Meditation Goes Mainstream
Meditation is the success secret of many top CEOs, a morning ritual for Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, and practiced all over the world. Furthermore, this ancient practice has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and improve focus, among a vast array of other benefits as well.
Oprah Meditating, Source: Huffington Post
I personally am beyond grateful to have this practice in my life. Taking just 5 minutes at the start and end of each day to meditate has been beyond beneficial for me personally. Most of all, I have been able to better take care of my whole self; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
First of all, meditation allows my thoughts to settle. As a result, this practice opens the door for me to show up to my life. Doing so offers me the rare opportunity to be fully present. Meditation has opened my eyes to how I truly wish to live my life. Most notably, this simple activity has allowed me to step back and analyze where I am on this journey.
Mindfulness and meditation are a package deal.
They have allowed me to create healthier habits and adjust my daily routine. As a result, I have been able to spend my time more wisely.
Living with an increased awareness of my intentions has had a profound effect on my life. This shift has made for more fulfilling weeks, months with higher achievement than before, and each year seems better than the last. The ripple effect as a result of this daily practice has added value to all facets of my life. My overall energy has become much more balanced as I have progressed with this ritual.
Tidy Mind, Tidy Space, Tidy Life
Mental clarity was one of the first benefits of meditation that I noticed. Tidying my personal areas has also become easier for me since incorporating meditation into my life since my thoughts are more organized.
Flowing through life with intention is one of the biggest spiritual benefits I have received from the practice. The lessons that you learn in your stillness are all-encompassing. Forgiveness was one of the best lessons that I learned along my journey. Furthermore, my attitude of gratitude and courage to love have grown in positive correlation with my meditation practice.
Most of all, higher levels of content, focus, and patience have worked their way into my daily life. I could go on forever, but I am confident that you will see your own laundry list of benefits once you begin. The best lesson I have learned this year in these quiet moments is that while ideas are great, they are not much without action. So enough talk, let’s get to it.
With the crazy distractions that society has buzzing around us at a mile a minute, it’s no wonder that the absence of mindfulness is common. The rat race culture that we live in has caused our lives to feel so chaotic. Therefore, it is necessary that we take the time to slow down. Consequently, the monkey mind will also settle and allow you to shift into to the present moment.
There are many different mindfulness techniques; some of my favorites are from The Rough Guide To Mindfulness by Albert Tobler.
To start, performing a simple body scan is a technique that I recommend beginners try first. An amazing yoga teacher of mine first introduced this practice to me. She used a body scan exercise to transition the class from the movement of asanas and into savasana. I left that class heavily meditated.
Carve out a few minutes of your morning today or tomorrow. Allow your eyes to fall shut and draw your attention inward. Starting at the top of your head, give your complete attention to each body part. Notice your hair, scalp, temples, etc. Inch by inch, take inventory.
How does this part of your body feel? Are you holding any tension? Can you relax this body part further?
Work in this pattern down to the tips of your toes, giving 100% of your focus to yourself, for this short period of time. In addition, you can name the part of the body in which you are concentrating on, and say “Relax”. For example, “Forehead. Relax.”
This is a journey.
Showing up is the most important part.
If you are overwhelmed at all, simply just observe how you are feeling in the present moment.
Smile. You are beautiful.
To think of meditation hosting the goal of a completely clear mind is quite intimidating. Doing so is extremely difficult and can take a lifetime of practice.
Instead of striving for such a reach at first, let’s begin by giving the mind a more narrowed focus. Centering your attention is a gateway to clearing the mind.
Choose a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted (if possible) and find a comfortable seat. Sit up straight with a tall spine, and relax your shoulders down away from your ears. Allowing your eyelids to close, turn your attention inward to your breath.
There are several different breathing meditations but there is no need to alter your breath when just beginning. Rather, just focus on the natural rhythm of each inhale and exhale. Notice any sensations that may arise as the breath makes its journey.
Try to tune out all other thoughts for the time being.
Because I have been distracted by time before, I find it helpful to set a meditation timer. Doing so eliminates the disruptive curiosity of how long I’ve been practicing – when it beeps, I’m done. Until then, I’m present.
If and when a distracting thought pops up, which it will, this is 100% normal. No worries. Just acknowledge it and let it drift on by, returning to the breath.
Another tip is to count to ten, or another lucky number. As you inhale, say “one”, say “two” as you exhale. Repeat this pattern. Sometimes I decide that if my attention drifts from the breath, I will start back at one.
3. Repeat A Mantra
Once again, find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably with a straight spine. Meditation often follows a yoga practice in order to loosen up the body, allowing for increased comfort during this time of sitting still. I sit on this Colorful Patchwork Fabric Yoga Cushion ‘Mindful Yoga Pillow’ meditation pillow. The purpose is to lift your seat so really anything like a pillow or blanket works perfectly. Really, it is just easier to maintain a comfortable seated position when your hips are a little higher.
Choose a mantra that you’d like to use for during your practice; a positive affirmation.
Calmly repeat this word or phrase to yourself. Many mantras are practiced with chanting but repeating it softly or even internally is a great place to start. When I first started meditating I didn’t know which mantra to choose. If you find yourself in a similar position, I suggest repeating the intention you have for that day. Many mantras are in Sanskrit, but English is totally fine!
- Inhale “love”, exhale “peace”
- “I am”
- “Thank you”
- “I am (what you want to attract) e.g., “I am successful”
Learning Sanskrit in yoga teacher training deepened my connection to yoga, so I now prefer to practice in this ancient language.
It helps my mind transition to the euphoric and zen state induced by meditation. “Aum” / “Om” is a sacred ancient mantra that translates to the “vibration of manifestation”. One of my personal favorite go-to’s is “Om Namah Shivaya”. The 5 syllable mantra is said to represent the 5 chakras as well as the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space).
Peace. Begins. With. Me.
When I teach kids yoga, we always start the class with a kundalini meditation. We go through three rounds of a 4-word mantra, “Peace Begins With Me.”
Say “peace” as you tap your thumb to pointer finger, “begins” as you tap thumb to middle finger, “with” as you tap thumb to ring finger, and “me” as you tap thumb to pinky.
Begin by saying the 4 words out loud, 4 times. Repeat these 4 words, 4 more times, whispering softly. For the last four repetitions of this 4-word mantra, say the words silently to yourself.
4. There’s An App For That
Over 200 in fact, so the selection is plentiful. Headspace (free) is my recommendation for beginners. It works as a buddy system, walking you through ten minutes of meditation for ten days straight. Simple, yet effective – just like meditation.
“I’m totally type-A, but I’ve been trying to meditate. I downloaded Simply Being ($1.99, App Store and Google Play), and I do it for five minutes a day,” says Melina Jampolis, MD, author of The Doctor on Demand Diet. “I like that it’s not too touchy-feely.”
I personally use Calm ($13/month) most often, as I find it helpful for addressing specific stressors and creating healthy habits. They have guided, unguided, and times meditations focusing on everything from sleep to confidence. It is set up in sequences so for example, you can do an 8-day sleep sequence, each day building on the previous. I like this a lot as well because they offer knowledge and tips about the issue, in addition to the actual meditations.
My go-to resources when I am looking for a guided meditation to aid in achieving a target state of energy are online videos and podcasts. Logging onto Youtube and keying “sleep meditation” into the search engine will pull up many great options to lead your practice.
Whether looking to kick-start your morning or drift away in the evening, the options are endless. I enjoy podcasts most recently because they don’t flow over into another video or have ads, which have previously startled me out of sleep.
My favorite meditation podcasts:
- Mindfulness of Breath
- The Meditation Podcast
- Meditation Oasis