When you see the word “meditate”, what exactly do you think of? In other words, what’s the first picture that enters your mind? Do you think of a yogi sitting in a cross-legged lotus position in a secluded forest surrounded by trees and/or mountains? Do you think of someone chanting “om” over and over again while sitting in what appears to be that uncomfortable cross-legged position? Or maybe you think of a Christian perhaps, closing their eyes and meditating on a verse from a Bible (that’s indeed a form of meditation by the way)?
Maybe you think of someone at a Hindu temple sitting for hours on the floor in what appears to be pure ecstasy while in complete silence (hmm, he’s not moving at all… how can he be so still?). Maybe those images and thoughts you have when thinking of the word “meditation” seems a bit discouraging and probably not quite your cup of tea. Yes? No? Maybe? Hmm, or maybe you haven’t thought about meditation let alone why you may need it or even be interested in it at all. That I can totally understand!
What if I told you there are many ways to meditate other than sitting in the traditional lotus position in silence or while concentrating on verses from the Bible, some other way that YOU can perform meditation because it fits
YOUR personality while providing you with the enjoyment and benefits of meditation?
What if I told you there are many ways to perform meditation to fit your own personal needs ranging from simplistic (if you’re a beginner) to, yes, more complex (if you’re advanced). Would you consider giving it a try? I hope so. :-)
So what’s the story?
Yes indeed, I have a story. And here’s how it all began.
Once upon a time, many years ago, I had no idea HOW to meditate. I just knew I felt this need and desire to start meditating because I was stressed with daily life (of course) and I felt the need to relax myself and my body but in a conscious manner. Rather than feel like I was on auto-pilot every single day, I wanted to be the pilot every single day. Make sense? I didn’t know what it meant to meditate at the time but I’ll tell you that reading the book Eat, Pray and Love (fantastic book by the way) surely inspired me to take that first step.
If you’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, her journey to India is where she discovered how to actually perform meditation. Yeh I admit, I thought there was only one way to meditate but of course that’s so not true. She performed meditation the old-school-way in India. I’m talking lotus position for like an hour. It seemed awesome but, I didn’t know how to do it. And I certainly didn’t have the luxury to take myself to India so I can learn from the pros. I tried the sitting-in-lotus position numerous times at home and of course being I was just a beginner, it was hard trying to ignore all those lovely sounds of cars zooming by in my neighborhood as I attempted to calm my mind and control those thoughts while performing “the pose”, legs cramping and all.
Shortly after my interest and a few attempts however, I met a young man from India who happened to be an expert in meditation (and wouldn’t you know he also happened to be a pilot in training!). He was so skilled that it was unreal! He had answers to every question I had AND he taught me some pretty cool ways to get started!
He advised me to meditate while lying down before bedtime and while listening to meditation tracks via my headphones. Meditation tracks helped with the external distractions. The trick was to not fall asleep though. I admit, I thought it was unusual and I wanted to master the whole lotus pose meditation style thing like a real yogi! :-D But I tell you, once I got the hang of his recommendation, every night before bedtime, I was very eager to meditate. I just couldn’t wait to do it because it was such a new experience for me and I found it absolutely fascinating. It was something I’ve never experienced before. It was calming, relaxing, very soothing and peaceful. It felt like an inner escape into a spiritual heaven and it made each day that much easier to tend to. Not to mention, the meditation tracks he provided were so divine and just so lovely. Some were chants while others were music. Some were even guided meditations. I experimented and discovered it was a pretty awesome experience, so awesome that I still practice it ‘til this day!
I can’t express how absolutely amazing and blissful meditation can be! You just have to give it a try and see for yourself. Just think of this way. Picture your day (how hard can that be, right?) when you wake up in the morning and head to work and while heading to work, you’re stuck in a traffic jam. You feel yourself tense up because you’re already running late for your meeting, etc. etc. Your morning is off to a busy start already and now you’re cramming additional stuff into your day, etc. etc. Now someone just snapped at you at work and you feel like they’re getting on your nerves, etc. etc. By the time you get home from your long day, you’re just so tired, maybe even exhausted. And if you have kids like me, well then you already know, now it’s time to tend to your second full-time job.
