If you read our last blog, you already know all of the fantastic reasons why meditation can improve your wellbeing. Now we want to share some of our favorite hows! A common misconception is that meditation is all blank-mind/ full-lotus/ incense-and-rainbows kinda thing that is reserved for well practiced yogis in serene naturescapes. For those of us with demanding jobs, impatient kiddos, and negative hours per day it can seem pretty out of reach.
When I first started meditating (or more appropriately, when I first started sitting quietly…) I felt almost more stressed out than before. I had so many mechanisms and processes in place in my brain to handle my stress, to put my head down and deal with it, that I didn’t know what to do when I gave my mind some space to actually think about many of the things that were stressing me out. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Eventually I found some guidance, and I’d like to share it with you too.
Not all meditation aims to quiet the mind
We are humans- we will always have thoughts. The goal of meditation is not to eliminate the thoughts, but to actually sit with them. While some types of meditations ask you to release your hold on thoughts, meditation can also be used as a time of deep reflection. To try it, find yourself in a comfortable position, ideally in an environment with little to no distraction. Leave your phone outside the room and trust that nothing will happen in the next five minutes. Take a few moments to tap into your breath, slowing through the exhales, and softening the body with each round. Take as many breaths as you’d like to begin relaxing your mind. When thoughts start to get loud, try one of the following:
Love and Kindness Meditation. Begin by placing the hands to the heart and listening to the rhythm of your beat. Repeat to yourself (aloud or in your head) three times “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I pass my time on the Earth with ease.” Sit with that for a minute, leaning in to the love you feel in your heart. Next, call to mind all of the people that support you in your journey- friends, lovers, family, strangers- anyone that has made you feel at home in one way or another. Repeat the same phrase three times, this time with them in mind; “May they be happy, may they be healthy, may they pass their time on this Earth with ease.” Feel the warmth in your own heart expand as you send gratitude and well wishes to others. Use this expanded energy to encompass all beings and repeat the phrase three more times. After the third time, feel free to soak in those good vibes for as long as you can before drawing your hands to your heart and bowing in gratitude for your practice.
Compassion Meditation. As before, begin by setting up your space. This one may be a bit more difficult, as it asks you to tap into your compassionate resources, therefore asking a bit more energy. However, as all good things go, the more you put in the more you get back! Set yourself up as directed above, and when you’re ready bring one hand to the heart and one hand to the belly. Take a few breaths here, feeling the rise and fall of the belly and the beat of the heart. Call to mind a person that you feel has been a point of struggle for you. Keep your breath moving rhythmically and allow yourself to look at that person, perhaps feeling a bit of love, warmth, or anything but animosity surrounding them. Take a few moments to dig in to what it is this person has done to irritate you. Boss, coworker, family member, significant other- whatever it might be, try to observe the actions this person has taken without judging them or diagnosing them with your assumptions. As you begin to peel away the layers of these actions, you might be able to boil it down to a more simple form. For example, if John yelled at you in the office, and that causes you struggle, perhaps you think about why he might do that. Simplify this down into one sentence, such as “John is stressed at work.” Sit with that for a moment, and then add to the end, “Just like me. John is stressed at work, just like me.” Maybe that red car cut you off in traffic. “That red car has somewhere to be, just like me.” By adding “Just like me” to the end of each sentence, we are more able to connect with the humanness of others, regardless of moral value and without attributing ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to their actions. To end this meditation, think of someone you admire or a person to whom you would like to send good wishes. Feel the warmth they bring to your life and offer that back to them. Think of a specific action that they take, and just as before, boil it down to a simple sentence. “John is very supportive, just like me.” In this way, we show gratitude for others and yourself simultaneously in an effort to bring more of all these things to your life. As you are ready to end your practice, give yourself a few breaths to sit in emotions you evoked through your practice. Breathe it all in, and exhale it all out. Draw your hands to your heart in gratitude for your practice!
Not all meditation need be seated or still
When Life moves fast around us, meditation is the best gift we can give ourselves to evoke a bit of peace and stability. That being said, some days it can be hard to find even five minutes to sit down and close your eyes. Never fear, meditation is still attainable even as you are on the move. Bonus: If you’re prone to falling asleep when you meditate, this one may be for you!
Shower Time! The shower can be a great place to mentally AND physically cleanse. As you wash your physical self, you can begin to imagine clearing through the mind, thoughts, and tension. Start by closing your eyes and heightening your awareness of water washing down the body, beginning with the crown and flowing down to the ground. As the water hits the crown of your head, begin to visualize it as a bright golden light. As this light pours into your crown, it softens the tissues that it makes contact with as it slowly encompasses the body. With each inhale, you absorb some of the positivity from this light. With each exhale, you release something to the surface to be washed away. As you make room for more positivity, release more of that which you no longer need- tension, worries, negative thoughts about yourself or others, allow them to be swept away with the water, down into the drain. Next, bring attention to your feet. Allow them to grow heavy, sturdy, and stable on the ground beneath you. Imagine growing roots through these feet, plugging down into the the fertile ground below you. Allow the water that rolls off the body to nourish the ground in which you have planted your feet. As the things you wish to eliminate from the body and mind flow down to the ground, repurpose that energy for new things to grow from the feet up.
Happy Chores. As you do the things you have to do, see if you can incorporate something you love to do! For example, if you are cleaning the house, maybe you sing from the tops of your lungs or put on a wild Super Bowl Beyonce level performance as you dust/sweep/fold clothes/cook dinner/etc. At first it might feel odd or even that you don’t have enough energy, but soon you will find that flowing in the creativity of the body will give you a burst of energy to finish what you are doing. As you continue to cultivate this mindfulness, you will find that everything becomes a meditation when you give it proper focus and do it from the heart. Yoga, Aikido, QiGong, Dance, and even just taking a walk in nature are all other wonderful ways to practice meditation while moving the body if sitting just isn’t for you (yet!).
Not all styles work for everyone
You may have tried yoga. You may have tried guided meditation. You may have tried everything on this list and still nothing sticks. There are as many ways to meditate as their are people meditating. Some use crystals, some use mantras, some use music, others use sensory deprivation. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but if you have the courage to keep trying, you will find yours. In these situations, a little support and a lot of guidance can go a long way and it may be time to seek out a more personal experience. Meditation teachers/coaches/supporters can come in handy to find what it is that the life within you is needing, even when you are having difficulty finding it for yourself.
Meditation groups. This does not have to be an official group, you can make it yourself! Perhaps you know some others that are having trouble finding their rhythm too. Creating a plan together and then offering support to one another is a great way to be heard, to learn from others, and to try new techniques. Think book club, but you are the book! Each week one friend can host a new technique or share an experience that they had. Connecting with others might be what unleashes any obstacles you previously experienced.
Meditation Guide. Finding someone that is trained in meditation techniques can help to find exactly what works best for you. In many cases, meditation asks us to work deep within our Self and can bring up emotions and experiences that are uncomfortable or repressed. Having someone work with you to slowly bring these things to the surface in a compassionate, supportive way may make all the difference. If you resonate with your teacher, you will both learn together even as your teacher guides you. If you’re still unsure of who or what you are looking for in a guide, workshops and small group sessions are a wonderful place to start! A personalized experience will help you eliminate other distractions and give yourself a true shot at this lifelong practice.
Sattvika is always here to support you on your journey to Reclaiming your Essential Self. We hope to see you this weekend for our Soul Mantra Meditation Workshop!