Over the past few weeks, there's been a theme that keeps popping up in my world-- meditation music showing up 2 or 3 songs in a row when my iPod is on shuffle, topics/ questions related to meditation are coming up more frequently in conversation among friends and coworkers, and my own stronger-than-usual-desire to find my silence are all things that suggest there is something for me to do around meditation. When things circle me like this, I know its not a coincidence. Its direction and inspiration from above...in this case, a Divine suggestion to a) get my bum on the floor for some grounding quiet time and b) shine some light on the topic via The Light Side!
So, for all you curious people out there, here is "Meditation 101". A simple guide to getting started with meditation!
Meditating can be intimidating. I know this all too well. When I first started my practice, my ego made all kinds of noise at even just the thought of it. "... but your thoughts are too important to silence....", it would say. "You don't need to meditate, there is nothing wrong with you", it would add. "This is silly, why are you wasting your time on this?", it would ask. During my time in India, when coaching us on meditation our Guru would say, "let go of your thoughts" and in response to that I actually remember wondering "but who am I without my thoughts?"... I've come along way since then and so I now know through experience that it is natural for your ego to put up a fight against anything it sees as a threat....and, it sees most things as a threat. Your ego will resist being put on mute and will want to fight against your higher self shining through however, once you are aware of this fact it becomes easier to identify and ignore its trickery and sabotage.
If you're having some trouble with this, remember that the key is to be patient with yourself and keep at it. Like anything, the more often you practice, the easier it will become. The goal of meditation is to focus and quiet the mind and to create a little space between you and your thoughts; once you get there, the tranquility you'll experience is a beautiful feeling and the time you spend in that state of connection with your consciousness will bring about amazing changes in your world. Exciting, right? Right! So here are a few tips to help you get started:
1) Choose a Quiet & Peaceful Environment
Especially when your just beginning, find a spot with minimal distraction. Turn off your tv and leave your phone in another room on silent. Your space doesn't have to be TOTALLY silent, however. You may choose to play music; if so, try to stick to something calming and repetitive. I personally enjoy the sounds of tibetan or crystal singing bowls or sounds of nature in the background. Whether you are inside or outside, a bit of background noise like a neighbour mowing the lawn or cars passing by is a good thing-- being aware of these sounds but not allowing them dominate your practice is an important part of the process.
(For more details about creating an at home meditation space, check out my previous post on that here )
2) Get comfy!
Where comfortable, loose clothing that won't distract you. You can sit in a chair, or cross-legged on the floor. Heck, sometimes I prefer laying in the bath tub.
Sitting cross-legged is the most common and easiest way to meditate. When you first start out, you may not be able to sit for long periods of time like this (your legs might get a little numb), but you can work up to longer stints with time.
Place your forearms on your legs, palms facing up relaxed and open to receive.
3) Use your breath
The easiest way to relax the body and the mind is through your breathe. Start by taking a few deep breathes; imagine your lungs filling up with air as you inhale and really emphasis your exhale with a nice big releasing sigh. Your breathe will find a natural, calming rhythm. Counting with your inhales and exhales is another great way to find your calm...Inhale 1,2,3... Exhale 1,2,3....; you will be able to feel your heart rate steady and just allow your body to sink into that.
To help keep other thoughts at bay while you meditate, you can also repeat a mantra silently in your head. In Sanskrit, the word mantra means "instrument of the mind". The mantra is an instrument which creates vibrations in the mind, allowing you to disconnect from your thoughts and enter a deeper state of consciousness. You can use a word like "calm", "silence" or "peace" or a more traditional mantra like "Aum" and just simply repeat is slowly and silently in your mind.
4) Be Consistent
Especially at first, try to meditate around the same time each day. Early in the morning is good time to meditate, before your mind becomes consumed with your day-to-day life. Its good to avoid meditating on a full stomach, as you may feel uncomfortable and this might interfere with you concentration.
5) The Journey is the Joy
Meditation is a journey; you won't achieve enlightenment after a day or even a week. At first, don't be so concerned with the quality of the meditation... release your expectations and just simply try to be open. Let your practice and connection within build naturally. If you feel calmer, happier and more at peace after your practice, then you're doing it "right".
Enjoy the process!