Updated: Feb 7
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The human mind always wanders. The thoughts may involve dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Allowed to run rampant, these thoughts can lead to sadness, depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which can become overwhelming. But the mind (and body) can be managed with meditation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is about anchoring oneself to the present moment. Think about a ship that is unanchored at port. With its engines off, the ship is subject to the waves. The mind is like the ship; we have thoughts and emotions coming in waves. Just like waves rock the boat, the mind is ‘rocked’ by waves of thoughts and feelings. Meditation is the anchor to keep the mind steady. 
The mind is used to shifting attention to whatever thoughts or feelings assail it, but most of it brings unnecessary stress. Meditation helps to train the mind to pay attention to only what is necessary. By doing that, one can avoid unnecessary stress, tackle the important things in life and move forward. 
While meditation may invoke the image of someone sitting still, it comes in various types, like walking meditation. Some may believe that meditation is about emptying the mind, it is humanly impossible to empty the mind, just like it is impossible to stop waves in the sea. The intended meaning of ‘emptying the mind’ is focusing attention. 
While many religious traditions and traditional belief systems espouse or incorporate meditation, it can be practised in secular ways. Indeed, one can tailor meditation to suit their needs, just like an exercise has various types to suit different needs and bodies. Indeed, focused-attention meditation can be a gateway to other types of meditation, as it is easier to practice. 
Why Learn to Meditate?
The reasons are numerous to list down all.  While a later section will explore the myriad benefits of meditation, here are 7 simple reasons to meditate:
1. Understanding pain
Pain is ubiquitous. People in pain seek understanding and relief. Meditation can be a pathway to increased pain tolerance.
2. Mitigate stress
Stress is ubiquitous as well. Knowingly or unknowingly, people can undergo immense stress. This is especially so in the modern paradoxical world of isolation and connectedness. Perhaps meditation has more use then. The effects of chronic stress can be devastating.
You may wish to read The Science of Stress: 5 Ways to Reduce your Allostatic Load.
3. Connect better
Connecting better does not only mean connecting to others, or the world around us. It also means connecting with oneself, which people may find unpleasant. Meditation brings novel insights that can be of aid in making better decisions both in relationships and in life.
4. Improve focus
Focus enables one to discover new information that might not have been clear before. Also, learning and solving problems require sustained focus. Meditation enhances the capabilities of one’s concentration. By enabling concentration, one is able to identify the important things in life. Meditation invites a positive mood and outlook.
5. Reduce brain chatter
Though it is natural for the brain to think all the time, this can be overwhelming. Especially when the thoughts are distressing, for instance in rumination. With practice in meditation, one might be able to dam the incessant stream of thoughts. 
6. Raise Self-Discipline
Discipline is vital to getting things done and moving forward in life. However, it is a problem for many. Perhaps the combination of the two previous points, Meditation can help one free the mind to focus on completing important tasks that lead to achieving goals.
You may wish to read Why Do I Keep Procrastinating?
7. Revitalise sleep patterns
Many people have poor sleep due to poor nutrition and increased screen time. More so, they go to bed with worry. Some simply cannot fall asleep. Perhaps linked to alleviating rumination and stress, Meditation evokes sleep.
Neanderthals supposedly had the potential for meditation. No one knows when the practice started but the earliest written record is from India 1500BCE. Chinese, Indian, and Abrahamic faiths all discuss meditation or similar practices. Allegedly, the oldest documented images are also from India, in the form of wall art paintings dating back to 5000 - 3500BCE.
Oral traditions were the way to pass down information for thousands of years; meditation would most definitely be much older. Apparently, many techniques of modern meditation and yoga arise from a Yogi’s cave meditation. 
For a brief history of meditation, look here.
While Meditation developed from spiritual and religious practices, it has been applied in secular settings with effect.
Meditation might have been applied in secular ways before its introduction to the West. Afterwards, it is applied in psychotherapy, clinical settings, workplaces, and in sound-based meditation, e.g. biofeedback (machine-based feedback to help meditator enter deeper states) and acem meditation. 
Forms and Techniques
Forms and Techniques of Meditation are varied, being passed down and mixed with different traditions. These include the use of items like prayer beads, sitting position (the most famous being the Lotus Position, which is even a symbol of wellness in the western world), and frequency.