We often hear when in the midst of stress or anything that makes us feel worked up, the advice being – Stop and Breathe! Yup, that’s a quick form of meditation too! And if you’re meditating on a regular basis, let’s say for about 15 minutes a day or so (whatever works for you), meditation can certainly help you get through the “normal” busy days ahead of you with much more ease and peace. Now tell me, who doesn’t love some peace?
There are many countless ways to meditate. And it doesn’t have to involve just sitting in a secluded area or being in a temple or church. You can meditate anywhere and anytime as long as you have the self-discipline and are comfortable with it.
I’ve grabbed meeting rooms at work before and meditated for 15 minutes during a break because I skipped it in the morning and really needed it to get through the rest of my day. It’s amazing what 15 minutes can do for an entire day and how well it can prepare you to handle whatever is yet to come. Studies have shown that just 15 to 30 minutes a day can have a positive effect on your health and well-being. If you’re a beginner, just start with 15 minutes (and I’ll tell you a great way you can start at the end of this blog post) and work your way up in time to what’s comfortable. It’s so easy to do that I think the most difficult thing for you will be just SCHEDULING the time to do it. Yes, I know that can be quite challenging but if you don’t make the time now, when will you really have the time? In fact, your busiest days are the most best times to perform meditation because in that case, you can really feel the difference! No joke!
Meditation is a process. It takes time and it takes practice to see daily improved benefits but you can feel a difference as early as day one. It’s something that gets better, easier and evolves with time. Just as we take care of our bodies by exercising and eating a healthy nutritious diet (well, I hope you are doing exactly that), meditation helps focus the mind and control the incessant repetitive chatter – those thoughts. In fact, we’re so used to the chatter that we don’t even realize it because it’s such a normal part of our lives. Meditation helps take you away from all the noise. You can be in the midst of chaos and find peace right there within your own self.
What’s amazing is that, when you stop meditating for a while (not that I’m advising you to do this but it happens sometimes, especially if you’re just starting out) you’re able to feel the difference. You’ll find yourself working harder to include meditation as part of your lifestyle because once you’ve discovered that peaceful, more present, more controlled feeling within you, you’ll never want to feel out of balance again.
The benefits please?
The benefits, let’s see. How about peace of mind? How about your body feeling so relaxed that you’re able to sleep better at night?
How about the fact that you’re able to let little things slide that usually bug or annoy you? How about the fact that you’re able to concentrate better, think more clearly, achieve better results in your life and feel more productive?
How about the fact that you feel increased energy with such happiness and joy from within? How about the fact that you feel the need to just smile more often? Everything just makes you happy (at least it does for me!).
And how about the fact that when you feel so amazing and look forward to each and every day, you start attracting more amazing-ness into your life? That’s right! Law of attraction baby!
Meditation is even like an emotional cleansing. The negative, toxic stuff gets released (this is normal by the way, especially if you carry a heavy past with lots of burden) and it results in an “out with the old in with the new” energy. What’s I’m saying is, meditation helps with healing too, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically!
Meditation has the ability to enhance your spiritual well-being in addition to your physical well-being. It strengthens your body’s immune system, brings emotional balance into your life, increases fertility (which we know is an issue for many couples these days) and helps you maintain calmness. There are so many benefits that it’s a win-win! The list can just go on!
So… how does one do this?
There are many ways to perform meditation; these are just a few to help you explore a bit. If something interests you, give it a try by researching it some more and see if it works for you. The goal is, find a way to relax yourself and do it every single day. And pick a time of the day, morning, evening, maybe even during your lunch break! Challenge yourself, one week, two weeks, or three weeks straight! Find a way to connect with your inner self. It will bring more clarity and more focus into your life and make your days that much more worthwhile and enjoyable!
Breathing: Abdominal breathing, yogic breathing or Pranayama is all about controlling the inhales and exhales which has a very calming effect on the body. You can learn breathing techniques by watching YouTube videos, googling different ways to perform a variety of breathing techniques or even attending a yoga class which specializes in breathing meditation. You can start by taking deep breaths with long and slow inhalations and exhalations. Do it until you feel calmer, more peaceful.
