Meditation: An Easy Path To A Clearer Mind
On the face of it, meditation sounds like an impossible task. For 30 - 60 minutes, sit cross-legged, clear your mind of everything, chant "Om," and touch your fingers as your hands rest upright on your knees.
Let's be real. Who can clear their minds of all thought? Who, passed the 5th grade, can comfortably sit cross-legged for more than 5 minutes? And who has an extra 30 to 60 minutes in a day to kill?
And those are just the starter questions.
With the stress of our careers and, frankly, the challenge of everyday life, our culture has become increasingly interested in meditation--a centuries-old practice that trains the mind to concentrate, be calm, have clarity and positivity--as a healthy way to slow down and bring back balance to an otherwise hurried existence.
If you've ever been interested in, but shied away from meditation, or tried, but thought you failed, at meditation, what I say next will liberate you.
There are tons of specific meditation practices, some based on religions, spiritual practices, and mind, body, and health, but there is only one meditation practice that is important--the one you create for yourself.
Yes. You can sidestep an existing path to create a sustainable meditation practice for yourself. Creating something for yourself suggests that you have to start somewhere. You must act, be curious, figure out what works and what doesn't work for you.
Before we get to how you can do that, let's look at why.
For clarity, meditation is different from prayer. The best distinction I've heard explaining the difference between the two is that prayer is talking to your Source and meditation is listening.
Whether or not you pray, are religious, are the biggest backslider in town, or swear you don't have the time, consider starting a meditation practice, because Meditation:
1. Encourages you to be soft and patient with yourself, opposite of you being hard on yourself
2. Teaches your mind calmness, which can come in handy in a crisis
3. Trains you to gently direct your thoughts away from negative chatter to positive thoughts, sharpening your awareness and forming mental discipline
4. Connects you to your spiritual Source
5. Is rooted in not-forcing-it, which is a good rule of thumb in life
6. Is exercise for your mind, often overlooked as we take care of everything else
A healthy (or unhealthy) mind affects our relationships, including the one we have with ourselves. We drink water, exercise, engage in creative activities, take vitamins, and go for annual check-ups to ensure our health, but tend to neglect our minds. Meditation is exercise for the mind.
How to cREATE your practice
Knowing the fundamentals gives you tools. Here are the basic concerns of meditation along with suggestions for how to make it your own.
Studied meditators can meditate anywhere. As we develop, place becomes less important, but for now, find a quiet place. At home, in a seldom-used conference room at work, in a nice park, or in the quiet of your car. Anywhere there's no interruptions.
Make it your own: Pick the place you feel most comfortable.
In certain practices, the body is held in specific positions for a number of reasons. Hand and finger placement, mouth and tongue, back position, and sitting position are all considered. Unless and until those reasons are understood and, most important, accepted, holding these positions are ineffective to the beginner.
Until then, I recommend your sitting in a way you're most comfortable. It can be in the traditional cross-legged position on the floor--you can lean up against something for back support--or in a chair. Don't use a bed or a couch. You'll fall asleep. Close your eyes to avoid visual disruption, but if you think you'll fall asleep, keep your eyes open and find a thing on which to focus.
Make it your own: Don't think about your fingers, mouth, tongue, or anything else. Get into a body position that you can maintain for 5 minutes without discomfort or falling asleep.
Advanced meditators go for 30 - 60 minutes and longer!
5 minutes is a good place to start for beginners. It's not too long or too short--it gives you enough time to get into the rhythm of the meditation.
Make it your own: Feel free to set your timer to 1 minute or 15 minutes--it's up to you. Do what you have time for and what you can sustain consistently.
Deep breathing is important for 3 reasons:
(1) It slows down your heart rate and puts you in a relaxed state
(2) It provides a focal point. If thoughts fly through your mind, think about the inward and outward rhythm of your breathing pattern
(3) It oxygenates your brain
Deep inhale through your nose and slow exhale out your mouth.
Make it your own: If you can breathe deeply, do. If there's something preventing you from doing that, do what works best.
Consistency is key. Seasoned meditators tend to practice daily. I aspire to this.
Make it your own: There's no way around the consistency. Make this your own, but endeavor to meditate at least twice a week, even if it's Saturday and Sunday.
Be patient with yourself. Be gentle as you bring your mind back into focus. Don't insult your efforts or try to manhandle your mind. Don't judge yourself if you aren't meditating as well or as frequently as you'd like. Accept that this is something that takes practice and love yourself for improving your whole-body health.
Mark your calendar for Monday, July 13, 2015. Oprah & Deepak Chopra offer a free guided meditation, a great learning experience for new and experienced meditators. I'm signed up!
> Free tools and activities with meditative qualities
Free Lululemon In-Store Yoga *check your local Lululemon calendar*
> More information on meditation
Clinically-Proven Benefits: Spiritual, Physical, Health *highly recommended read*
With meditation, there's no one way and there's no right or wrong way to do it, so begin by creating a meditative practice that you love, then continue developing.
Photo credit: Brian Carson via CC Flickr