Although meditation is a common term in most people’s vocabulary, there’s a lot to meditation that most don’t realize.
Carolyn Miller, counselor at the Student Counseling and Psychological Services and Mindful Mondays instructor, pointed out there is no right way to meditate. However, there are some ways to help people get started.
It can help to set aside a certain amount of time dedicated to meditation, Miller said. For example, Miller recommended first starting small, like two minutes, and then building from there. Also, a comfortable but alert posture and a quiet space helps, Miller said.
Pam Wiggins, yoga instructor at the Auburn Recreation and Wellness Center, said some tools can help guide people’s thinking into a mindfulness state, like music and affirmations.
When settling into the practice, first focus on the breathing, Miller said. When the mind wanders, Miller said to try not to get frustrated or analyze it. Just acknowledge the thought, and then focus back on breathing.
The overall hope is to make it a daily practice done at the same time and place to use meditation in its fullest state, but it takes time to get there, Wiggins said.
The goal of meditation is not to have no thoughts but rather, to switch from doing to being, Miller said.
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For example, the specific kind of meditation Miller focuses on is a mindfulness space.
“It’s essential to be in the present moment without judging yourself or your experience with intention and with acceptance,” Miller said, borrowing from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness.
She further explained it’s not just being present, but it is being aware of the present moment.
Meditation can be helpful to reduce anxiety and stress on a short- and long-term basis, Miller said.
However, as meditation becomes a habit, there are more noticeable benefits like improved sleeping habits, better self-understanding and having an easier time of living in the present moment, Miller said.
Meditation also allows people to really slow down, find where they are emotionally and see what they need to look into further, Wiggins said.
Both Wiggins and Miller agree meditation can also help people be more in tune with their emotions over time.
Miller said even though meditation is beneficial, it can be difficult to set aside time to do it. It also can be uncomfortable to sit and just be since that is not something many people are used to.
Miller said there is no correct way to meditate, and whatever one may get out of meditation is OK. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone, Miller said.
It can be helpful to have some guidance at first. Miller recommended phone applications as an option. Through the Rec Center, there are classes such as mindful Mondays as well as some more yoga-based meditation classes.
Wiggins cited Pema Chodron as a helpful guide. Chodron has both books and podcasts.
Wiggins also suggested “On Being” with Krista Tippett for insight into how meditation works from a more scientific viewpoint.
Both Miller and Wiggins agree meditation can be a powerful tool for anyone to use.
“You can’t judge it,” Wiggins said. "You just have to do it and believe that you’ll get there."
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