This word immediately allows me to relax. In today’s post, I will be discussing meditation. Meditation can be a tremendous help in lowering stress levels – thus prolonging your life expectancy. First, and most obvious, stress is a killer. Literally. In today’s society we are bombarded with one too many things: work, school, kids, bills, goals, social media, expectations and the list continues. One of the major things I experienced as a college student would probably be the highly competitive atmosphere. It is sad to say but it created a toxic environment that surrounded school. I felt like I couldn’t get away from it and before I knew it, my mental health was slowly deteriorating. I desperately needed something to calm my nerves. For me, meditating was that thing. This post will mainly be an introduction to meditation and an example of how meditating can work for anyone.
I was first introduced to meditation when I practiced yoga in high school and throughout community college. Who knew I would be in a desperate need of it for the several years after that? I didn’t. I slowly realized how important meditation was to my mind and body. So I wanted my first post to introduce and explain the significance of meditation and how I got into it. Let us begin with a little disclaimer: I am not a guru, a teacher in meditation or yoga, nor do I claim to know a lot about the practice and its different teachings. Rather, to ease your mind, I had a yoga teacher who introduced meditation to me in her class, as well as a class I took in college that was based on alternative health and medicine, and several other classes based on different practices of Buddhism. Throughout the past 7 years, I found out what worked for me when it comes to meditating, and I’m hoping that my tips will help someone else further explore the practice of meditating.
HOW DO I FOCUS?
The number one question I get asked is how does one meditate? Like many things in life, the first step is deciding. But I want to stress that meditation isn’t always about reaching that state of nirvana, or enlightenment. The most important thing is to actively practice the process of calming your mind as you focus on your breath. As you progress in your own meditation practice, you will see what truly works for you and how meditation can improve your overall well-being. Truth being is that there are several meditating traditions; however, all of them gear towards a single main objective: calming the mind. And to be honest, figuring out what works for you is probably the hardest part of the process!
People often wonder, for how long does one have to meditate? The answer will vary depending on the person. I think that is one of the beauties of practicing meditation – it all depends on you. Everyone’s experience and process is different. I would recommend starting out with taking a few minutes out of your day, twice a week. This will allow you to get into the feel of calming your mind, and let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to sit still for a few minutes knowing you have a bunch of other things to do! So easing yourself into the process is key to maintaining the practice. In terms of position, you can lie down on your back or take on a seated position. I found that it was much easier to get to a state of calmness while lying down. Maybe take time before you sleep to practice calming your mind.
BREATHE. BE PRESENT
Start with 5-10 minutes, and then gradually work your way to 30 minutes of meditation. I must emphasize to never force it. If you have other things to tend to: kids calling your name, phone ringing, dishes to wash, then tend to those matters and you can always return to your meditation. My yoga teacher always told me that if such things occurred while meditating, we don’t have to shut them out, rather we should do each obligation with a certain awareness. Doing so will allow us to use these day-to-day actions to practice being present, allowing us to expand the meditation. For an example, say you were trying to meditate and you realize that the dishes have been piling up, and maybe you just can’t take it anymore and stop the meditation to do them. Instead of just stopping the meditation, bring the meditation with you. Wash the dishes, but do so with awareness. Breathe. Feel the water. Just take notice of how your body feels. Be present.
Next question is: where? Answer: Anywhere! You can practice meditating at home, work, school, public parks, or the beach. You can practice and learn to calm your mind in the quietest place or even the busiest of places. It will just take practice. It might seem hard at first, but I find that focusing on my breathing helps tremendously. Here’s a quick tip: close your eyes and try to imagine the air filling your lungs while you slowly breathe in. I was taught to breathe in 5 seconds and exhale 8. This technique will allow your heart rate to slow down, calm your nerves and relax your muscles.
MEDITATION IS A PROCESS ~ LET IT FLOW
It is mainly the thought of meditating that is a bit intimidating for beginners. There can be so many things we have to do in a day, and the next day, and the next, that the main concern is how the heck do we silence our thoughts?! The answer is not to. You don’t have to completely silence them. Thinking is a natural process for we humans. The idea isn’t to completely dissipate our mental processes and reach a thoughtless being. But instead become aware of the thoughts entering our minds and stirring our emotions. If you are in the process of meditating and you suddenly remember that thing you have to do tomorrow or the rude comment that ticked you off yesterday, let those thoughts come, bring them to the forefront of your mind, fully accept the thought without judgment and slowly let that the thought go. The main thing is being aware. Become aware of what you are thinking about and be aware of how you let that thought go.
There will be more posts about meditation, some tips and information to help you in the future. I truly hope this post has helped introduce you to the process of meditating. One thing to get out of this is that meditating is all about the process. Your process. Don’t force anything and let things flow in and out of your mind as you focus on your breathing. Much more to come on this topic! Thank you for reading.