This morning I meditated for the first time. I’ll talk about my experience more below, but for context I want to describe, from my perspective and knowledge, what meditation is and why I’m trying it.

Meditation is the act of focusing the mind.

It really is that simple. As you meditate, when you become distracted, you refocus your mind. What you focus on determines the purpose of the meditation. The simplest focus, breathing, results in deep relaxation of the mind and body. Your focus will be different, depending on your goal.

I now consider religious prayer a form of meditation. For Christians, the focus will be on their conversation and relationship with God. Other religions will focus on the deity or person that’s foremost to them. In the case of Buddhism, the way of life many Westerners associate with meditation, the focus is on self awakening.

My interest in meditation formed over time as I sporadically read about influential people in history. Many of them meditated each morning as part of the start to their day to give them focus and mental clarity. As I read further into what meditation is, I realized another significant benefit is reduced anxiety and stress. Since anxiety is a problem for me, I could always use more focus and clarity in life, and meditation is a no-risk activity, I figured it would be worth a try.

I followed meditation instructions for beginners, which draws focus purely to breathing and recommends a meditation period of 15 minutes.

The instructions were spot on with the amount of time it took for my mind to fully settle — I wouldn’t want to set the timer for less than 15 minutes. When I started, I was fixated on following the instructions to the letter. This ended up being a distraction in and of itself, over-emphasizing my breaths and preventing relaxing.

The longer I meditated, the more natural my breaths became. Deeper than normal, yet with out strain. My focus shifted from following the instructions to just breathing.

Numerous times through the meditation I felt my shoulders drop as they lost tension. By the end, my whole body felt truly relaxed. From head to toe, there was a significant drop in muscle tension and my mind was at ease.

The timer startled me when it went off — I need to find a softer tone — and brought me out of meditation. With that the distractions of the mind flooded back, but they felt a bit more distant and controlled. The result wasn’t revolutionary, but it was noticeable. My day has been more productive and my anxiety a little less, though that could be a coincidence.

Going into meditation I was skeptical that I would notice anything at all. Now I’m convinced that the experience is real. What I don’t know is whether I will continue meditating in the long term. The results were minor, but the moment of peace in an ever busier world is appreciated. Regardless, I will give it more time to see how it evolves for me.