Lifestyle

Mindful living

Meditation: How to get started

Store employee Crystal Dew demonstrates a meditation pose at New Age in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The store offers a variety of things such as healing crystals, books, as well as meditation classes and psychic readings. New Age opened in 1979 and has expanded over the years, but is still owned by the Duban family and has remained in the same Kensington location. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

Store employee Crystal Dew demonstrates a meditation pose at New Age in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The store offers a variety of things such as healing crystals, books, as well as meditation classes and psychic readings. New Age opened in 1979 and has expanded over the years, but is still owned by the Duban family and has remained in the same Kensington location. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

The practice of meditation has the potential to help people achieve true happiness and a calm mind. Meditation can be used to reduce stress, aid in physical health, ease chronic pain and support better sleep, while improving mental and emotional well-being.

People begin meditation for a number of reasons. 

Lucy Quach, who practices meditation and BodyTalk, a form of holistic therapy, said, “[They] are looking for peace, or they just have a lot of stress in their life. It sounds cliché, but they’re looking for answers.”

Meditation has evolved significantly, she said.

“There are so many kinds now. It’s not just sitting there saying ‘ohm’.”

When you first start meditating, start slow and then gently increase. Even starting at five minutes every day can be helpful. You can work up from there. 

Try to find a special place where you won’t be disturbed by other people. It really helps to create an ambient space with scents, candles and music. 

When you start meditation, find a comfortable position, whether it be lying down or sitting. 

You can even use pillows to ensure you are comfortable. 

Start by breathing and then slowly become aware of how you breathe, while focusing on your body, thoughts and the emotions that are present in that moment. 

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Meditation takes time and practice, so don’t expect to become a master overnight. Instead, focus on the benefits you feel and the fact that you are trying to learn.

“I recommend meditation for anyone and everyone. It’s free, it takes as much or as little time as you want it to and you can achieve mental, physical, emotional and spiritual benefits,” said Quach.

“I think everyone can find something to take from it,” said Amanda Roberts, a former SAIT student and prior learning assessment coordinator for the school. 

Roberts began practicing mindful meditation as part of her work in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program at SAIT. While in the program, her classes would begin with mindful meditation. 

“It was fantastic,” said Roberts.

“We went with the flow of the class. Some people were done in one minute and some in 20.”

Different types of meditation can last anywhere from a few minutes, to hours, even years, and can take place alone or in groups. 

For Roberts, practicing meditation every day at SAIT allowed it to become a part of her life and benefited her a lot. 

Meditation takes time and practice, and some days it will be difficult to stay focused. 

There are several types of meditation. Some more common types are: guided meditation, where you listen to someone else’s voice as it guides you; mindfulness of breathing, or Zen meditation, which focuses on how you breathe and the present moment; and mantra, or transcendental meditation, which uses a mantra in Sanskrit to aid in focus.

“Guided meditation is best [for beginners]. It’s a lot simpler and not as demanding,” said Quach.

“You have someone talking you through it with a purpose.”

The different kinds of meditation can help in balancing the mind, body and spirit. 

“It’s all about the human being, the welfare of the human person with a spiritual dimension,” said Fr. Sajo Jacob, a Chaplain at the SAIT Interfaith Centre. 

Jacob has been with SAIT for six years and is proud that the institution offers a free space that anybody can use. 

“[Students] gain a sense of meaning by coming together as a group,” said Jacob. 

The Interfaith Centre offers various facets for exploring meditation that fall into a diverse group of religions. 

The programs offered by the centre act as a spiritual support system for students.

According to the Art of Living website, through meditation, practitioners can begin to turn their minds inward. 

People begin to learn about their inner dimensions through the act of becoming mindful, and are able to gain serenity, greater concentration, clarity of mind and better communication all through the relaxation and rejuvenation of the mind and body. 

These changes can lead to a lifestyle that includes greater confidence, more focus and clarity, better health, increased mental strength, energy and greater dynamism.

Meditation can also assist in inner awareness, intuition and the decision-making process.

There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Be kind to yourself and accept how you feel in the moment. The goal is to focus the mind inward, ignoring the distractions of the outside world.

Quach said, “When you’re feeling scattered and anxious, and your mind is frazzled, meditation can be very helpful.”

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