The 4 Stages of Meditation
Meditation can be practiced formally, such as by sitting or laying for 10+ minutes each day in stillness and silence while focusing on your breath. It can also be practiced in a more informal fashion via the use of mindfulness exercises built into your everyday activities. There are benefits to both.
To be succinct, as most people already know and understand the need for meditation from time to time, I will simply state that this practice allows you to bring yourself back to your center (or as some think of it, your higher self) and recharge. It can give you more clarity and energy which in turn helps you accomplish the things in your life that are truly important to you. (Those things that you often think you can't possibly put on hold in order to take a 10 min meditation break!)
As my beautiful and wise yoga instructor recently put it, there are just 4 essential stages of meditation. Whether a novice or "zen master," everyone experiences these 4 stages each time they settle into their meditation practice.
The stages are as follows:
1. Being in the present moment, aware of your breath or the words of your meditation guide.
2. Having your mind wander off... thinking about tomorrow's to-do list, the comeback you wish you'd said when that bozo made fun of your coffee order (it may be complicated, but it's delicious dammit!), wondering what your dog would say if he could text you...
3. Noticing your mind has wandered. Not judging or criticizing yourself for this but simply acknowledging that you're no longer in the moment.
4. Letting go of the stray thoughts. Gently bringing yourself back to your breath and/or your guide's voice. Returning to the present moment and your body's experience of being in the moment.