Many people around the world meditate for a variety of reasons, ranging from religious practice to a stress management technique. There are a number of different ways to meditate, and finding the method which works most effectively can have a number of benefits. People who practice meditation on a regular basis tend to be less stressed, and they may have an improved ability to concentrate, along with a more balanced and relaxed mental state. Meditation can also be integrated into any spiritual or religious practice, from Wicca to Christianity.
The goal of meditation is to reach a state of deep relaxation and calm which calms and focuses the mind. People can meditate for as little as five minutes at a session, especially at the beginning, when the practice may feel strange and forced. Meditating in the morning can be a good way to start the day, but people can choose to meditate at any time which is convenient for them, and it is certainly allowable to meditate several times a day.
A space used for meditation should be quiet and calm, with few distractions, and it may be indoors or outdoors. Meditating in silence is preferable for some people, but others like to play low music or random sounds, such as recordings of falling water. Meditation can be done in a chair or on the floor, and in both cases, the back should be held straight. No special pose is required, although some people feel more comfortable folding their legs. Pillows can be used for support if sitting is uncomfortable.
Ideally, the eyes should be held half open during meditation, and not focused on anything in particular. Some people find this too distracting, and they may prefer to close their eyes, or to use a candle, icon, of figurine as a point of focus during a meditation session. To meditate, slow deep breaths should be taken while the mind settles. It may take a few minutes for the mind to stop rushing from thing to thing, but eventually a sense of calm and relaxation should set in.
Some people find that their brains go into overdrive during meditation, because it is an unfamiliar activity, and the mind takes the period of rest as an opportunity to delve into a wide assortment of topics, from what to eat to lunch to how to pay the mortgage. It can help to have a point of focus to prevent this from happening. Some people focus on their breath, or repeat a mantra as they meditate. Others perform guided meditation, imagining a place and focusing on creating the details of that place in their minds so that they feel like they are there.
Setting aside a specific time every day for meditation can be beneficial. This time should not be too close to any meals, as meditating on a full stomach is difficult, and meditating while hungry can be distracting. For people with pets, children, and other housemates, it is important to enforce the idea that meditation time is private time to prevent distractions.
People who are not comfortable with establishing their own meditation practice can attend workshops and group sessions. Many communities offer meditation classes for individuals who are just starting out, and these sessions may be guided by members of the religious community, or organized along secular lines. Individuals who are concerned that meditation may conflict with their religious faith are encouraged to talk to their religious leaders about finding a meditation practice which will work for them.