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Meditation - it isn't about switching your thoughts off

I’m sure you will have heard of the benefits of meditation – and for good reason. However, one of the commonest misconceptions about meditation is that you need to switch off your thoughts completely. This puts a lot of people off. The good news is – this isn’t true! The idea of meditation is to focus on one thing and then be aware of your thoughts, letting them come and go and bringing your attention back to your main point of focus.

Your point of focus could be your breath. Or it could be a relaxing picture or a candle. Some people use a word (like ‘peace’ or ‘calm’). You may want to experiment with a few points of focus to see what works for you. For the purpose of the following exercise, we’ll use the breath.

How to meditate

Take five minutes and sit yourself somewhere comfortably, preferably with a straight spine:

1) Take a minute just to be aware of how you feel – notice how you are sitting, how you are feeling, where there may be any tension in your body or mind.

2) When you’re ready, bring your attention to your breath. Just be aware of it coming into your body and leaving your body. Don’t worry about how fast or slow it is, don’t try to change it, just focus on it, exactly as it is. You will have thoughts coming into your head. Be aware of them, don’t judge them and then try to let them go, as if they are clouds passing. Then bring your attention back to your breath.

3) Do this for five minutes. Every time you bring your attention back to your breath you have become aware of your thoughts and voila – you are meditating! So, every time a thought comes to you, as soon as you become aware that it is a thought and you bring your attention back to your breathing, silently congratulate yourself!

Try and start with five minutes and see if you can build up over time. The main thing is not to put any pressure on yourself. And not to judge yourself for ‘not being able to do it’. You are doing it! Good luck and enjoy!

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