The primary goal of meditation is to achieve a deep state of relaxation, usually by concentrating on one repetitive stimulus so that all other thoughts and images are blocked out. This narrowing of concentration, accompanied by deep, slow breathing, effectively reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (e.g., by lowering heart rate and respiration rate) and slows down metabolism. Meditation promotes feelings of well-being and relaxation, and has been used to help people cope with stress as well as to treat certain medical problems (e.g., drug addiction).
Try It Yourself:
Find a place and time where you can be free from distractions and turn down the light for 20 minutes.Read the directions through so you can remember the steps. You may want to set a silent timer (on a phone, perhaps) and have a paper and pencil nearby for the end.
- Sit upright in a comfortable position with your hands either on a table or in your lap and with your feet uncrossed and touching the ground.
- Close your eyes and breathe in and out as usual for about 30 seconds to get settled.
- Then, try to clear your mind by focusing on their breathing and letting go of all random thoughts. Concentrate on the rise and fall of their abdomen, saying slowly to yourself “in” and “out” with each inhalation and exhalation. Each breath should come from the abdomen, and, if possible, through your nostrils.
- Note: you may have trouble concentrating initially, this problem diminishes with practice. You also may want a ‘white noise’ style background sound if you are not in a quiet place. Calm.com has a set of such sounds (on the main site to the right… you don’t need their class for this.)
After about 10 minutes, start focusing on bodily sensations as well as the sounds in the room around them. After you feel re-oriented to the world around you, reflect on the following questions.
- Why does meditation promote feelings of well-being and satisfaction?
- Why is it difficult to keep distracting thoughts from entering consciousness while meditating?
- Does meditation lead to heightened states of consciousness, alertness, or creativity?