Meditation has been becoming increasingly popular in recent years- most people have heard of it even if they don’t practice it themselves. But I’m still surprised how many people I talk to who don’t know what meditation really is or how to practice it. Many think that it’s some form of concentration or a method to obtain a euphoric state of mind. That you have to be in a Lotus Pose, eyes closed mumbling a mantra or even have a dedicated space for the practice.
Meditation, though, isn’t an act of doing. It’s an act of being. It’s being effortlessly aware of anything and everything in that moment of time regardless of whatever you’re actually doing in that moment. You can be meditating when you’re reading a book, riding the bus, knitting, cooking, singing, and also sitting in a quiet place in your Lotus Pose. Reaching a state of mind where you are actively aware of your surroundings, but still completely at peace and centered, that’s what meditation is.
Why should we meditate?
Research suggests that meditation may help with anxiety and depression, insomnia, lowering blood pressure and possibly even with lessening chronic pain. It helps reduce stress, increase your focus and motivation, and open your heart to being more empathetic and tolerant. Meditation isn’t a cure all for ailments, but it is beneficial for most people, though not everyone. It’s a very individual practice and results vary from person to person. Because of this, I’d suggest that when you’re first learning to try looking for a good teacher. It might seem like it’s really simple but it can be very complex especially if you’re using it as a form of alternative therapy.
I’ve been practicing meditation for +6 years now and it’s had a profound influence on my life! I’ve battled with anxiety since a young age and it only grew worse as I got older. Eventually it was overwhelming, and I was constantly finding myself curled up on the floor in panic attacks. My day to day life was incredibly stressful (in part due to a diagnosis of chronic illness). I regularly got only a few hours of sleep (if that!) and I felt as if I would never get a break. I knew that I needed to slow my mind and release some stress, so I started to do some reading and that’s when I came across meditation.
My first few attempts at meditating weren’t very productive. Looking back now I actually laugh a little, but thankfully I kept trying! I had tried sitting in quiet, focusing, chanting, and no results. My breakthrough finally came completely by accident one day after doing yoga. I was in child’s pose just breathing and soaking up the peace of the moment when I realized that I was in this state of complete calm awareness. Was that it? Yep. That was it. Nothing too exciting, but it felt amazing.
Ever after that moment, it became a lot more simple for me and I’ve felt the benefits in all areas of my life. I’m no longer crippled by my anxiety like I’ve been in the past, I’m able to handle emotional upsets a little more easily, handle chronic pain better. I’m more motivated and in general, happier and healthier.
A lot of tips and guided meditation out there can have you concentrating on things like your breathing or visualization. While this is absolutely helpful (and a go to of mine) in calming the mind and preparing for meditation, concentration in and of itself isn’t meditating. It’s actually the opposite since the goal of meditation is to have full awareness not resolute focus on one specific thing. So keep in mind that it’s just a method.
If you’re new and don’t know where to start, or you’ve been having some trouble, here are some tips and tools that have helped me and hopefully can help you too.
Method 1: Start by sitting or laying down and just letting yourself breathe. Don’t try to control the breathing or count your breath but you can listen to it. Focus on how your chest rises and falls as you inhale and exhale. You can take inventory on how your body feels going down from head to toe, just breathing naturally, your ears, nose, shoulders, hands, knees etc. Take note where your body is touching the floor and connect to your environment. Start opening up and listening to the noises in your surrounding, still staying grounded to how your body feels. Notice smells and even the temperature. This should help with relaxing and fending off distractions.
Method 2: You can use crystals in meditation. Once you pick a crystal you feel is appropriate, sit down to start meditating. Holding your crystal, start moving it around in your hands and as things come into your mind, acknowledge them, and then let them go. Imagine in your core a bright light representing your energy and start channeling that into the crystal. Focus your thoughts and intentions, letting go of things that no longer serve you and keeping the things you wish you remember. The benefit of this, for me at least, is that you can associate that crystal with the feeling of calm that comes with meditation and whatever intent you focused in it. I use this method often and then carry around the crystal on days I feel I need to reconnect to that specific intent.
Method 3: Mala Beads. To use malas you need to have a mantra or an affirmation. Hold your beads comfortably in one hand (usually I’d drape them over my middle finger) and place the guru bead between your thumb and finger you’re draping the beads over. Begin reciting your mantra/affirmation and then move to the next bead by pushing the previous one down with your thumb. Repeat this until you’ve gone through all the beads.