If you are just beginning meditation, you probably have some questions about what your practice looks like.
Have you felt odd sensations while meditating? Does your mind wander? Are you sleepy? Do you wonder if you’re doing it right?
You aren’t alone.
With new scientific studies coming out weekly, and news articles published daily, thousands of Americans are now catching on to the importance of meditation. Yet, many might still be confused about what meditation is or how to best practice it. With so many new comers to the practice, surely there are many questions to be answered.
In engaging with those that are new to meditation, we’ve found that some questions kept coming up. Read below for some questions and answers about meditation that you might be facing.
I still find my mind wandering and thinking. It can be negative thoughts, things I need to do that day, or what happened yesterday. What is the best way to stop this?
This is perhaps the most common obstacle that a new meditator experiences.
This comes with practice. Recent studies in neuroscience labs show a significant difference between the brains of experienced meditators and beginning meditators. Specifically, experienced meditators were able to suppress “mind chatter” more effectively than beginners. The brains change due to repeated practices—this is a process called “neuroplasticity.”
Don’t be worried if the mind begins to wander. It is only natural and human for the mind to do so, and it is this wandering that can sometimes lead to insights of creativity, or contemplative thought. Also, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? If you’d like to quiet the mind, gently catch yourself each time it happens and bring it back to the moment. The goal is to not quiet thoughts to a stillness, it is to bring full awareness and mindfulness. Over time, your mind will learn this during your moments of meditation.
One short-cut tip: One way to get around the mind chatter is to make one single thing the entire focus of your meditation. Instead of hoping for “stillness” or “nothingness,” decide to concentrate on just one thing, such as your breath, or the way your body feels in space. Explore every aspect of that feeling and sensation and try to keep your mind there. Engaging your mind and senses fully in a single experience is an excellent form of meditation.
Sometimes I begin to feel dizzy, is that normal? Should I stop the meditation when that happens?
Everyone has their own experience with meditation, and you should not be concerned if you experience strange bodily sensations as a beginner. Meditation is not a dangerous or mystic practice. It is simply allowing yourself to feel grounded in the present moment.
Meditation has a wide range of physiological effects, one being a slight increase of blood flow to the brain. Though this should theoretically help with dizziness, it is possible that a “different” sensation than what you’re used to can feel strange at first.
It is perfectly normal to feel sleepy while meditating. After all, meditation mimics sleep in many ways. Aside from the eyes-closed and relaxed body, meditation and sleep also involve a relaxed mind.
Yet a critical distinction between the two is ENERGY. Meditation should be filling you with more energy, whereas sleep is what comes when the body has run out of energy.
So how can you train your mind to make more energy?
As soon as you feel yourself dozing off, make a conscious effort to immediately make the stillness energizing. Have you ever heard really good news right before you were about to fall asleep and immediately didn’t feel sleepy anymore? This is just one example of how our thoughts have the power to influence our energy levels and our physiological state.
Choose to be energized.
Try not to meditate immediately after you wake up or right before you fall asleep. While morning and evening are a perfect time to meditate, putting it too close to your sleeping hours might cause you to fall asleep. When you wake up in the morning, have a shower first or get your lunch prepped for the day and then begin your meditation.
Also, if you tend to get sleepy too quickly, try meditating in places outside your bed. While the bed is a nice place to meditate, don’t let it be too tempting! You should be comfortable, but still alert and aware.
Lastly, try sitting next to an open window where you can feel a gentle breeze coming in. This should feel invigorating and refreshing to the body, just as your meditation is designed to be for the mind.