Meditation is a powerful stress-relieving tool that you can practice anytime, anywhere to relieve tension, improve concentration and re-energize. And it’s not hard to do – really! Get started today in as little as three minutes.
Like many people, you may be reluctant to try meditation. Perhaps it seems mysterious, intimidating or too unusual. Or maybe you’ve tried it and felt silly or it didn’t seem to work. But if you find yourself stressed out, filled with worry or just not feeling your best, you might want to give it a try. The results may surprise you!
Making meditation part of your life
You can meditate almost anywhere – on the bus, at work, in a waiting room, in your living room – and for as long or as short a time as you wish. Meditation can involve sitting, walking or doing exercises such as yoga or tai chi.
There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. In fact, there are many different ways of practicing meditation, so try several to find one that suits you.
There is also no right or wrong meditation experience or outcome. Don’t be concerned if your mind buzzes with thoughts, or if you don’t feel any different when you’re finished. Just keep practicing.
You will get better at it over time, which means that you’ll see the greatest benefit if you do it regularly. For example, you might schedule 10 minutes every night before bed. You could also use meditation techniques whenever you are dealing with a particularly stressful or painful situation.
Meditation made easier
The essence of meditation is to focus your attention, so that “mental clutter” – everyday thoughts of work, chores or worries – fall away. This can bring a sense of calmness, peacefulness and balance, as well as new insights and clarity. In time, you may find that these results linger with you long after the meditation session has ended.
While the specifics may vary, most meditation sessions follow these basic steps:
- For sitting meditation, find a comfortable position cross-legged on the floor (you may also sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor) and back straight but relaxed.
- Rest your hands in your lap, palms up.
- Partially close your eyes and relax your gaze by staring into the middle distance.
- Choose a focal point to help direct your attention. This could be your breathing, a word that you repeat, physical sensations, a photograph of a beautiful setting or an image that you picture in your mind, such as light or water.
- Begin by simply being aware of yourself breathing, and gradually relax your body.
- Allow your mind to relax. Don’t try to empty your mind or push thoughts away. Just watch them come and go, and gently return your wandering attention to the focus of your meditation session.
If you’re not sure how to start or want to try a “meditation fix” for a particular circumstance, use our interactive “What’s bugging you?” tool and get on the road to relaxation.
Remember… It’s always a good idea to speak to your healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.
What’s bugging you?
Choose the situation that most closely matches your state of mind and situation to get a meditation exercise to do right now.
You are caught in traffic and running late for an appointment
You need: 3 minutes
Where: Car, bus, train
How to do it: Breathing in and out normally, focus your attention on your breath. Follow the air as it moves in your nostrils and fills your lungs, then as it slowly exits your body. When your mind wanders, gently refocus on your breath.
You’re panic-stricken by an unusually busy, stressful day
You need: 3 to 10 minutes
Where: In a chair at work or home
Meditation: Observation and awareness
How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position with feet on the floor, hands on your lap. Listen to the sounds inside and around you. Hear the louder, closer noises first, then gradually allow the quieter, more distant sounds to seep into your awareness. Pay attention to the sounds and stillness within yourself.
You have a nagging ache or pain
You need: 5 minutes
Where: At home, on the train, at work, in the doctor’s waiting room
How to do it: Begin by breathing a little more deeply than usual, in a steady rhythm. Allow your mind to follow your breath for a few moments until you feel your muscles relax and the tension fall away. Then start to visualize the air you breathe in as a light source filled with warm, healing energy. Follow the path of the light as it enters your body. As you exhale, direct the light to the area in pain. Continue the meditation until the area feels completely bathed it healing light.
Your toddler is throwing a tantrum
You need: 1 to 5 minutes
Where: In your home (perhaps every morning!)
How to do it: Sitting in a comfortable position (or standing if you are away from home), breathe in and out normally. Then begin to repeat a word or phrase of your choice (some examples: “om,” “love,” a phrase from a poem, or a prayer) either out loud or with your inner voice. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the mantra. Or, you can do this exercise each morning to recapture the calm and centred feeling when you need it by silently repeating your mantra.
You feel crushed by constant worry and demands
You need: 15 to 20 minutes
Where: At home in a quiet room
Meditation: Body scan
How to do it: Begin with a few slow and gentle stretches. Then find a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting cross-legged on the floor. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm (you can place your hand on your stomach to check). Focus attention on each part of your body from your toes, heels, ankles and calves, all the way up to your ears, cheeks, eyes and scalp. Be aware of the sensations that each body part is experiencing and imagine letting go of any tension stored there. You might wish to focus on these words: “let” as you inhale and “go” as you exhale, while you consider each area.
You’re trying to solve a complicated problem
You need: 10 to 30 minutes
Where: City street, large park or a mall
How to do it: Standing in place, be aware of your feet, of how each different part of each foot holds your weight, balances you, makes contact with the ground. Begin walking at your normal pace or a little slower. Don’t focus on your destination, but on each step that you take – the actions of your feet and toes, your ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips as you move one leg then the other. Let your arms and shoulders be relaxed as you swing your arms gently, and relax each part of your face. Return your meandering thoughts to your moving body. Gradually come to a stop and again be aware of the sensation of both feet being in contact with the ground.
You’re having a low-energy day and feel distracted
You need: 3 minutes
Where: At work or at home
How to do it: Seated, breathe slowly and deeply through your diaphragm. Each time you inhale, imagine that you are pulling pieces of your fragmented energy into your body and restoring it to its rightful place. As you complete this exercise, imagine yourself as bright, energetic and whole again.
Meditation can also hold a place in almost all religious beliefs and practices. In fact, prayer may be thought of as a type of meditation.