In recent years, meditation has been all the buzz.
You want to be happier? Meditate. Want to be less stressed? Meditate. Want to be more productive? Meditate.
Chris Toulson from Meditation & Mindfulness says "the more powerful your mind becomes, the more you can consciously control what your mind centers on and how it processes new information. ''Exercising'' the brain in this way has positive effects on every area of your life: your self-esteem and emotional health, your performance at work, your discipline, your connections with people, your overall inner peace, your levels of stress, and your physical well-being as well."
Those are only some of the benefits of meditation. Yet, if meditation is supposedly the elixir to a happier, longer life, why are there still so many people not buying into this potion?
Ah, because even though sitting with yourself and your mind while doing absolutely nothing SEEMS easy, it is waaaay more difficult than it sounds.
We all start somewhere.
Meditating for the brain is the same as physical exercise for the body.
When you first start weight lifting or running, you start light and slow, and little by little you see results.
Magic happens when you persevere and stay consistent.
There is no one correct way to meditate.
Chris also goes on to mention that "during meditation, it is essential not to fret about ‘not doing it properly’ or whether or not you are reaping any benefit from it. Maybe you feel like you are overthinking or need to be doing something else. The human brain is a thought machine and does not work linearly, so try not to worry that thoughts are continually emerging and try to live in the present moment, which is one of the critical skills you will get from regular meditation."
In this guide, I will go through the different ways to meditate, so you have a jumping off point on where to start. You can try one or all of them and see what works best for you.
You can find a comfortable seat on your bed or in a chair. You can be laying down or standing. You can even be walking! The options are endless.
The key to meditating starts with the breath.
Let’s start with the three-part breath.
Start by slowly taking a big breath in--letting your stomach expand and then let it rise to your chest and then finally feel your shoulders expand. When you exhale, your shoulders will begin to contract first, then your chest will fall and your stomach will push out all of the air. Keep your focus on your breath and see how long you can make your inhales and exhales.
Simply by taking three huge breaths in and out will immediately relax and calm your body. This is a helpful tool to use in any intense emotional situation. If you start to feel anxious or stressed, take three big breaths to calm the body and mind.
Once you begin inhaling and exhaling slowly, the mind creates space for calmness. The monkey brain that is constantly bouncing around ideas and thoughts starts to clear. If any distractions or thoughts arise, take notice of them and then focus back to your three-part breath.
Once you slow down your breath and calm your mind, you can start checking in with your body. Start by scanning your entire body to see where you are holding tension.
Then, you can try the squeeze and release method.
Start with your toes. Give them a little wiggle and then scrunch them up tightening those muscles. Focus your mind on your toes and send your energy there, then release. You can continue doing this as you work your way up your body. Tighten your calves and release, then your quads and hamstrings and release. You can engage your abs like you are about to be punched in the belly, then release. Work your way to your chest, your shoulders, your biceps, release. Scrunch your hands into a fist and press all your energy there and release. Finally, scrunch your eyebrows and tigthen the muscles in your face and release.
Feel your body fall deeper into a relaxation. Take notice of how your body feels now and if you are still holding tension.
To focus your mind, you can chant a mantra. This mantra can be a reminder, a message, an intention or simply something you want to embody.
Some mantras include:
I am strong. I am resilient. I am worthy. I am enough.
I am abundant. Abundance comes to me.
Lokah Samasta Sukinoe Bhavantu
Chanting is very similar to mantras. However, this time, you sing or chant a message or song that resonates with you. This focuses your mind and allows the message to flow through you.
One of the most powerful chants, which just so happens to be my favorite, is the Gayatri mantra.
Om Bhur Vhuvah Swah, Tat-savitur Varenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi, Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayat
The meaning: "O Divine mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us."
If you find it difficult to conduct the meditation on your own, you can find a quiet space and listen to a guided meditation. There are tons of free meditations online, so choose whatever you’re feeling that day. I personally use the app Insight Timer. It is a free app on your phone with tons of great meditations along with the option to simply listen to relaxing music as it times your meditation.
Fill your brain with loving and calming words as you relax.
I have a few meditations online that you can start with to begin your meditation journey.
If you are still feeling uneasy about meditating and want a little more guidance, I am happy to help you! I am more than happy to assist you on your meditation journey. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.