Chanting: This involves verses, mantras, etc. The Hare Krishnas use tulsi beads to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. Some Christians will use rosary beads to count prayers and recite the rosary. Chanting a mantra provides the ability to meditate on sound which has vibrations and frequencies. Repeating a mantra allows one to feel the vibrations within their own inner self while listening to the sounds of the mantra. It’s a very meditative process indeed!
Daily Life Practice: Think about slowing down your activities and being very mindful of them. In this style of meditation, practitioners slow down their daily activities to about half a speed using the extra time to be mindful. You can meditate while washing dishes, taking a shower, or just being aware of your body movements. In other words, pay close attention to your daily activities. How you move your hands and fingers, and how you have control over these by being conscious of these activities.
Dancing: Yes, dancing can be meditative! Hare Krishnas have kirtans (dancing together in a group while chanting a mantra and playing instruments) which is a form of meditation and relaxation. Christian churches have singing and dancing as well while attendees close their eyes and focus on the music or lyrics of the songs. Many sing along and dance as well!
Standing: Yes you can perform standing meditation. Not my cup of tea but it does work for many! You can stand and release tension in your body by bringing awareness to every part of your body. You can listen to meditative mantra tracks (a good one is Deva Premal and Miten, you can easily borrow some of these CDs for your listening pleasure at your public library for free) and allow your body to move as it feels. This is definitely a great form of meditation!
Visual Imagery: This type of meditation involves the enjoyment of a relaxing image, whether it’s a sunset, beach, sky, temple – anything calming, relaxing and soothing to the mind and soul. Eyes remain open of course while focusing on an image. It definitely results in a calming effect. Some Hindus have altars and will focus visually on religious photos or deities in their altars since photos and deities provide immediate calming effects on the mind and soul.
Walking: In walking meditation, called kinhin in the Zen tradition, practitioners move slowly and continuously while staying aware of the body and mind. Even more simply, I find walking quite meditative in the mornings when I walk my daughter to school. Just enjoying nature while staring up at the sky provides such a relaxing atmosphere.
Too many choices! Which one do I try?
These are just a few to get you started however, I’d like to suggest something a little more challenging for you beginners and advanced meditators if I may. ;-) How about a 21-day meditation challenge hosted by Oprah and Deepak. That’s right, a challenge to commit yourself for 15 to 20 minutes a day for a total of 21 days! Think you can do it? Oprah and Deepak’s meditations are all guided which makes it easier to follow along and know what to do. The daily meditations typically consists of an introduction to the daily focus as well as a simple Sanskrit mantra you can repeat mentally throughout the meditation. And better yet, there is no lotus position required. ;-) Oprah and Deepak’s meditations also include visual images for those who prefer to focus on visual imagery.
Today actually starts the beginning of Oprah and Deepak’s Desire and Destiny 21-Day Meditation Challenge and it’s free so this is your lucky day! :-D I just did the first meditation this morning and it was quite lovely. It’s still a little challenging to control my thoughts however when I was finished, I definitely felt more relaxed and present! I felt more mindful of my body and myself and of course, I was ready to begin my day with a fresh clear mind! Why not give it a try and see how it works for you? I think you would LOVE IT in fact, it’s one of the best meditation series I’ve ever experienced, Oprah & Deepak’s meditation series that is! The two of them working together to provide these meditations goes hand in hand so beautifully! These meditations are absolutely the best!
To register for free, go to Deepak’s Chopra Center Meditation website at https://chopracentermeditation.com.
And as you experience this amazing journey of yours, be sure to let me know what you think! I would love to hear about your experiences especially if you’re doing this for the first time! ;-)
Sources and Photo Credits:
Cartoon Stock, http://www.cartoonstock.com
Food Matters, http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/7-health-benefits-of-meditation
Love Your Transformation, http://www.lytnyc.com
Over the Rainbow Under My Clear Blue Sky, http://frommilkitchen.files.wordpress.com
Raw for Beauty, http://rawforbeauty.com/blog/
Slap Caption, http://www.slapcaption.com/
The Yoga Connection, http://the-yoga-connection.com