Many people find meditation intimidating because they don’t know much about it or don’t know where to start. A meditation practice is an extremely valuable tool in quieting the mind of internal chatter, reducing anxiety, increasing concentration, and promoting general feelings of well being. At times, I find myself feeling extremely over stimulated between my iPhone, apps, Facebook, e-mail, blogs, news, magazines, TV…I’m getting exhausted just thinking about it. In these times, I savor meditation because it is a way for me to step out of myself and turn it all off. I can return to my daily activities with a renewed sense of internal peace and calmness that helps me stay centered despite the external data coming in. When you meditate, you focus your full attention in one area and the rest of whatever is going on in your mind and in your life falls away. The point is not to “try” or “work” at clearing your mind. The point is to shift your attention away from the noise and over to the stillness. Here are 5 things I like to do while meditation that may help you begin a meditation practice that works for you:
- Keep it short. I like to meditate for 10-15 minutes every single morning when I wake up. I don’t have an hour or even a half hour to spend on it and I’m ok with that. I don’t want my meditation to be spent stressing that I’m late for things I need to get started on in the day. Before doing anything, I sit in a comfortable position, close my eyes, and appreciate the quiet stillness of morning before things get going. I center my thoughts on that stillness and let them permeate my whole body. This gets me to a place of deep calm that I try to carry with me and touch back in with throughout the day when things get hectic or my mind drifts to the negative.
- Let your thoughts drift away. When my mind starts firing up with thoughts of what I need to do that day, what’s bothering me, what I should eat for breakfast, my workout, etc. I pretend those thoughts are monkey bars that I am swinging on and I simply leave that bar and swing forward. I don’t let myself hang on those thoughts. When beginning a meditation practice, you WILL have all sorts of thoughts come up and that’s 100% normal and ok. The key is letting them pass and not take over your mind.
- Use a sound or mantra. If you have trouble focusing your attention on stillness without something more specific to focus on, use a phrase or sound that you repeat to yourself and give purpose to your focus. I like to think of something I need that day like “awareness “, “gratitude”, or “patience” and I repeat that word to myself. When I focus on that word and that word only, my mind does not have the capacity to wander.
- Breathe. This is one of my favorite meditation tips because it is a big part of practicing yoga, which is a moving meditation. Breathing deeply and focusing on that breath is a great way to let everything else in your mind drift away. I like to follow my breath with my mind in through my nose, down the back of my throat, into my lungs and belly, and exhaling back up and feel each step in my body.
- Relax your muscles. A great way to allow your meditation permeate your body is by starting at your toes and relaxing each muscle all the way up through your body one at a time. To do this, focus on your toes and fully relax them, then the balls of your feet and fully relax them, then the arches, the heels, the ankles, the calves, and so on until you reach the crown of your head. By the end, you will have relaxed every muscle in your body while focusing your attention on that relaxation and nothing else. When you open your eyes, you will feel incredible.