Meditation seems to be an elusive topic: often researched, seldom understood. However, it is one of the most important parts of a yoga practice. Many people are drawn to yoga for a whole litany of reasons, but they stay because they feel calmer, happier, more open, and less stressed; developing a meditation practice can increase those feelings tenfold! While yoga helps us achieve those feelings through movement of the physical body, meditation helps us care for the mind. It helps us to live presently by showing us how to separate from our thoughts, not by stopping our thoughts. It is impossible to stop the thoughts, but through meditation we can come to understand that we are not in control of them. They arise and disappear just like the ebb and flow of the ocean; for example, when you first get in the car to drive somewhere, you may start thinking of your plans for the weekend, which gets you thinking about your friends, then that one time your friend told a joke about her grandma, then about how your friend’s grandma moved to Florida, then about how you should call YOUR grandma who lives in Florida, then about grandma’s famous apple pie, then about how you should go apple picking this October, and before you know it, you’ve arrived at your destination without even knowing how you got there. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does cause us to miss out on a lot, which in turn creates feelings of stress and anxiety, and the cycle continues.
Meditation is for everybody and is one of the best natural remedies for a lot of life’s problems. If you’re thinking of starting a home meditation practice, here’s five tips to help you get started.
1. Start small and keep at it!
If you set out to meditate for 30 minutes on your first time, you most likely will not reach that goal, and that’s perfectly okay. It takes much time, effort, and practice to be able to sit for long periods of time. Reaching a state of meditation is something you must build up to, and even then, it’s more important to look at quality, not quantity. Even if you only sit down for 2 minutes a day, it’s a wonderful start. If in those two minutes, you were in a state of quiet, peaceful bliss, you’re already a meditating pro!
As you meditate more and more frequently, you’ll soon see your sessions increase in length, and you’ll see the effects of your practice in your daily life. This is why it is so important to continue your practice, no matter what!
2. Accept what is
Don’t fight yourself! The whole point of meditating is to stop that resistance between our conscious selves and our thoughts, so if you’re forcing yourself to stay seated with your eyes closed for 30 minutes OR ELSE, you are probably not going to reach a state of meditation. Instead focus on the positives! Be proud that you made the choice and followed through with your meditation practice on any particular day, even if it was not a particularly effective session. It is important to remember that meditation is not a game; there are no rules and nobody is keeping score. You are doing it for yourself to bring peace into your life, so it would be counterproductive to beat yourself up for not sticking to your own regulations.
3. Find a quiet, comfortable place
Once you feel ready to begin, find your meditation sanctuary; this can literally be anywhere that you feel safe and happy. Whether it be a specific room or area in your house, your parked car in the garage, a garden or park, or at your favorite yoga studio, your meditation sanctuary should have minimal distractions. If you like, you may sit on the floor on a pillow or folded up blanket; you can also lay down or sit in a chair if you have back pain and need the support. Make yourself feel as cozy and serene as possible because in a relaxed state, you can leave the physical body by itself and enter into meditation more easily. While not necessary, a meditation mat or zabuton can be helpful as well.
4. Choose a focal point
As mentioned above, the whole purpose of meditation is to separate yourself from your thoughts. Having a focal point serves as sort of a distraction for the brain so that you can watch your thoughts pass by but not get carried away with them. Most meditation teachers use the breath as a point of focus. The way the abdomen rises and falls with the ebb and flow of the breath, or feeling of the air moving in and out through the nostrils allows most people to anchor themselves in the present moment. Other people listen to the natural sounds of their surroundings, or they may pop on a guided meditation or some relaxing music.
Mantras are another wonderful focal point. A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase that is repeated over and over to aid in meditation. Some common mantras in yoga include “Om,” which is the sound of the cosmic vibration, or “Om Namah Sivaya,”a mantra dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Siva. In English, its translation is “I offer to Siva a respectful invocation of His Name.” These are typically used because they are associated with the creator of the universe, and it is believed that one can be closer to the creator by aligning him/herself with them. However, mantras do not work if they do not mean something to you personally, so if you choose a mantra as your focal point, make sure it is something that has some personal significance. Mantras are recited mentally, while focusing on either the third eye (or the point between the eyebrows), or the spiritual heart (the right side of the heart).
5. Find the practice that best works for you
Being human is so wonderful because we are all so vastly different. Meditation in its traditional sense might not be working for you, but guess what? There are many other ways to meditate. When you’re in yoga class focused on yourself, your breath, and your movement, that is meditation. When you’re driving listening to your favorite music without a care in the world, that is meditation. When you’re washing the dishes and the rest of the world seems to disappear, that’s meditation. Any activity that helps you stay PRESENT and grounded in the right now is a form of meditation. And if it’s something you enjoy doing, that’s even better!