Are you thinking of giving meditation a try?
Good for you!
More than a new-age triviality, meditation is a proven brain exercise endorsed by the world’s top neurological researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and sociologists.
Meditation could be your path to glory if you want a calmer life and improved cognitive function.
Some studies suggest that people who meditate significantly slow down the aging process.
To that end, today, we’re exploring some of the most commonly asked meditation questions.
19 Common Questions About Meditation Answered
You’ve been toying with the idea of meditation.
- Should you try it?
- Or is it just a bunch of new-age nonsense?
- Could it be the miraculous thing that turns your life around for the better?
In the end, you won’t know if you don’t try.
So to help you better wrap your head around the topic, we’ve compiled a list of 19 common questions about meditation — and the answers.
1. Which type of meditation is more powerful?
Meditation isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are as many ways to meditate as there are people on the planet.
The possibilities are limitless. Common meditation practices include:
Picking one as the “most powerful” is impossible because many factors play roles. Age, type, intensity, and experience all impact the power quotient of a given meditation session.
That said, many beginners find “yoga nidra” to be an excellent and effective introduction.
A form of guided meditation, yoga nidra meditation is beneficial for treating PTSD and sleep disorders.
It’s so effective that Department of Defense doctors working at Walter Reed Medical Center regularly use it to treat soldiers dealing with mental health issues related to combat experiences.
2. What are the three parts of meditation?
The three parts of meditation are approach, practice, and integration.
The approach is how you mentally understand and process meditation practice. In a way, it’s how you feel about meditating.
Practice is the act of meditating and trying different methods. Integration involves incorporating meditation gains into daily life.
3. What problems does meditation solve?
Many people have a “meditation saved my life” story, and they’re all different. After all, each life is unique and special.
But over the years, patterns have developed, and researchers have since confirmed that stress, depression, anxiety, and focus deficiencies can all be significantly addressed via meditation.
Is meditation a magical cure-all that will alleviate all your woes? Of course not. But it can help tremendously.
4. What is the purpose of meditation?
In the simplest terms, the purpose of meditation is to achieve a sense of calm, peace, and confidence that comes with cognitive discipline. Or, to state it differently, meditation is an exercise for the brain.
Individuals who meditate are more in control of their emotions and thoughts. As such, they tend to make better decisions, which leads to more fulfilling lives.
So yes, it’s not a stretch to say that “meditation makes everything better.”
5. What do you think about during meditation?
Honestly? Technically speaking, you can think about whatever you want during meditation. Remember, there are many mindfulness and meditation techniques.
Some encourage practitioners to “empty” their heads and focus on breathing only. Others, however, are all about breaking down an idea or concept into small parts to examine them better.
Ultimately, the possibilities regarding what to think about during meditation are limitless. Yet, to enjoy the best results, you should focus on one thing each meditation session.
6. How does meditation affect the brain?
Meditation has a material effect on the brain. Research proves that regular mindfulness practice creates gray matter and thickens the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for concentration, decision-making, and awareness.
When someone first sits down to meditate, the first part of the brain to light up is the ventromedial section of the prefrontal cortex, which is the mind’s solipsistic lens.
As such, during these first few minutes, every thought you have will be filtered through the “me-me-me” filter.
The initial few minutes of meditation are often characterized by “monkey brain” thinking, wherein you have thoughts jumping from one subject to the next.
Once you get to the point where you begin to concentrate on one thing, your lateral prefrontal cortex begins to light up and usher you into a more relaxed, neutral state. It’s in this state where the regenerative magic happens.
After 8 to 12 weeks of consistent practice, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex begins to set your “new normal,” and your brain begins to improve as a direct result of your meditation practice.
Ultimately, meditation keeps the brain young and allows you to build new, healthy neural pathways — no matter your age.
7. Can meditation make you smarter?
Siegfried Othmer, a former executive for the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, conducted studies showing meditation increased participants’ IQ by as much as 23%. (That’s a lot!)
Moreover, the science journal “Consciousness and Cognition” published a report concluding that people who meditate for 20 minutes a day experience less stress after just four days, in addition to better memory and cognition.
After two weeks, participants enjoyed better focus, memory, and reading comprehension.
Most studies looking at the link between meditation and intelligence note that mind relaxation exercises permit the brain to slow down, allowing it to repair and reset, improving cognitive function.
8. Can meditation improve physical health?
Yes, many studies suggest that individuals with chronic health issues can benefit from a sustained meditation practice.
Convincingly, a study of 61,000 participants conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that people who meditated had lower cholesterol and blood pressure rates.
Plus, statistically speaking, they were less likely to develop diabetes, coronary artery disease, or have a stroke.
Additional research also signals that meditation can alleviate chronic pain symptoms associated with digestive problems and arthritis.
9. When did people start meditating?
Archaeologists believe that meditation may date as far back as 5,000 BCE when there is evidence of people recording Dhyāna (Jhāna), Which is thought to be an ancient mind training technique related to Vedantism.
