An introduction to Meditation

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Have you tried Meditation before? If not, what’s holding you back?

For years I kind of skirted the subject. I knew I was interested and always heard of all the amazing benefits of meditation but I was convinced it was for people that had a lot of time, or a super relaxed and chill personality. For years I hid behind yoga classes and scattered it throughout my weeks. But then one day years ago, I set an intention, to make meditation part of my daily life. And that’s when the magic happened.

What is Meditation?

The purpose is simple- it is about paying attention and being mindful. It is essentailly training the mind to a new way of concentrating. The main purpose is to draw mental energies inward in order to tap into resources deep within. This process of slowing down the mind allows us to remember our true nature, experience our deepest truth, and experience a more expensive feeling of consciousness. 

In yogic philosophy meditation translates as Dharana or concentration exercises and is known to help purify the mind and tune to the spirit. It is a way to access calm through presence, through focused awareness. This time dedicated to reflection/comtemplation/ prayer, or whatever you would like to call it, is very powerful and can have a plethora of health benefits. 

How to do it?

The most important step to incorporate meditation into your daily routine is to set a firm intention around it. Make it a goal of yours to fit meditation in everyday! I find that it really help me to create a routine around it, for example, every morning for five minutes you go sit on that pillow, set your alarm and practice, or make it part of your bedtime routine, brush your teeth, out on your PJ's, meditate and go to bed. It helps to dedicate a unique space for meditation, as your body will start to associate this area with meditation and calmness. It is important for the body to be comfortable so make sure wear loose fitting clothing and have a comfortable place to sit or lay down. Try to sit still the entire time allocated for meditation only allowing slight shifting to settle into the experience. If the mind or body is feeling antsy you can start with breath work, such as alternate nostril breathing, or some light stretching to help get your head into the right space. Always remember that it is okay for your attention to stray because it is more important to observe your awareness straying and gently inviting it back to focal point or breath. So try to simply notice when the mind has wandered- thoughts, sounds, sensations, gently note "thinking/ distraction" and return to breath or object of concentration. The good news is that you have noticed, every moment you notice distraction is a moment of potential liberation, then it is your choice to bring your awareness back to focus, to the meditation at hand, always remembering that it is more about the process of noticing when attention has strayed and the positive aspect of bringing awarenss back to focal point.

So essentially you are learning to sit and just BE. 

 

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Between 

stimulus and response there is a space... and in that space there is freedom. 

Benefits of regular meditation

The benefits of meditation are vast and can be extremely profound. I feel that meditation has a cumulative impact on our bodies and mind, and the more we practice the easier it is to access deep states of inner calm and quietness.

  • Strengthen concentration
  • Develop mental power
  • Access deep states of calmness/ happiness
  • Emotional/ mental stabliity
  • Clarity in decision making
  • Peace of mind that influences communication/relationships
  • Freeing up of creative energy
  • Rekindled sense of self-worth
  • Enhances the bodies metabolic processes
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Greater ability to line up what we feel, think, say, do
  • Dynamic balance of mind, body, spirit
  • Greater self awareness

Challenges with Meditation  

There are some challenges that come along with meditation, as there usually are with many great things in life. 

  • Trouble staying awake- Often times people will feel tired and begin to nod off -if this is happening, get up do some Qi gong or jumping jacks and try again!
  • Experiencing pain or being uncomfortable- Make sure you find a comfortable place to sit and be for an extended period of time. This can be on top of a pillow, a meditation bench, a chair or even laying down.
  • Difficulty staying present- Your mind WILL wander, that’s all part of the process. Just keep practicing!
  • Feeling ungrounded or spacey- If this happens take a few moments to try to meditate with your eyes slightly open, and a soft gaze. 

Types of Meditation

There are many various types of meditation, all with the underlying theme of cultivating a greater sense of awareness. I feel the most simple to start with is breath meditation, for as long as we are alive we always have our breath. 

  • Breath meditation
    • Find a comfortable seat, or laying down position in a quiet room ( as you begin to get more advanced you can do this anywhere and be less distracted by external noise)
    • Set a timer if that helps or you are in a time restraint, Even 5 minutes is super effective!
    • Focus mind on part of the body most experiencing sensation of breath, usually this is between the upper lip and nostril or rise and fall of the chest or belly.
    • Use natural breath- avoid regulating or modifying.
    • Observe subtle sensations happening in the body.
    • The nature of the mind is to wander so bring it back compassionately to breath time and time again.
    • Bring focus inward and try to not follow threads of thought instead label "thinking" and come back to breath.
    • This is it! You got this!
  • Concentration/single focus meditation
    • This technique is to fix attention on a particular object such as a candle flame  and have it stay fixed with increased steadiness and focus. 
    • Find a comfortable seat, or laying down position in a quiet room ( as you begin to get more advanced you can do this anywhere and be less distracted by external noise)  . 
    • Set a timer if that helps or you are in a time restraint, Even 5 minutes is super effective!
    • Focus upon a single object such as a flame, and when the mind inevitably wanders bring it back to the object time and time again.
  • Walking meditaion
    • This technique can be utilized everyday in various situations and helps to cultivate a wide and broad awareness.
    • Start by walking at a slow pace
    • You can use the phrase lift-shift-step-repeat inconjuntion with your movements.
    • Allow the breath to be steady and calm and the awareness to be focused on the experience of walking, or the area of your foot that comes in contact with the earth. 
  • Mantra meditation
    • Mantra meditation is a type of mediation in which you pick a positive phrase to repeat over and over in your head.
    • Mantra is a Sanskrit word that is derived from two roots: man (meaning “to think” or “mind”) and trai meaning to “free from”, or  an “instrument/tool”. This translation mean mantras are tools to help free the mind.
    • Mantra meditation is very helpful for busy minds, as the mantra can replace the busy thoughts and allow the mind to rest on the repetitive phrase. 
    • It helps to link the phrase with your inhales and exhales.
    • I love this mantra by Thich Nhat Hahn- "Breathing in I dwell in the present moment, breathing out I know it is a wonderful moment."
    • Find a mantra that resonates with you! This can be a word or phrase. 
  • Metta meditation -Known as Loving kindness meditation
    • This is a specific type of mantra to help incite a boundless and warmhearted feeling. It helps to generate more love for oneself and others. 
    • Begin as you would with other types of meditation in a comfortable position and a relaxed and calm breath.
    • Imagine your breath and moving in/ out of your heart space, in the center of your chest. 
    • Begin by repeating the phrase in your head or quietly out loud- May I be happy, May I be well, May I be safe, May I be peaceful and at ease. 
    • Take the time to connect to this intention and allow the sensation of warmth and love to fill you up. Hold ain image of yourself in your minds eye. 
    • After a few minutes, picture someone you love and repeat the phrase above replacing the ""I with "you" ("May you...")
    • Allow the sensations of love and warmth to become stronger. 
    • Next is to expand consciousness as far as you can and envision the whole country or whole planet. Replace "you" with "all" (May all be happy...)
    • All your heart to soften and settle into this peaceful moment. 
love

Resources

  • Insight meditation - Joseph Goldstein
  • Path with heart- Jack Kornfeild
  • Real Happiness- Sharon Salzberg
  • Thit Nhat Han
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