Anyone and everyone can practice meditation. There are many different types of meditation practised around the world today—from guided visualisation to mantra meditation.
The type of meditation that we will be focusing on is known as mindfulness, which is the simplest form of meditation.
About meditation and mindfulness
Meditation is not some esoteric or new age thing, nor is it some sort of escapism. In fact, it's just the opposite. It's a way to exercise the mind in order to keep you grounded, balanced and ready to handle whatever life throws at you. Indeed, it prepares you to face life with respect, dignity and compassion.
Mindfulness, which is cultivated by paying attention to what you're experiencing from moment to moment, is a by-product of meditation, but it's not its purpose. Meditation is intended to be a part of daily life, and mindfulness allows us to live wisely with a balanced mind and an open heart.
Meditation is about being, not doing, so if you think that by just doing meditation you will become some sort of an expert, think again. It's not about achieving any state or level; it's about creating the space to be present in your own life. Like anything else worthwhile, it takes practice, dedication and commitment.
The benefits of meditation
Meditation cultivates clarity, happiness and inner peace. It helps to bring you into balance, making you calmer, more open and better equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of life in our frenetic world.
Meditation and emotional wellbeing
The stillness and calmness that meditation brings can be incredibly helpful in combatting stress. It can help you to;
- Gain a new perspective on stressful situations;
- Build skills to manage your stress;
- Increase self-awareness;
- Focus on the present, rather than worrying about the past or fretting about the future; and
- Reduce negative emotions.
Many people also find meditation can help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It's important to remember that meditation isn't a replacement for traditional medical treatment. You should speak with a medical practitioner if you have any health issues or conditions.
Meditation and physical illness
As meditation can help to reduce stress, it may also help people manage symptoms of conditions made worse by stress, such as:
- High blood pressure;
- Pain; and
- Sleep problems.
Jewish meditation is a broad term that refers to a variety of contemplative practices. The traditional Hebrew term for meditation is Hitbodedut (or Hisbodedus), which means self seclusion. However, some use the term Hitbonenut (or Hisbonenus), which means contemplation.
Practices differ from community to community, and it's probably best to speak with your rabbi if you want to make sure the type of Jewish meditation you practice is aligned to your community. If you want to find out more, we've rounded up some useful resources.
- The Awakened Heart Project for Contemplative Judaism
- Chabad: The Jewish Meditation Series
- Reclaiming Judaism: Introduction to Jewish meditation
Getting started: meditation basics
Before you embark on your meditation practice, there are a few things you'll need to consider in order to make sure you get off to a good start and get the most out of your meditation practice.
Making space in your regular routine
To create the space where your meditation practice can flourish, it is important to meditate at a regular time. We human beings are creatures of habit, and we live to tight schedules.
It is equally important to find a place that is calm and quiet where you will not be disturbed. Both time and place should fit within your normal routine, so you are in the right frame of mind to meditate.
When to meditate
Many people prefer to meditate first thing in the morning, as the mind has yet to kick into its active mode. However, the best time for you is a realistic one.
Some people meditate in several short sessions per day, whilst others prefer one long session. Mix it up; try things out and see what works for you.
How long to meditate
Meditate for as long as you can. Most seasoned practitioners meditate for 20 minutes to an hour or more per session. If you meditate daily, you should experience more calmness, less restlessness and be able to increase the length of time for each session.
Where to meditate
Many people like to have a space exclusively for meditation, even if this is just a corner of a room where you keep your meditation cushion. Many people like to use incense when they meditate and even have a special scent they reserve for meditation, which reminds them of the intention of their practice.
If you have access to a quiet place outdoors, you may choose to meditate there. What matters is that it is somewhere calm where you will not be disturbed.
Before you begin your meditation practice, consider your intentions. Meditation takes time, practice and commitment in order for its benefits to manifest in your life. So if your intention is to get rich quick or get happy fast, you will be disappointed. The intention of your practice must have the qualities of openness, compassion, kindness and patience.
At the start of each session, remember why you meditate. What is your aspiration? You may have some words or a phrase that you can recall. Whatever resonates is fine. If you wish, you can dedicate your practice to yourself, to the development of your practice, to your own happiness, to the happiness of your friends and family and to the happiness of all beings.
Although meditation is simple, the experience of just sitting quietly may be more difficult than you would expect. So we have put together some guidance and resources that we hope will help you on your meditation journey.
- Be Mindful: Resources from the Mental Health Foundation
- Insight Meditation Centre: Postures for meditation
- Mindful: Mindfulness meditation—getting started