There are many misconceptions surrounding meditation and what it really is. Meditation is not sleeping sitting up. Meditation is not sitting still and thinking. Meditation does not require you to empty the mind.

Meditation is taking the time to simply stop and be with yourself.

With a habit of overthinking and over analyzing the little things in life, meditation has helped me to calm down my thoughts, look at the positive things in life and just slow down. It sets up my day and teaches me to stop focusing on the negative thoughts that used to consume my mind. After leaving a ten year marriage with two kids, I had lost touch with my true self. I turned my back on my old life in pursuit of a new one which came with lots of challenges, unkindness and betrayal. I began to meditate to find out who I was – to figure out the true essence of who I am, the things I enjoy in life and the direction I want to take. This was not an easy task but I found myself looking forward to my morning meditations and feeling out of sorts when I wasn’t able to have this time.

It has been an interesting journey since discovering a passion for meditation and it will be a journey that will never end. I share this with you today in the hope that it may inspire someone else to begin their own practice (and it is a practice, as some days are not as easy as others and no day is ever the same).

Meditation has many benefits:

• Lowers blood pressure
• Reduces heart disease and the possibility of cancer
• It is a fountain of youth – look younger by 12–15 years
• Increases productivity
• Boosts cognitive function
• Can help with insomnia
• Boosts immune system
• Decreases muscle tension
• Reduces anxiety and depression
• Increases feelings of peace, happiness and contentment

Beginners advice on how to meditate:

The key is to start small and make your practice manageable. One minute a day is better than nothing. Find a space that is free from distraction and where you will not be interrupted. Sit comfortably, ideally on a cushion with your legs crossed and your arms in your lap but don’t stress about it – just sit. Lying down is not recommended as your body will naturally want to sleep, but if this is the most comfortable for you then go for it.

Do not stress too much about the best postures, the best space, or the perfect time.

I begin my meditation practice with a basic body scan exercise where you take three depth breaths and then name each part of your body from your toes to your head. As you name each body part imagine it is becoming completely relaxed. Expect your mind to wander during the scan – if this happens just bring your awareness back to your body.

Once you feel comfortable with this exercise I would suggest finding some guided meditations online that you enjoy or attending a meditation class or session. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Every day will be different! Some days it will be easy to sit still and meditate and other days it won’t. Accept it for what it is. Go easy on yourself. And begin today!

– Vicki Shannon