Postures vary and the Sanskrit term Asana describes posture and setting. Lotus (cross-legged with feet on opposing thighs), Sukhasana (cross-legged), Kneeling, Standing, and Lying in Supine position are some common meditation postures. 
Types of Meditation
1. Transcendental Meditation
Calming the mind and achieving peace
Use of mantra
2. Body Scan or Progressive Relaxation
Relieve tension and relax by scanning the body’s sensations from the feet to the head
Involves slow and controlled tightening and relaxing of muscle groups; reduces sympathetic activation
May involve envisioning a gentle wave coursing through one’s body
3. Mindfulness Meditation
Attend to thoughts as they pass through the mind; observe and record patterns
No judgements or involvement with thoughts
May focus on an object or breath as an aid
Can involve mindful brushing or eating 
4. Samatha Meditation
Single-point meditation to calm the mind
Concentrate on breath, image or object 
5. Spiritual Meditation
Religious/Spiritual; Connecting with higher power 
6. Focused Meditation
Improve concentration using any of the 5 senses
E.g. Counting mala beads, listening to a gong, staring at a candle flame, counting breaths, moon gazing
7. Movement Meditation
Strengthen connection with body and present moment
Walking, gardening, qi gong, tai chi, other gentle movements
For people who realise peace in action or those who wish to raise self-awareness of their bodies
8. Mantra Meditation
Word, Phrase, or Sound repetition to calm the mind
For those who dislike silence and enjoy repetition
9. Loving-kindness Meditation
Lift feelings of compassion, kindness, and acceptance for oneself and others
Usually entails an open attitude to accepting love from others, and afterwards wishing well for others from loved ones to all living beings.
It may be appropriate to lower feelings of anger or resentment
10. Visualisation Meditation
Relax by visualising positive scenes, images, or figures in vivid detail and employing all 5 senses in this effort
Can involve visualising attaining specific goals or visualising a beloved or honoured figure with the intention to embody their qualities
11. Vipassana Meditation
Means taking objective perspectives of life
Awareness of breath moving in and out of the nose
Label thoughts and experiences as they occur and attempt to grab the meditator’s attention 
There are other practices like Yoga, Chakra Meditation, Qi Gong, Tai-Chii, but the above are the common ones.
Effects of Meditation
Meditation can have both positive and negative effects. Different types will have different effects. The following are all possible effects.
Benefits of Meditation
Anxiety relief in healthy individuals 
Reduce pain 
Reduce inflammation at the cellular level
Increase positive emotion
Alteration to Physiological, psychological and psychosocial response to stress - Reduce stress
Increase social connections and raise emotional intelligence
Raises compassion 
Strengthen self-regulation of emotions
Improve introspection 
Enhances ability to multitask
Gives perspective 
Improve sleep 
Alleviation in Coronary Artery Disease
Changes in Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology
Increase grey matter (boost cognitive function)
Enhances attention by increasing cortical thickness
Lowering Blood pressure
Increase in smoking and tobacco use cessation rates (mindfulness meditation)
Brain plasticity increase in cognition and problem solving due to the detection of high amplitude gamma synchrony (gamma is a brainwave frequency) 
Reinforces positive feedback 
Make fewer mistakes (open-monitoring meditation) 
Negative Effects of Meditation
While more conclusive information is needed, more than 20 observational studies or case studies have reported meditation-related issues. Psychosis, mania, depersonalisation, anxiety, panic, traumatic-memory re-experiencing, relaxation-induced panic or anxiety and other forms of clinical deterioration. 
Why Meditation Doesn’t Work
While it cannot be stated for certain, a history of certain conditions may worsen with meditation. This includes suicidality, depression, and anxiety. If pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy are not pursued, meditation may not work. Meditation cannot replace exercise as well. 
The idea that loving-kindness meditation and related techniques will improve prosocial behaviour is doubtful. 
Meditation vs Exercise
Meditation vs Hypnosis
Hypnosis involves goal-directed sessions, while meditation does not. While they may have similar benefits in certain cases, meditation sessions do not have particular goals. The benefits of Hypnosis will be seen in the short term. However, adverse effects and cautionary advice is somewhat similar to meditation. 
Which Type of Meditation is Right for me?
This would be best by trialling meditation with meditation professionals. Someone with a mental illness diagnosis may wish to consult their mental health professionals before attempting meditation.
