not recommended to perform any meditative exercises if you are hungry. The growling sound of the stomach and wandering thoughts of food will definitely interfere with accomplishing your goal.

Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. It should be smooth and natural. With each exhale, allow yourself to relax more. Exhale, let go and relax. Do this a few times or when you feel completely relaxed. Empty your mind of all mundane thoughts.

Next, visualize your body covered with a white divine light. The greater the light, the more peaceful you feel. Allow yourself and light to become one.

As you continue to enjoy the warmth and love of the divine light, repeat a word(s) that has a positive meaning to you. It can be God, divine spirit, etc. The choice is yours.

Go with the flow and allow yourself to embrace the energy around you. Continue this process until the end of the session.

If you did not feel a sense of well being, do not worry. Tomorrow is another day. The key is not to give up.

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