Ah, the ever elusive art of meditation. We all know the benefits, such as reduced stress levels, more peace of mind and an overall calmer existence, but what exactly is meditation? How do we do it and how long do we do it for? How do we know that we have it right?
Practice, practice, practice
The truth about meditation is that it’s a practice game. It’s a practice that can be frustrating, confusing and infuriating but, then again, so is any practice. Some days are good and others not so, and do you know what? That’s OK. Mediation is not about striving to be in any particular state; it’s not about becoming Zen-like and levitating off the floor. What it is about is about is giving yourself time and space every day to check in and see what’s going on with you today.
We live in a fast-paced world. Everything is here and now. We send a message and we expect one back straight away. We open an app and get frustrated if it doesn’t open in a millisecond. It’s a world of instant gratification but at what cost? For most of us the cost is a loss of connection to ourselves and the present moment. We rush from place to place, skimming the surface and never really allowing ourselves the time and space to truly immerse ourselves in anything. We can all observe meeting friends and instead of giving our whole attention to those right in front of us, we send mails, write messages and check in on our phones.
Meditation is an antidote to this way of living. It’s a process of connecting to the unchanging reality within, even as everything external changes and shifts and moves direction.
So how do we do it?
In three easy steps.
- Find your seat. Find somewhere comfortable to sit, preferably quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Now this in itself can be tricky for some of us but do your best. The reality is that most of us don’t have a quiet white room to sit in, but find a space that you feel comfortable in and that is accessible to you. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed or sit back on your heels. Arrange your body in a dignified but comfortable seat, noticing the points of connection between the body and whatever is below it. If for comfort you need to sit on a chair or support your back with the wall then do so but try and keep the spine straight and the crown of the head drawing towards the ceiling. Rest the hands on the thighs or on the lap and allow your body to settle into this seat, comfortable but alert.
- Become still. Now you have chosen your seat, allow your body to become still. As this process happens you may notice your brain throwing distractions at you but resist the urge to fidget and move and trust the seat you have chosen.
- Begin to focus on your breath and rest your awareness on the sensations of breathing. Simply acknowledging the inhale and the exhale. Stay with the breath not rushing the process and you will notice your breath slow down and deepen naturally. As you stay with your breath you may notice a feeling of relaxation and a sense of calmness.
You can also use a mantra. A simple and effective mediation mantra is ‘let go’. As you inhale silently repeat the word ‘let’ and as you exhale silently repeat the word ‘go’.
Start off small
Begin with 10 minutes a day and maybe extend it to 15 or 20 minutes a day gradually, but make sure it fits in your schedule. It is better to sit for 10 minutes then none. If you set unrealistic targets, despite your best intentions you won’t stick to it.
Again there are some days that mediation will feel easy and natural and others where it feels difficult and your mind won’t stop interrupting the process. We are human beings; we have different experiences with the same processes all the time- down to our state of minds or perspective on that particular day.
We can witness or watch our reactions and observe whatever arises with a sense of non-judgement. The trick is to come back to it day after day whether you feel like it or not. Make it a part of your routine like brushing your teeth and it will give you a strong stable foundation for riding out the waves of life with a sense of wellbeing and without becoming overwhelmed.
Lee Tracey is a qualified Jivamukti yoga teacher who has travelled from Costa Rica to New York, Berlin, and Paris studying and teaching yoga. Her goal is to bring yoga to people that are interested in self-expansion and growth. For more information visit leetraceylife.com