Discussions and mentions of “modern” meditation first appeared around the 3rd century BCE in Asia, the Americas, and Africa.
According to anthropological evidence, First Nations peoples focused on connecting with spirits, Asian practitioners endeavored to know their minds, and African forms of meditation focused on moving energy through the body.
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10. Is meditation a religious activity?
Yes, many eastern religious traditions feature meditation similarly to praying in Abrahamic religions, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, meditation also exists outside of spiritual worship.
It’s worth noting that religious figures with which we are most familiar in the west — Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, and Buddha — all practiced some form of meditation regularly.
11. How long does it take to meditate?
How long does it take to meditate? Once again, this is dependent on you and your situation.
For example, a monk in an ashram may meditate for hours daily. On the other end of the scale, an athlete may do a quick one-minute meditation to refocus during a game or match.
Mahatma Gandhi meditated for an hour or two a day and once famously said, “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”
What do doctors recommend? Most studies show that meditating for 20 minutes a day can make a world of difference in the life of the average westerner.
12. When is the best time of day to meditate?
When is the best time of day to meditate? The answer is another one that’s up to you. Certain times of day, however, do have their advantages.
- Morning: Many people meditate first thing in the morning because they feel the most fluid, fresh, and spiritually connected when they wake.
- Lunch: Lunch meditators look forward to a mid-day break from the madness. While meditation rooms are becoming increasingly popular in workplaces, they’re nowhere near ubiquitous. As such, lunch meditations are usually best for keyboard commuters.
- After Work: Some people love meditating as soon as they get home from work or flip off zoom for the day. It’s a super way to unwind from a busy day and take stock of everything that happened. After-work meditations also make for a nice transition between your work and home life.
- Before Bed: Though they are in the minority, some folks prefer to meditate before bed. Often, this group does meditation in part to improve sleep quality.
13. Does meditation improve concentration?
A paper published by the Columbia School of Professional Studies concluded that meditation improves concentration.
The study cites a Harvard research project that said the average human is lost in thought for 47% of the day, much of which is unproductive thought.
Mindfulness meditation pulls subjects out of the shame-anxiety cycle, freeing up space to focus on productive tasks and improve self-discipline.
14. What meditation is best for beginners?
Some people start with transcendental meditation, immediately fall in love, and never look back.
Others, however, have more luck with simpler mindfulness meditations, like breath awareness and audio concentration methods.
Trataka meditation is a lesser-known style that many beginners find enjoyable and easier to do for a longer time.
Unlike most mindfulness exercises, trataka is an open-eyed meditation that involves focusing on a single object.
15. Do I need a mantra to meditate?
You don’t need a mantra to meditate, but many people find them helpful.
Think of mantras as something similar to life mottos. However, there is a slight difference. Mottos embody an approach to life — like “live hard, play hard.”
Mantras, however, are more personal and may change depending on the situation at a given time.
Examples of mantras include:
- I’m not afraid to be wrong.
- My mind is brilliant and good enough.
- I accept my mistakes and those of other people.
16. How long does it take for meditation to work?
The time it takes for meditation to start working depends on several variables.
For example, someone who has dealt with considerable trauma and stress may take longer to ease into the practice than someone who has had a relatively calm and easy life.
Location may also play a role. To wit, someone striving to learn environmental meditation in the middle of a loud city may have a more challenging time than someone living in a rural orchard oasis.
All that said, scientists agree that it usually takes between 8 and 12 weeks of consistent practice to start seeing and feeling noticeable benefits.
17. Is it better to meditate inside or outside?
It’s a common question, and there’s no correct answer. The best place to meditate is whichever spot works best for you and your schedule.
That said, each has its advantages.
Indoor meditation may be better for people who:
- Want to work on increasing single-minded focus or self-awareness
- Are trying to cultivate discipline
- Live in areas where outside meditation isn’t a possibility for a large chunk of the year due to weather restraints
Outdoor meditation may be better for people who:
- Want to improve their mental fluidity
- Are eager to build a stronger connection with nature
- Are working on increasing their capacity for receptivity
- Like to get away from their busy or stressful homelife
18. Can I teach my toddler to meditate?
Believe it or not, it is possible to start your child meditating at a young age. People who want to make it part of their child’s daily routine begin at around 2 or 3 years old.
We should add a word of caution and reason here. Of course, you shouldn’t push your child to meditate or expect them to sit quietly for hours on end. In fact, you should be elated if they can make it for three minutes.
Kids should be allowed to be kids. And while mindfulness is a wonderful skill to instill early on, don’t get carried away. Introduce and encourage it — but don’t insist on it.
19. Do I need a meditation coach, or can I teach myself?
The choice is yours. When starting, most people go the DIY route, or they may take a class at their gym or local yoga studio.
Those who wish to become certified or make meditation a prioritized part of their lives go on to take workshops. Many also make pilgrimages to an ashram to study under a master.
As we’ve mentioned a million times, meditation is fantastic for physical and mental health.
More than some new-age claptrap, meditation has the power to turn your life around for the better — from both practical and spiritual standpoints.