De-bunking the mystic myth of meditation.
Let’s take a minute here to examine a common myth surrounding meditation. I hear it frequently. Whether I’m within the health and wellbeing community or casually jaunting down the footpath. “Meditation is hard. I don’t know how to do it. I can’t sit perfectly still with my fingers looped together housing a gentle smile across my face.”
Funny story. As a society I think we place meditation quite highly onto a pedestal that has become a drastic length for us to go to find a bit of clarity in our lives. Meditation is not a thing that we do. Meditation is simply a practice, individual to each of us. It is the experience of calming our mind, properly aligning our body, and focusing on our breath. We breathe in, and we breathe out. We tune into these innate patterns that are inherent to our very being. Sometimes, when thoughts come flooding back into our minds like tidal waves we become distracted, and we become hard on ourselves. But thoughts are okay. Thoughts are completely natural and part of the meditation process. With meditation the focus shifts to becoming aware of the thoughts and removing attachment to those thoughts, not pushing them away and becoming frustrated at their overwhelming existence. It’s about learning to live with them and accept them. It’s not about reaching a “meditation perfection”, per say. It’s about learning how to sit with yourself and come to realizations that may be tricky at times to understand because of all life’s busy distractions. That’s all it is. Plain and simple.
Now that the meditation myth has been de-bunked, and you’re keen to find a way to incorporate it into your daily self care routine (because hey, who doesn’t enjoy peace of mind and a reduced stress lifestyle), let’s explore the countless benefits that a meditation practice can offer you and how you can begin meditating today by following five simple steps.
How does meditation benefit me?
Speaking as someone who never had an off switch, always did 801 tasks at a time, and rushed through my early 20’s fueled by sleepless nights, alcohol, and adrenal fatigue, a regular self-care practice drastically altered my life. I learned the art of slowing down, and I can honestly say that I have meditation and various self care practices that I’ve incorporated into my life to thank.
Meditation centers the mind and the body by connecting to your breath, which calms the central nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest state of being. The opposite is our sympathetic nervous system, our fight and flight response. This is triggered with stress, anxiety and adrenal glands running on over drive.
Taking a moment out of the day to notice your thoughts gives you the opportunity to actually observe their patterns. Sometimes our days are so busy and jam-packed that we forget how to notice what’s going on within our bodies and our minds.
Begin your meditation practice today with these 7 easy steps:
In the How to Meditate masterpiece instruction guide by Pema Chodron, she outlines various meditation techniques that can be accomplishment by both a seasoned meditator and someone who’s just starting their meditation practice.
“When something is bothering you- a person is bugging you, a situation is irritating you, or physical pain is troubling you- you must work with your mind, and that is done through meditation. Working with our minds is the only means through which we’ll actually begin to feel happy and contented with the world that we live in”. – Pema Chodron.
- She addresses commitment. This means putting aside as little as five minutes a day to quiet the mind and focus inwards. Just five minutes. Once you establish a time and a place, the most difficult part is over. You’ve already gotten yourself there.
- Then, settling the mind. There are different exercises that can be done at home that bring you into the present moment, and allow you to put yourself in the space where you’re ready to take a time out from the hectic world and focus on the meditation you’re about to do.
- Your body’s alignment. This is referring to our six points of posture throughout the body that will allow us to fall into a relaxed state. These points are our seat, hands, torso, face, eyes, and legs.
- Utilize your breath. Your breath serves as a practice of letting go of anything you are unable to control (which let’s face it, is basically everything), and ridding the mind of what no longer serves a purpose in your life. Is something bringing you down? Does something feel heavy or uneasy deep down in your soul? Now’s the time to stop fighting it, and instead, simply let it go. I say simply because it can be as simple as you’d like to make it. You are the instructor of your own meditation, therefore, you choose the course of action. Daunting or light?
- Your attitude. During meditation our mind can wander, which we’ve established previously is 110% acceptable behaviour for the mind. And while we meditate, it’s about establishing the pattern in our brain of bringing ourselves back when we become aware the mind wanders. We set the foundation here to return to our starting point, not losing all the progress made, but knowing that each time you remind yourself to come back to the breath you are changing the neurological pathways in the brain. You are progressing.
- Kindness to yourself. Pema refers to this as unconditional friendliness. This means that you are not to criticize yourself during your medition. Thoughts come and go, our minds are chatter champions and offer countless distractions. But, if you’re able to actually take time to honour yourself by meditating, then leave the criticisms behind. You’ve already taken a purposeful leap forward towards your ownself-care.
- Be your own meditation instructor. Here, Pema is referring to you knowing best. We always have that person in our lives who can give us bang on advice, but maybe something is off. And we know that it’s off, because we can feel it. Now that you’ve committed a time to meditate, you have settled the body, the movement of the breath, and you’re being kind to yourself, honour one final thing. Listen to yourself. You do know best, here. Take your own advice, and trust what you already know to be true.
Daily activities for incorporating mindful meditation into your day
Meditation can also be brought into other aspects of your day, not only when you’re at home in a quiet place.
For example, Walking Meditations can greatly change your mood. Only practicing a walking meditation for 10 minutes during the day has the power to uplift your spirits and calm you down. In Mark Bertin’s article, A Daily Mindful Walking Practice, (https://www.mindful.org/daily-mindful-walking-practice/), he outlines how to draw your awareness back into the present moment during everyday activities, such as walking from one destination to another. This idea of becoming present with what you have where you are right now, allows you to drop distractions, re focus your mind on what’s unfolding before your eyes. No past or present, only the now.
Meditation is a practice of simplicity, it costs you know money. All it asks is that you honour yourself by taking some time away from your day (or investing some time to make the rest of your day more productive) to acknowledge your own breath and work to center your body.
How many minutes in a day would you give to cultivate a little extra focus?