One of my goals for the new year is to create a consistent meditation practice.
For me, meditation has been one of the most challenging practices; doing “nothing” can be really difficult!
Mornings are the best time for me to meditate because it’s a quiet time of day and my head hasn’t filled up with thoughts, to-do lists, or other junk.
When I wake up in the mornings, I dive straight into my day, usually with a pretty sweaty workout (and spend a couple of minutes mindlessly perusing social media platforms…a habit I am determined to nix!). In the past, I have rationalized that I don’t have enough time in the mornings to meditate (you’ve heard that excuse before, right?).Well, to counter my excuse I will set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than I normally need to so I can carve out some quality *me* time before I leap into my day.
Meditation is so vital because it gives us the opportunity to sit with ourselves, go inward, and listen to what’s going on. It’s a time to detach from the external world and get in touch with our truest, most powerful, and loving selves.
I have had very pleasant meditation experiences, sometimes just “meh”, and sometimes kind of terrible. This usually reflects what’s going on in my life and the quality of my thoughts. But, if I simply ignore what’s happening internally and power through my day, I never really have the opportunity to connect with whatever it is I’m going through–good, bad, or somewhere in between…
As humans we are experts at distracting ourselves in order to avoid dealing with any internal or external junk we’ve got going on. Distractions might include emotional eating, drinking, lashing out to those around us, or behaving in other ways in order to comfort or numb ourselves. What we are actually doing is shoving whatever we may be dealing with down even further into our core–which is so not what we want! I’ve certainly used all of the above to avoid really feeling or acknowledging something difficult I may be going through–even if it’s just coming home from a not-so-great day at work.
One of my teachers, Carolina Vivas said something during a guided meditation that really stuck with me: “Meditation allows us to let go of the stuff that holds us back, making room for the things we truly need.”
The things holding us back could be feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, fear, and much more. When we are able to free ourselves of our negative internal baggage, we can grow and flourish. We become happier, healthier, more grounded humans.
I believe my consistent meditation practice will be a tool used to work through difficult stuff, exciting stuff, boring stuff, and everything in between. I invite you to join me!
Some tips I have for starting a beginning meditation practice:
1. Get cozy! I like to be seated on a bolster or a block learning against a wall to sit upright. If you’re seated, you will definitely want your hips above your knees, otherwise you will start to get really uncomfortable after a few minutes. I took a workshop with Erich Schiffmann and his advice for beginning a meditation practice was to just pile up a bunch of pillows on your bed, lie down, and “just be” (that sounds pretty awesome, right?). If you’re lying down on your back, try putting a pillow underneath your knees to release your low back.
2. Focus on your breath. Visualize it traveling in and out of your nose. Feel your belly expand and ribs expand in every direction as you breathe in, finding softness as you breathe out. Imagine your lungs as a big accordion being played and expanding on the in breath, and folding on the out breath. Breathing in you find expansion, space, and openness; breathing out your body becomes a little heavier in the earth and more relaxed.
3. Try not to get frustrated. It’s easy to get discouraged if your head is filled with the usual cluttering thoughts, and on top of everything you might be asking yourself “Why am I doing this again?”, or thinking “This isn’t doing anything!”, or maybe you have some other unpleasant thoughts come up that you would rather not deal with. Remember that you are not your thoughts. Let them come and go. Try your best to relax and detach. I remember getting frustrated with meditation because I expected something profound to happen–nope. You’re just sitting and breathing. Remember, you’re not trying to STOP your thoughts (I think that’s damn near impossible!). The goal is to release them and quiet your mind so that you can be receptive to your most powerful and positive energy beneath.
4. Use some guided meditations to get started. The Chopra Center and Your Buddhi are fantastic resources; both sites have free meditations to download.
Meditation Benefits (in case you need more persuasion!):
-Stress reduction and prevention
-Lowers blood pressure
-Protection of the immune system
-Reduces risk of heart disease
-Improved memory and focus
Take a look at how the brain is affected during meditation below:
More from your brain on meditation found here (Lifehacker.com)