In my post on Minding the Hot Mess, I mentioned how beneficial meditation has been to my life. It's an amazing tool for your toolbox. Do you currently have a mediation or mindfulness practice? If you do, that is totally awesome! I would love to hear about it in the comments below. If you are interested in starting a practice then this post is for you! I will follow up with future posts on different meditation techniques and benefits, but we'll cover some basic info on getting started here.
First of all, what are some reasons that you may have told yourself for why you aren't currently meditating? The answers I hear a lot in response to that question are the following:
I don’t have time - Meditating doesn't have to take a lot of time. Start with a small amount, say 5 minutes and see how that goes. Work it into your day and then as you can, increase the time by a few minutes.
I can’t sit still - Here again I would recommend starting off slow and working up to more time in meditation. A nice technique that I sometimes use to settle my body is to do several tense and release exercises to begin my meditation. I tense up my whole body tight for several seconds and then release and repeat this process over again several times.
I can’t stop mind from wandering and it's so boring - Meditation isn't about emptying the mind, it's about observing the mind and being present. If your mind wanders, you simply bring it back to your breath or to your mantra. Observing the actions of your mind means you are becoming more mindful. Guided meditations are also a great way to keep your mind from wandering and keep you from getting bored by giving you something to focus on.
Once you've decided that you want to commit to a meditation practice what are some things to consider? Let's talk about establishing a regular routine, exercise, location, sitting position, length, breath and prayer next.
Regularity - Set aside the same time or times each day for your meditation, if you can.
Exercise - If you have time, exercise a little before meditation. Yoga postures are excellent. The exercises one does before meditation, should calm, not excite the nervous system.
Location - Set aside a room, or small part of a room, just for meditation. Try to find as quiet a spot as possible that is uncluttered. Be sure the room is not stuffy and a bit on the cool side. Have a place to sit, and a small, simple altar or focal point, like pictures, flowers, candles. You will find that the vibrations of meditation will build here.
Sitting - A chair is fine, or a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor or on cushion(s). If you sit in a chair, try not to lean back. Whatever your position, keep your back straight, chest raised, head erect, eyes closed, and hands resting palms upturned, in your lap.
Length of time - Do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. Better to meditate 5-15 minutes and be very consistent about it, then increase your time as you can. One longer meditation each week is very helpful. Also, it helps to meditate with other people, especially people who have been meditating longer than you. The energy of a group meditation often helps you to meditate longer than you would ordinarily be able to on your own.
Prayer - Upon beginning your meditation, say a prayer either out loud, or in silence, to God, your spirit guides and/or Angels to protect you, to guide and to help you.
Breathe - Once you are situated, start out by doing a few minutes of breathing exercises. Breathe in a slow deep breath to the count of 5. Hold that breath for a count of 5. Exhale deeply to another count of 5. Repeat this several times.
I started out doing some short guided meditations. The guided meditations gave me something to focus on and helped me build my confidence with meditating. My first ones were 12-14 minutes in length. The shorter timeframe made it feel manageable...I knew I could carve out 12 minutes and I knew that I could sit still for 12 minutes. My favorite guided short meditation CD is called Meditations for Wellness-II Under the Waterfall by Graham LS Connolly. The CD can be purchased for $15 on the website http://www.tarrassaholistics.com/products_services.shtml.
Some people get hung up on the word meditation. Either because it sounds too challenging or because the origins of meditation feel conflicting to their religious beliefs. I would encourage you to call your practice whatever makes it work for you. A Roman Catholic priest I saw interviewed calls it his silence practice. You can call it your relaxation practice, your prayer time, your centering practice or your spiritual practice, whatever feels suited to you.
When meditating we are merging with our higher self and connecting to spirit. My friend Katherine once said, "life is a meditation." Always be present. Always be connected to God. Always be aware. Always be in prayer.
I will follow up in future posts with more specific information on a variety of meditation techniques for you to add to your practice, as well as more specific information on the spill over benefits of meditation. Let me know if I can assist you further in getting started, meditation is a way to heal yourself and our world.