You've heard all about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, from reducing stress, anxiety, and pain to making us happier and smarter to warding off sickness. You've probably added it to your lengthy to-do list as something to try. In fact, one of your New Year's resolutions may even be to begin a daily meditation practice.
After all, we all could benefit from a little bit more zen in our lives.
But how do you meditate?
Meditation is something that has always intimidated me. When I was studying to become a yoga teacher, meditation was the one module I was most scared of. Not arm balances or inversions but meditation and learning how to sit still.
On the first day, we sat up tall on our yoga blankets, forming a circle in the studio, and closed our eyes. Then, I started to feel my lower back start to hunch and I started to fall asleep!
Like me, you may have lot of ideas in your head about what meditation is and what it should look like. In fact, there are countless reasons why you think you can't meditate:
- It takes a lot of time. You have to dedicate at least an hour or two to really mediate.
- You need a quiet space.
- It's impossible and pointless if you can't stop the thoughts in your mind.
- You don't know how to do it.
- You don't know what it feels like.
- You're afraid that you're doing it wrong.
But the truth is that meditation can take many different forms. It doesn't have to look a specific way. It only has to work for you and your lifestyle.
Just as you would strengthen your muscles at the gym or prepare for a marathon, you need to train your meditation and mindfulness muscles -- gradually.
Here are five easy ways to start meditating:
Take a Walk
You don't have to sit still in order to meditate. Walking meditation is a form of meditation in action; the act of walking helps you center your thoughts. Move continuously and deliberately, taking deep breaths as you go. In fact, running and yoga often turn into moving meditation for me. I become hyper-focused on the moment at hand and before I know it, I'm finished with my run or yoga class!Use Your Phone
While our attachment to our smartphones might be one reason we are less mindful, we can use it to bring us back to the present moment. Every time your phone rings or beeps, take five slow, deep breaths before picking it up. At the rate most of our phones buzz, this should give you ample opportunity to touch base with yourself throughout the day.Do a Body Scan
Body scans can help release tension in your body as well as focus your mind. Lie down your back with your eyes closed and bring your attention to different parts of your body. Concentrate on each area for a few breaths, noticing how it feels and consciously relaxing it. Start with you toes and move up your body. You could even use a guided body scan.Re-think Mundane Tasks
We all have an endless list of boring chores such as folding laundry, vacuuming, and washing dishes. But why not use these monotonous tasks as an opportunity to slow down and be mindful? As you engage in these daily activities, slow down and concentrate on the process itself, the sensations and your breath.Breath In. Breath Out.
The practice of yogic breathing or pranayama helps you to refine the mind-body connection, stay connected to the present moment, and stay calm. There are a number of pranayama techniques. Here's one of my favorite ones. Lie down or sit comfortably, inhale slowly to a count of four, and exhale slowly to a count of four. The idea is to keep the inhalation and exhalation the same length. As you become more comfortable, you can extend the length of each breath.
Meditating doesn't have to be about sitting still for hours at a time. You can find ways to incorporate it into your everyday life in a way that works for you and that builds your meditation muscles.
Do you meditate?
Christine writes the blog Love, Life, Surf.
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