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I've been spotty on how often I meditate, but I know when I do meditate, I function much better the next day. There are so many different ways to meditate, and in some ways that makes it easier to practice. You can try a few different ways to find what works for you, and if you feel the desire to change things up a little, there are plenty of new things to try.
Warm Your Body Up First
One of the most important things for me is what I do before I meditate. I walk around my house for a few minutes, stretching my shoulder blades back, and rotating my arms to loosen my muscles. Then I stretch as tall as I can, reaching my hands to the ceiling. I bend down and stretch as much as I comfortably can towards the floor. Stretching and walking help get my blood flowing and ease some of the tension in my body. If I try to sit and meditate "cold," I find it much more difficult to focus. A yoga teacher once told me that one reason yoga was invented was to help people strengthen their bodies so they could comfortably sit for long periods of time in meditation.
Maintain a Relaxed Posture
I sit cross-legged on the floor with my back lightly resting on my bed. I place my hands palm up on my knees, but you can put your hands and arms anyway that feels comfortable. I sit as straight and tall as I comfortably can, and pull my belly button in so my back doesn't have to work as hard.
Breath slowly and deeply
I breathe as slowly and deeply as I can. I imagine my throat opening as I inhale and lift my rib cage. When I exhale, I let my rib cage fall and pull my belly button in even more, pushing every last bit of breath out so that I can take an even deeper, fuller in-breath.
Repeat a Mantra (or two)
A mantra is a repeated word or phrase that can help you focus your mind. While I'm inhaling, I think, "I'm inhaling." While I'm exhaling, I think, "I'm exhaling," and I count the breaths. I think, "I'm inhaling, I'm exhaling, one, I'm inhaling, I'm exhaling, two," etc. until I get to 10. If you lose track of the counting, start over at one. After that I think, "one" every time I inhale or exhale.
The inhaling, exhaling, and counting thoughts help me focus on what I am doing in the moment. Repeating "one" over and over gives my mind something boring to think about so my mind is busy but relaxed. When other thoughts or feelings come up, I notice them, and then I go back to thinking, "one."
I try to remember that there is just one universe, and we are all part of it. I try to think of myself as one whole being, not the fractured thoughts and worries that I have.
While I sit thinking "one" over and over and breathing slowly and deeply, I also imagine a rope runs through the crown of my head and gently pulls my spine taller and straighter.
I usually meditate for 20-30 minutes at night. If you're just starting out at meditating, I'd suggest trying just one focusing practice. You can meditate for as little as two to five minutes when you first start. It's less important how long it is than that you take a few minutes away from the busyness of your day and just let your body and mind relax. It's an important practice to let everything else wait just a few minutes and remember that nothing catastrophic happens when you take short breaks for yourself.
Do you meditate? How do you help yourself relax and focus on the present moment?