Much of our daily life is spent living in our heads, focused on what we are thinking versus what we are feeling. With the demands of work and home we are often required to mentally stay one step ahead just to get through our day. But if we navigate life led by our thoughts alone, we miss out on a world of information available to us through our bodies and spirits. If we don’t quiet our minds they make us unhealthy and want to over eat or drink. Meditation can truly help us lose weight as it provides a feeling of being full that no cake will ever top.
The ancient practice of meditation is as integral to yoga as the poses, with the same intention: not to tune out, but to tune in to a frequency long forgotten, or perhaps undiscovered. Meditation is about becoming acutely aware of what is going on within you, as well as learning to tame your mind so you can focus all your energy and awareness on the task at hand. The practice of meditation helps you stay centered regardless of your circumstances. It doesn’t teach you to avoid pain or discomfort, but to experience and accept it so you can move through any situation with profound clarity and a sense of inner peace and calm. Meditation is a wonderful way to tap into your internal “knowingness” and get into touch with your eternal essence.
Just like learning yoga breathing techniques and poses, meditation is at first awkward and unfamiliar. It’s eye opening to discover that we are controlled by incessant thoughts, and it’s frustrating to realize that many of them are unnecessary and perhaps even untrue! Sitting in silence we also realize how many common distractions compete for our attention, such as doubt, sleepiness and restlessness. Rather than using up even more energy fighting these hindrances, we eventually realize it’s far easier to acknowledge them and release them. Distractions will never let up, but you can teach yourself to let them go. In fact, this awareness of your life and distractions is the first step in developing a successful meditation practice that will improve your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are 5 tips for helping you get into, or improve on your meditation practice:
1. Take time away for meditation! It’s important that we don’t rush our meditation practice, so always set aside time for meditation, when you can. Setting aside the time shows that you have respect for the practice, and you’ll go into it with that same state of mind. When we prioritize something like meditation it can help everything else fall into line.
2. Meditate in a place you feel comfortable. Begin your practice somewhere calm and quiet that you feel comfortable in. You can meditate anywhere, just make sure it’s free of outside distractions (as much as possible) and in a place that makes you feel calm and present.
3. Take time to notice how you feel before and after you meditate.Monitor the changes in your heart rate, breathing and stress level. Often times we forget to note that we may be feeling unhappy or stressed before meditation, forgetting to acknowledge these feelings hinders their release. Additionally, noticing the improvement in ones mood or stress level often helps to reinforce meditation as a daily habit.
4. Focus on YOU! Try not to meditate on work, or family stress. Meditation time is you time! Consider what emotions you are feeling and explore them within yourself, taking time to note where each feeling is coming from. Allow yourself to explore deep inside feelings and emotions. Distractions will definitely come, but it is important to feel them so that we can also release them, don’t get frustrated when or if you become distracted by outside forces, work through them and release them with each exhale.
5. Keep breathing! Breathing is a critical part of meditation. We can use our breathing rhythmically to get us into a meditative state and to focus in the present moment. Breathing helps to calm us and focus us on the task at hand. Your breathing helps guide your brain and body through the process of meditation. Once you are able to calm and regulate your breath, meditation comes easier. Focus on taking deep, even, cleansing breaths, breathing in positivity and exhaling negativity and distraction.
Once you refine your ability to slip into a state of awareness and being, you can bring this focus into other areas of your life. No matter what is happening in your immediate environment, you can step back and respond, versus react. Whether it’s an athletic competition, work, a difficult conversation, or even play, not only will you enjoy what you are doing that much more, you will do it that much better.
So give yourself permission to be a beginner, and know that with practice your ability to concentrate will improve. Eventually, you will find that during your meditation practice you will have the experience of slipping between thoughts, or find yourself unaware of any specific thoughts at all. In this place, you not only lose track of what you hear going on around you, you often discover you’ve lost all sense of time itself. With enough practice, you’ll find that you could meditate in a noisy airport or on a busy street corner without becoming distracted whatsoever.