I had a strong reaction when my first yoga teacher told me I should meditate, and it went something like this: “No thank you.”
I chuckle at my resistance to meditation now, because I have a steady practice that’s literally changed my life for the better.
But back then, I really struggled with sitting even for short periods of time. I tried meditation apps. I tried meditation challenges with friends, complete with (short-lived) commitments to text each other every day after we’d each meditated. I tried using a time. I even tried pretending a lot, telling myself I was meditating when really I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep.
I had such a strong resistance to meditation back then because nothing worked. But that’s all changed—and I’m about to fill you in on how.
What is Meditation?
“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” This phrase is spoken by spiritual teachers who suggest that through peace, we find answers, the true answers. Sounds amazing. How can I do that, you wonder?
Meditation is defined as a practice of focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to achieve a calm state of mind. There are many techniques that can be practiced to achieve meditation or a meditative state, and the beauty of meditation is anyone can do it, anywhere.
Below are several techniques that I practice and preach to my family, friends, students, and clients that are practical and easy to try.
Meditation Made Easier Tip No. 1: Choose an object to focus on with your eyes.
If you are in your home, choose an object that is soothing and doesn’t move too much, like a candle, crystal, or a plant. However, if you want to be out in nature, you may choose to focus on a stream, waterfall, or a tree. Either option is very relaxing, but I will say that there is a calming essence in watching nature’s organic movement. If you choose a gazing method—often referred to as a drishti, a word in Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) yogis use when they practice with a focal point—I would suggest finding a comfortable seat and focusing on your object for as long as you can.
Meditation Made Easier Tip No. 2: Silently repeat a thought, word, or phrase.
This is often referred to as a mantra is Sanskrit. An example of a word could be peace or love; an example of a phrase could be “I am enough.” You can also dedicate the phrase to someone else by reciting, “I wish so-and-so the healing they need.” It really doesn’t matter what word or phrase you use (unless it’s a mantra given to you by a Guru), but I do recommend choosing one that resonates with you at the time of your meditation.
If you would like to practice this technique, find a comfortable place to sit and repeat your chosen word or phrase with your breath’s natural rhythm of inhalations and exhalations. Keep the momentum going for as long as you would like by silently repeating the mantra.
Meditation Made Easier Tip No. 3: Do something while you meditate.
This may sound counterintuitive, but an example of an activity you can try while you meditate is using mala beads, which are a string of beads that are traditionally used in prayer or meditation to count breaths, mantras, intentions, or thoughts of gratitude.
If you would like to practice using a mala, find a comfortable seated position and put the mala in one hand and place your thumb on top of one bead (preferably the guru bead). Then, take a full inhalation and a full exhalation, and move your thumb to the next bead closest to your heart. Continue doing this repetition as your fingers and breath glide along with the mala. Some traditionalists suggest you work your way around the whole mala, but that is not necessary. Just do what feels good to you.
How long should I meditate?
This is a question I am often asked and my first response is always this: please remove the word should from your life (we can talk more about this later)!
I say start with one minute and work yourself up from there. There really is no right or wrong way to meditate, but there are guidelines. So, if you choose one minute, 10 minutes, or 100 minutes, it doesn’t matter. In fact, this is one lovely aspect of mindfulness practices: they are all your own. You get to do whatever is right for you. I just recommend you take the time to get quiet.
Inevitably, the next statement I always hear goes something like this: “I don’t have time to meditate.” But here’s what I know to be true: those who don’t have the time to meditate are often the ones who need it the most.
Think about that for a minute.
One of the beautiful things about meditation is it can be done anywhere at any time. Most people think you need to be in a quiet environment, which is always pleasant, but often not realistic. I know a senior Transcendental Meditation (TM) teacher who has practiced meditation for more than 40 years, and one day in group practice, he told us that he has had some of his most powerful meditations on NYC subways. Yup, that’s what he told us. And this man walks around with an aura of pure white and a smile to match it, so he must be on to something.
Aside from bold auras and big, bright smiles, there are so many benefits to meditating! Meditation can improve your quality of life and promote an overall mindful lifestyle. It’s a total integration of body, mind, and soul and can help with mental and emotional health as well as physical health. Some of the benefits of meditation include:
>> Reduces Stress
>> Helps with Focus
>> Manages Anxiety
>> Promotes Emotional Health
>> Enhances Self-Awareness
>> Helps with Self-Control which can Reduce Cravings or Addictions
>> Can Improve Memory, or Help with Memory Loss
>> Helpful for Pain Management
>> Promotes Kindness, Compassion, and Love
>> Better Sleep
>> Increases Overall Heath
What it comes down to is that meditation is simply good for you. Our thoughts are a function of our brains, and our feelings are a sensation in the body. So if our mind and body are not in harmony, it creates unease or disease. Even the word disease itself spells dis-ease.
So, if we can control or curb our thoughts, rather than have our thoughts control us, we can live a more peaceful life—and meditation is the best way I know how to achieve that.