Developing a meditation habit
Meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, and blood pressure alongside, the perk of centering our mind body connection when the days get hectic. When someone mentions meditation, we instantly imagine a yogi sitting with a straight back, legs folded up in lotus, hands in a mudra, saying OM.
Well, meditation can look and feel in many different ways; it’s whatever works best for you.
My meditations look nothing like this if I’m sincere. First, my legs do not twist that way. My feet fall asleep while sitting in Criss Cross, and the middle of my back aches if I try to sit with my back that straight. Then all I can do is focus on the pain and who wants to be in pain. So I might lie down or sit in a chair and lean back. Sometimes I’ll sit with my hands in a mudra. Sometimes I chant a mantra. Really, it all just depends on where I’m at and what type of meditation I am doing. The point is, I had to find what worked for me and what doesn’t. Here are some suggestions for starting your meditation practice. As with any new habit, making the commitment to yourself and permitting yourself is the first step. They say it takes 21 days to make a new habit, so commit yourself to find time for the next 21 consecutive days to meditate. If you have trouble meditating, permit yourself to forget everything you think meditation “should” be and make it into something you want it to be. Could you keep it simple? As with starting any new habit, schedule time in your day to meditate. Setting up the same time every day is even more beneficial. And if you can, I highly recommend it to do this first thing in the morning, before your mind gets busy with the day. However, with that being said, if you find that you are making lists or thinking about the day ahead and all things you need to get done, then maybe this isn’t the right time for you. There is no right or wrong time. If you find that doing a short meditation at lunch helps recharge you and get through the rest of your day, then do that. If the end of the day is better as it helps you slow down after a busy day, do that.
Find the room that feels the most comfortable
Set up a space that is just for meditation. This can be a room, a park bench, or just a chair in your home. It needs to be a place where you feel safe and not interrupted. The quieter, the better when you are first starting. Light incense or diffuse essential oils. Lavender helps relax, but if you don’t like the smell of lavender, find one that works for you. Make sure you are comfortable; include pillows, blankets, whatever helps your body relax. Find a position that is comfortable but not too comfortable. If you go too deep, you’ll fall asleep. We want to keep it meditation, not a nap. Eye coverings can be useful. There are weighted eye pillows that so the eyes can relax. If you find the light is bothering you or prefer to sit up, try some blindfold type. By setting this space up and starting your meditation with a small ritual, you’re preparing your mind and body, telling them to slow down and becoming still. It’s the same as warming up the body before exercising. There are many meditation styles out there. Try several of them and pick which one or one’s work best for you. The list below is just a few suggestions. It is not all-encompassing by any means.
- Guided-listening to an outside source walks you through a scene or activity.
- Music-usually slow and instrumental, but again find what works for you. Binaural beats can be very helpful as they help to put the brain in a theta rhythm. Theta is the space between sleep and wakefulness.
- Breathing-focus on the air coming in and out of the body or counting the inhalation and exhalation
- Mantra-the repetition of a word or phrase. Many Sanskrit mantras, including OM, but an everyday word, such as “love,” can be just as powerful. If saying it 108 times is overwhelming, start with 5 times.
- Moving-walking, bike riding, dancing, just make sure you do it in a safe place; you don’t want to be crossing streets while in a meditative state.
- Artwork-any kind of artwork works, even coloring can be meditation.
- A candle-the flicker of a candle holds the brain’s attention or brings it back if you’ve wondered off
Try a combination of styles too. Put on a CD of monks chanting or a guided meditation while you color or ride a stationary bike. Make it yours! Start with small increments and increase. Suppose you find that your attention wanders after 5 minutes, then set your timer for 4 and increase it. If even 5 minutes is too long, focus on taking 2-3 deep breaths and do this several times a day. We’ve all heard that we “shouldn’t” think or have thoughts during meditation. And like anything, the moment you’re told not to do something, that’s all we can do. Seeing that we don’t live in caves or on top of mountains, turning off the brain is not always easy. And sometimes, when we slow down, those big ideas or solutions come through. So don’t focus on “not thinking.” If a thought comes in, acknowledge it. Then let it go again. Please put it in a balloon, bubble, hot-air balloon, or even a cloud and watch it float away. If it persists, check-in, and see if it’s important. If it is, write it down and go back to meditation. If it isn’t, try picking one of the following to say to the thought:
I love that (even if you really don’t; your mind can’t really argue with it)
If you find yourself distracted with thoughts, bring yourself back to your breath, or try dropping into your heart space to bring yourself back to your center. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, and hold for 4. To drop into your heart space, imagine or visualize connecting to the beating of your heart. Both techniques help you reconnect with your body and the present moment. As with anything, be kind and patient with yourself. Some days will be easier than others. And just because you found the sweet spot of meditation yesterday does not guarantee you’ll find it again today. If you are having a tough day and get frustrated, you HAVE PERMISSION to stop. Try getting up, getting some water, stretching, what have you, and then trying it again. If you are still frustrated and have a hard time, stop for the day, and try again tomorrow.
Whatever you do, stick with it for the 21 days!