Just Breathe: A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation

Dutch lawyer Etty Hillesum once said, “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” And sometimes – especially at the end of the year, when we’re juggling work commitments with overcrowded social calendars – breathing is just about all we can manage.

Fortunately for our wellbeing, meditation harnesses the power of our breath to bring calm and refocus the mind. And the beauty of this practice is that it can be performed almost anywhere – in the office, on the beach, in the car before a family gathering. As long as you’re able to close your eyes, you’re able to meditate.

While festive season mayhem is an excellent reason to start this practice, there are many other reasons people turn to it. Here are just some of the benefits associated with meditation:

  • Helps to reduce stress
  • Diminishes the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Encourages a positive outlook
  • Helps to reduce pain
  • Promotes a greater understanding of self
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps to decrease blood pressure
  • Improves concentration
  • Boosts the immune system

As for the different styles, these are even more numerous than the benefits – vipassana, zen, loving-kindness, mindfulness, transcendental, body scan, kundalini, qigong, guided… the list goes on. The good news is that you don’t need to follow a particular style in order to enjoy the practice and benefits of meditation. If you find that you’re getting a lot out of the practice, you may well decide to explore further and delve into the different forms of the practice down the line. But for now, while life is frantic and you need to make time for yourself, take a deep breath and try this simple meditation:

Step 1: Sit on a comfortable chair or on a cushion on the floor – you can even lie down if you prefer – and allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap or at your sides.

Step 2: Close your eyes and take the time to let each part of your body relax. As you begin to unwind, pay attention to your body – notice how the weight of it increases as you become less tense and how that feels.

Step 3: Begin to focus on your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your shoulders, chest, rib cage and stomach as you breathe slowly in and then out. Do not try to control your breathing, just let it happen, slowly and naturally.

As Lama Surya Das explains, “With every breath, the old moment is lost; a new moment arrives. We exhale and we let go of the old moment. It is lost to us. In doing so, we let go of the person we used to be. We inhale and breathe in the moment that is becoming. In doing so, we welcome the person we are becoming. We repeat the process. This is meditation. This is renewal. This is life.”

Step 4: As you concentrate on each breath, you may find that your mind begins to wander. Don’t worry, this is perfectly natural and, if you’re happy to let your mind continue its wanderings from one thought to the next, can be a wonderful form of meditation, too. If on the other hand, you prefer to keep your mind focused, simply bring your focus back to your breath once again. If you struggle to keep your focus, you may find repeating a specific word or listening to a repetitive sound helpful.

Step 5: Continue with your focused breathing for several minutes – you’ll find that the more you practice, the longer you’ll be able to keep meditating.

Keen to try a meditation class in a tranquil training environment with an experienced teacher? Come to our meditation introductory workshop with Yuki on 12th January 2020 at 12PM.