Meditate – how it works!

For some people, meditating is as natural as  brushing their teeth every day , while others view meditation with skepticism and doubt its effectiveness. But regular meditation has been proven to have a positive effect on body and mind and thus has many advantages in everyday life. We explain how beginners can get started with meditation and answer frequently asked questions.

Why meditate?

Regular meditation has a lasting positive effect on the mind and brain structure, as  meditation  specifically trains a calm and mindful mind. The aim is to face everyday life in a more relaxed, relaxed and focused manner. So there is a confrontation with yourself, so that over time you “rest in yourself” more.

What happens in the brain when you meditate?

In scientific studies of the effect of meditation on the brain, the question is no longer whether meditation has an effect, but what it is and how big it is.

It is certain that permanent and visible effects in the brain can only  be observed after months of regular meditation  . It has also been proven that regular meditation measurably increases attention span and the ability to cope with stress. This can also be seen in brain scans based on a changed brain structure.

Brain scans can even show what happens in the brain immediately during meditation:  activities in the area of ​​the amygdala region , also known as the amygdala complex, are visibly reduced. This area is responsible for emotions and memories, especially feelings like anger or  fear .

Correct breathing as the core of meditation

The most important thing in meditation is proper breathing. Concentrated, even and deep breathing leads to inner peace and relaxation. When meditating, it is important to keep your distance from your thoughts, emotions and perceptions. Because if you calm down mentally, on the one hand your own inner world becomes clearer and on the other hand you become more receptive to the inner world of others. 

Just as there are many forms of meditation, there are also different breathing techniques. One variant is, for example, counting the breaths. The aim of this method is to achieve even and constant breathing. Another example is  abdominal breathing,  in which you consciously inhale and exhale deep into your stomach.

How do I start meditating?

In principle, anyone can learn to meditate. In the beginning, thoughts can often wander and many do not feel a change in mood immediately after the first attempt. 

But the same applies here as with many things: practice makes perfect. Over time, thoughts focus more and more on meditation. Music or a mantra helps some people.

6-step guide for beginners 

Various instructions show exactly how meditation works. Here is a brief guide that explains how to get started with spiritual practice in just a few steps:

  1. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for the next few minutes. 
  2. Sit upright on a stool, or cross-legged or lotus pose on the floor, a cushion, or the rug with your back straight. Put your hands on your knees or in your lap.
  3. Half-close your eyes, lower your gaze slightly and without staring at anything around you. Alternatively, you can also close your eyes completely.
  4. Now focus on your breath. Feel how you breathe in and out and gradually calm your breathing rhythm. Instead of thinking, try to breathe consciously and replace your thoughts with the sound of breathing. Anchor your attention here. If your thoughts wander, gently direct them back to your breathing rhythm.
  5. If you now feel that your breathing is calm and even and your thoughts are also resting, you are in meditation. Notice how inner relaxation sets in.
  6. When ready, end the meditation by slowly reopening your eyes, stretching, and then slowly returning to everyday life.

Since there are many different forms of meditation, the execution can look very different. For example, the position of the fingers can vary. Whether the eyes are open, half-open or closed also depends on the respective type of meditation – and of course on personal preferences. In addition, one does not necessarily have to meditate while sitting. The relaxation practice is also possible lying down, standing or running.

Meditate alone or in a group?

For beginners, attending a meditation course can pay off a lot, as you get precise instructions and can exchange ideas with others. But even people who have been meditating for a long time often appreciate the group experience. 

A special atmosphere is created when several people sink into meditation together. In addition, meditating in a group can help to reach a contemplative state of consciousness. 

But just meditating is also often practiced. The advantage is that you can individually integrate your meditation time into everyday life and you are not distracted by, for example, the breathing of others.

You can get support through an exercise plan. Such plans are offered in numerous forms and variants, for example as a CD, as an app or as a book.

4 Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where should I meditate? The spatial environment is of great importance for meditation. Especially as a beginner you should make sure to look for a  quiet and undisturbed place  where you feel comfortable. In addition, you can darken the room a bit. 
  • When should I meditate? It is advisable to always  meditate in the same place and at the same time  in order to create a certain everyday routine and self-evidence. Most practice their meditation in the morning after getting up, others prefer to do it in the evening.
  • How long and how often should I meditate? There is no general recommendation as to how long and how often you should meditate – everyone can decide that for themselves and according to the time they have available. Beginners  , however, should try to integrate meditation firmly into everyday life and ideally meditate daily for 10 to 30 minutes. Basically, longer periods of meditation are better than short ones, and regular practice is better than sporadic hit-and-run actions.
  • How long will it be before I can meditate? Even if you already have a more relaxed feeling after the first meditation, it takes  regular practice  until the everyday feeling changes significantly and permanently. Some report the first changes after just a few weeks, others take years. Of course, this also depends on the personality of the practitioner.

5 obstacles to meditation

In daily life, as well as during meditation, one is confronted with states of mind that Buddhism calls “the five hindrances”. These are certainly familiar to everyone and all meditators come into contact with them sooner or later during the practices. They distract from the actual meditation and can even prevent it. 

The five obstacles are expressed as follows:

  1. Doubts  are shown by thoughts like “I don’t know if I’m doing this correctly”, “I’m not sure if this is really for me” or “How is this supposed to help me with my problems?”
  2. Restlessness  here means that your thoughts won’t calm down and you have to constantly think about something or someone else, for example “I mustn’t forget to go shopping later”. It can also mean that you find it difficult to sit still.
  3. Laziness  means being too  tired  or bored while meditating.
  4. Reluctance  or rejection is shown by thoughts like “What I’m doing here is total nonsense” or “But the course instructor has an annoying voice”.
  5. Desire  here means that you allow yourself to be distracted by wishes, such as “I would like a coffee now” or “I would rather be on vacation now”.

Common mistakes when meditating

One should show patience with oneself while meditating and not react in despair or disappointment if something does not happen immediately after the first sessions or if the hoped-for “immediate enlightenment” does not materialize. In addition, you should not put yourself under pressure, but take your time with the meditation. Then, at some point, the effect will come naturally.

Another mistake in meditating is struggling with thoughts and psychoanalyzing them. One certainly encounters many thoughts and emotions through meditation, and the first instinct is to fight and suppress them. But that’s not how you become free of thoughts. Instead, relaxation comes from simply letting the thoughts be and calmly observing them as they come and go. As a result, they gradually become fewer until silence falls.

Falling asleep while meditating

It’s not a “fault” if you fall asleep while meditating. The meditative state can have a very relaxing effect, so that beginners in particular can quickly cross the line to light sleep. However, that’s not a bad thing. 

As the practice progresses, you will gradually become better able to hold your attention and focus on your breathing and the here and now. 

back pain while meditating

Some beginners get back pain from sitting while meditating  because they tense up too much. To counteract this, a meditation cushion or stool can help to naturally adopt a spine-supporting position. Alternatively, you can, for example, incorporate some  yoga exercises  that you can also do while sitting. 

If these measures do not help, you can also try another form of meditation. This can be, for example, active techniques or dream trips. Here you can change your position at will. 

However, if the pain does not go away, it is always advisable to consult a doctor.

What do I need to meditate? Our introductory article on the spiritual practice of meditation answers these questions and more 

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