There are casual groups that encourage meditation, or uncommon forms of meditation, which are best avoided. You will know to avoid them if they describe meditation as a cure, which it is not. Just like all drugs do not work for everybody, there might be many types of meditation that do not work for you.
How to Meditate?
Here are some simple steps to a basic meditation:
Sit comfortably, in a calm and quiet place if possible
Close eyes if you want or focus your sight on something in the environment
Notice your bodily sensations
Feel your breath as it goes in and out of your nostrils
Notice when the mind wanders and bring its attention back to your breath
Do not judge or obsess over the mind wandering, or the content of it
Lift your gaze or open your eyes when ready to end. Notice the sounds in the environment, your bodily sensations, your thoughts, feelings, emotions.
Repeat whenever (preferably daily), and try to increase timing next time 
If focusing on breathing does not work for you, you can also aimlessly wander.
Not moving at all is a myth of meditation. Move if you need to by all means. Exercising or yoga before meditation may help with easing into the practice. You may even wish to start with walking meditation or movement meditation.
While natural sounds are great, guided meditation may help in the beginning. There are Youtube or Spotify audio that you may wish to listen to.
But referring to the cautionary advice and adverse effects listed in earlier sections, it is best to choose audio or guidance from professional meditation professionals. There are of course myriad popular meditation apps. Guided meditation may not work for some people.
Make it a Habit
While the brain is in autopilot mode almost all the time, meditation trains it to be in intentional mode.
To habituate a behaviour, the autopilot brain needs obstacles, and the intentional brain needs the removal of obstacles. Here are 3 tips to build the habit of meditation:
Put meditation reminders around you, like a cushion or yoga mat near your bed or work area
Write new reminders, whether on your phone or sticky notes
Devise ‘if this, then that’ patterns. For e.g. 'when getting up to go to the toilet, I will take a deep breath' 
Where Can I Find Meditation Training/Courses in Singapore?
AZ Building #07-15
140 Paya Lebar Road
531A Upper Cross Street #04-95
Hong Lim Complex
Membership starts from $69
100 Turf Club Road #01-02B Singapore 287992
+65 9797 0091
8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme from $500-700
2B Stanley Street
37 Tembeling Road Singapore 423580
+65 9752 4857
18B Keong Saik Road S(089125)
Starting from $15
113 Potong Pasir Ave 1
(65) 9763 5696
47, Scotts Road #04-02A
Skillsfuture Credit available
1. Is Reading a Form of Meditation?
2. What Type of Meditation is Best?
Depends on the needs of the individual.
3. If I Have an Itch, can I Scratch It?
4. Should I Breathe Fast or Slow or In-Between?
Slow and deep breaths.
5. Should My Eyes be Open or Closed?
Up to you.
6. Is it Possible I’m Someone Who Just Cannot Meditate?
Even if one has a severe mental illness, there may be a form of meditation that is helpful.
7. Is it Better to Practice in a Group or By Myself?
It is up to you how you want to do this.
8. What’s the Best Time of Day to Meditate?
Morning and before bedtime, or in-between whenever you need it.
9. What if I Get Sexually (and Physically) Aroused By Thoughts In My Head?
It is normal. Get back to focusing on what you are focusing on.
Meditation can be difficult but may be extremely rewarding to a practitioner. The incessant flow of thoughts in the mind can seem unstoppable, but this is one of the ways to limit their impact.
Meditation may not work for everyone, so if you are looking for other ways to manage your thoughts, you may wish to explore the following:
At frankie, we make mental healthcare and wellness easy for all with just one small task a day. Head on guided wellness journeys that understand your stressors or triggers or work with our behavioural and wellness professionals - all from the comfort and privacy of your home. Sign up for our Closed BETA here.
About the Author
Faizi is a fresh marketing graduate who runs an Instagram page on Alexander the Great. His view on life is summarised by the book title, “Only Cry for the Living”, though he has not read the book. Spending much of his undergraduate years transitioning from a religious to secular life, he hopes for a better future for apostates and has given interviews to this end. For him, The Only Easy Day is not Yesterday, but Today, because Today is easier to get through than Yesterday or Tomorrow.
This editorial section solely expresses the opinion of frankie and is not endorsed nor commissioned by any external party. The list is non-exhaustive. At frankie, we believe that your best provider of medical advice is your doctor. Please consult a doctor before undergoing any treatment or procedure.
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