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Meditation: Not Just for Monks

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It wasn’t that long ago that mediation was stuff that just monks did.  But these days you’ll find people talking about meditation and its benefits everywhere.  Companies like Aetna have rolled out meditation to their entire workforce and seen stress reduction and increased productivity.  The Mayo Clinic even refers to meditation as “mind-body complementary medicine.”  How can you take advantage of this medicine?

Meditation vs Mindfulness

Two words that are often used interchangeably that shouldn’t be are meditation and mindfulness.

Meditation is simply carving out time to meditate using one of many different techniques, like mantra, qi gong, tai chi, or mindfulness…

Mindfulness is practicing being present in the moment.  It is also a type of meditation that can be used.

Meditation is not about having an empty mind, but a focused one.  When we can step back and watch thoughts wander in and out of our mind we can see how easily we can distracted during our days and can develop better discipline and focus.

Why Meditate?

As we noted above, meditation delivers lower stress and better productivity.  It also offers:

  • Better self-awareness
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved working memory
  • Increased patience

These benefits don’t come right away: you’ll need to be practicing for a while to see lasting benefits.  But you should find yourself calmer even after your first time trying it.

Meditation Basics

Before you stop reading this and drop into a lotus pose (though, that wouldn’t be the worst thing!) here are a few things to keep in mind for successful meditation practice:

  1. Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for a bit of time.
  2. Set aside a block of time, which also includes time for you to enter into and exit out of a meditative state.  It takes a few moments to shut out the outside world, even in your mind.  Start with as little as ten minutes a day and go up from there as you see fit.
  3. Get into a pose/position that works for you.  You don’t have to pretend to be a famous yogi.  Just find a position that you can sit in comfortably for a period of time.
  4. Relax your muscles.  Go from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, checking in with your body and letting out any tension.
  5. Control your breathing.  Be aware of your breathing rhythm and before you begin your meditation take some deep breaths and hold them.

During your meditation, it’s important to:

  • Have no expectations (this is a process that takes time)
  • Have no negative self-talk
  • Let go of your ego
  • Be an observer (step back and observe yourself and your thoughts)
  • Gently re-focus when the mind wanders

There’s no reason not to give meditation a shot at improving your quality of life.  Give it a try and see the results for yourself.

This content originally appeared in our monthly Open Calendar Club newsletter.

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