Prior to 2012 I couldn’t tell you very much (if anything) about meditation. Almost nine years later I credit the practice to completely changing my life.
After years of battling mental illness that later developed into the dependency and abuse of my anxiety prescriptions, I was desperate to find healing. I’d changed antidepressant medication at least five times over a ten year span. The perfect cocktail didn’t seem to exist, at least not for an extended amount of time.
I looked into changing my lifestyle as a whole and felt like it was my last shot at truly living. While a meditation practice alone hasn’t been my one saving grace; it has been a major factor for creating a life of happiness and wellness. I discovered meditation after trying out yoga as a form of anxiety relief. From the first class I was hooked, but it wasn’t the yoga that captivated my soul.
Honestly, I only kept going to class so I could experience the last fifteen minutes, the meditation. At the time I didn’t think it was something that I do could in my own home let alone without a teacher guiding me.
Meditation and mindfulness often feel unattainable when you are new to the practice. I hope this acts as a bit of guidance and encouragement to begin your own daily or weekly meditation practice. No perfect setting or perfect clothing required. No talking in metaphors. Just you and a little bit of silence for a few moments.
Here’s Why You Need Meditation In Your Life
Helps Boost Brain Function and Focus
Eases Stress and Anxiety (Sold yet?)
Assists in Blood Pressure Management
Promotes Clearer Thinking
Helps Control Mood Swings
Assists in Mental Illness Management
(BONUS) It’s a completely free way to practice self care!
Here’s a great reference if you’re looking to dive a little deeper into the research behind meditation.
Setting The Mood
(Nope, not that.) I know I mentioned earlier that you don’t need the perfect setting or clothing, but there are a few recommendations that would be wise to follow. You should be in a place that you feel safe and comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a completely quiet space, though that does help especially when first starting out. Comfortable clothing helps but may not always be accessible in times when meditation may be needed.
Example: In your car on your lunch break. In this situation try taking off your shoes, unbuckling your belt or loosening your tie. You want to be as comfortable as your current situation allows.
It’s important to find a position that feels comfortable and will not cause any distractions such as discomfort. Though I’ve been meditating for years I refrain from the traditional cross legged position because it causes too much stress on my knees. For the longest time I tried to force myself to practice cross legged, but this always resulted in severe knee pain. I felt like I didn’t have a serious practice because of my inability to stay in that position. What I finally realized is that a meditation practice isn’t about following all the rules you’ve seen on the internet or even in a class. A meditation practice is simply about setting aside the time to silence your mind and find peace within. NO PERFECTION REQUIRED.
Find the most comfortable position either seated or laying down. If seated feels best you can cross your legs, lay them out flat in front, or bend your knees to sit on your shins/ feet. If you prefer to lay down it’s best to lay on your back. Make sure your spine is straight in whatever position you choose.
What Do I Do With My Hands?
Again, just do what feels right. As time goes on and your love for meditation grows deeper you’ll likely want to study mudras, but for now lets stick to the basic three.
Hands Together Over Heart
Palms Open Resting On Knees/ Your Side if Laying
Palms resting down On Knees/ Stomach if Laying
These hand placements are only suggestions when beginning a practice. As always, it’s more important to do what feels right for you. Tune into your intuition. If you listen closely your body will let you know exactly what it needs for your practice.
Settling Into Your Breath
Once settled in to position in a safe comfortable place, I like to begin my practice with a few deep breaths to clear the energy within/ around me. This helps clear any thoughts that might be whirling around the mind. Take a deep belly breath for five seconds through the nose, hold for four seconds, then release through your nose slowly for a count of seven seconds. With your eyes closed complete this three times. If you are having trouble holding the breath or exhaling for seven seconds do not judge yourself. Simply take three deep breaths in and out of the nose slowly.
After this short breathing exercise begin to become aware of the silent space around you. Notice the weight of your body on the chair or on the floor. With your eyes still closed notice how your body moves ever so slightly with the inhale and exhale of your breath. Maybe you hear birds chirping, a car passing outside, or the tick of a clock. Take notice of the present moment.
If any thoughts arrive into your mind about the past or future simply acknowledge their presence and release them with your next exhale. Then take your focus back to the breath. If any frustration or worry begins to arise due to difficulty of silencing your mind acknowledge this feeling and release with your breath. The most important thing in a meditation is to release any judgement of your practice and just keep breathing.
If you’re having difficulty meditating in silence try using meditation music like this one. Music is also a great way to time your meditations without the use of an annoying alarm ending your practice.
The Grand Finale
Before opening your eyes upon completing your meditation bring your hands to your heart (if not already there) and thank yourself for taking a moment to nurture your mind/body/spirit. Thank the creator for this present moment and for the gift of breath. Bring your awareness back to your body and slowly open your eyes. Be careful getting up as you may feel a bit lightheaded from the intense relaxation.
Developing a regular meditation practice takes time. Rest assured almost everyone gets at least a little frustrated in the beginning. Our minds are constantly going from one thought or worry to the next. Using meditation in your daily life is a way to give your mind a break.
You don’t have to commit thirty minutes a day. If ten minutes is all you can give then give those ten minutes. Your meditation practice is YOUR practice. The yogis you are familiar with didn’t begin practicing for thirty minutes on day one. They chose what was right for them and got frustrated or fell asleep a few times along the way, but they kept practicing.
If you’ve been on what feels like a never ending quest to gain even the slightest amount of sanity and peace back into your life try meditation. Finding security in the silence of your mind is the greatest gift you can give yourself.