Meditation, what is it? Should I do it? How do I meditate?
First, let me share why and how I came to the practice of meditation. When I first began my Yoga Teacher Training in 2015, I defined myself as a worn-out Type A personality. My life was a constant flow of working hard, working harder, figuring out how to overcome life's challenges and stay ahead of the game. Whatever 'the game' was... How could I be a better wife, mom, employee, sister, entrepreneur.... I took on responsibility which wasn't mine because I feared being irresponsible; and I had no grace for anyone who abdicated their responsibilities.
This was just the surface of a deeper, emotional weariness... I was tired of never feeling like I measured up to life's challenges. The practice of yoga, the physical asanas, were meeting my physical challenges. But my mind and emotions were worn out and tired of trying.
Meditation is quite simply, the action or practice of focusing one's mind for a period of time. Being totally in the moment. In general, we have an average of 70,000 thoughts per day, at least according to Google. Not just conscious thoughts, such as I am hungry, but the unconscious thoughts unfolding as I type, hear the traffic, and readjust my posture, or tell myself "don't be such an idiot; you can't do that; nobody will believe you...".
Learning about meditation was part of my yoga teacher training. However, my desire to implement it was fully for my personal benefit. So, Why?
Life doesn't always unfold as we plan. For many, including myself, this meant frustration as I quickly took responsibility and fervently tried to re-establish control over the the unplanned change, the unpredictable. It meant self-blame for what I perceived as inadequacies within myself. "If I were more educated, more experienced, better versed... my plans would have gone according to plan.". Oh, the senseless pain I suffered due to my own faulty thinking. With regular meditation practice I am learning to relate to difficult circumstances, and the resulting tensions and emotional fluctuations with greater balance, equanimity and compassion toward myself and others. I was craving peace of mind and a means to stay calm in the midst of life's chaos. I needed the means to overcome the debilitating mental and emotional anguish as I delved deeper into #healingforward from a traumatic past.
Regardless of your life circumstances, meditation practice affords you the opportunity to quite your mind, find mental stillness and begin to organize important thoughts while letting go of the endless and unproductive chatter. Beyond the inner peace, other benefits include, stress reduction, reduced cortisol, improved concentration and memory, increases self-awareness, increases happiness, slows aging, lowers risk of heart attacks and strokes, improves immune health. Do any of these benefits sound helpful to you?
How? Here are a few consideration to set a foundation, allowing you to get the most from your practice.
- Schedule Meditation Time, put it on your calendar and do it every day. Ideally, the same time each day.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight, but not rigid. This allows your breath to flow easily and completely. If on a chair, legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor. If on the floor, a cushion or blanket under your sits bones provides the gentle forward tilt of the pelvis to better support your back. Consider a blanket or other support for knees.
- Comfortable clothes and no shoes, if possible.
- Quiet environment with comfortable temperature.
- Quiet the mind. Gently release disruptive thoughts; acknowledge them and then 'down size the tab' knowing you can come back to them after meditating.
- Bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the air entering your nostrils with each inhalation and the spent air leaving with each exhale. Being aware of your breath may prevent other thoughts from coming in, or at least gives you a place to refocus when thoughts do surface.
- Be gracious with yourself and the process. It is a practice. A journey worth taking.
- Considerable Options: place a hand to the abdominals and one to the chest. This makes us more aware of the mind, body, breath connection.
- Nature sounds or soothing music without words may help you focus and release disturbing thoughts.
- Recognize and release limiting thoughts. You can successfully meditate. "The only wrong way to meditate, is to not meditate."
Your breath is always with you. You can come back to it when you need an anchor, stillness, peace in life's challenging times.
More on Meditation. Start with one minute. Set a timer and commit to staying in the moment for that one minute. As you are ready, maybe once a week over a period of weeks, add another minute each week. In five weeks you could be meditating five minutes a day. Start where you are. Release expectations. Let judgments and self critical thoughts go, they no longer serve you. Open your heart to possibilities. Be gracious with yourself nd embrace the journey. You are worth it. You are Priceless!