Meditation is a tool that fights stress, improves physical health, makes you feel peaceful and calm, and helps you sleep better.  On a deeper level, meditation helps you explore the mystery of who we are.

However, learning how to meditate can actually be quite difficult.  When you are first trying to meditate, you begin to notice how all over the place the mind is.  When I first started meditating, I would think of all sorts of things – my past, my future, ponder what kind of grade I might get on the paper I just turned in, or remember random items I need to pick up from the grocery store.  Before I know it, I open my eyes and realize that ten minutes has gone by and all I’ve done is allow my brain to go wild – not a very calming or relaxing experience.  I like to call this active brain activity “monkey brain”.

But if you are ready to work through the initial difficulties of meditation to get to the benefits, here are some tips to conquering monkey brain:

 1.) Posture: Whether you choose to sit cross legged on the ground or sit in a chair, posture is hugely important to successful meditation.  Your body is connected to the mind, so keeping your spine straight and loosening your muscles will help you relax.  It might be helpful to stretch before getting into a meditative position so that all of your muscles and joints are loose.  Then sit up straight, put your palms face up on your thighs, and push your shoulders back.  To maintain the posture, try to picture a string running from your tail bone, through your spine, and out through the top of your head, pulling you towards the sky.

 2.) Focus: Finding one solid thing to focus on is key to calming your thoughts.  Some people like to focus on their breath.  Others like to focus on a word or phrase, and some people like to focus on a ball of light.  Since I suffer from extreme cases of monkey brain, I like to focus on a ball of light and then focus on giving that ball of light to individuals in my life.  The key is to experiment to see what works best for you.

 3.) Breath: While meditating, you should focus on taking long deep breaths.  I find it best to breathe in for five counts and breathe out for ten counts.  Focus on feeling the oxygen slowly filling your lungs to capacity and then slowly leaving.

 4.) Place & Time: It is important to find a comfortable space to meditate in.  It could be done sitting on the floor or in a comfortable (and sturdy) chair.  When you first begin, try to meditate for only ten minutes.  As you practice, slowly increase your time until you find one that you like.

Even if you have limited time or aren’t confident that you’ll ever be able to quiet the mind, meditation has enough benefits to make it worth the effort to try it out.  It could be your road to a more stress free and healthier life.

[Photo Courtesy of Flickr User h.koppdelaney and used with a Creative Commons 2.0 License]