I have been hearing lots of buzz about mediation practices; from research, to studies, or just general attention to this ancient practice of mindfulness. Prior to my yoga practice I never gave mediation much thought. And even still it took several years before I opened that door. I love that meditation practices are being brought into the "mainstream." It is something that I believe all people should explore. So, let's shine some light on this practice, it's benefits, and how to get started. Little disclaimer, these are merely my observations, personal experience and information I have gathered from my own research.
MEDITATION HISTORY & ORIGIN
The origins of the practice depends on your definition of the term meditation. It is possible that meditation is as old a humanity itself. But written texts date back to around 1500 BCE in India and 3rd Century BC in China. It is unknown if these texts were the first time these practices had been recorded or if they were written down and the practices began. Meditation has roots in Buddhism, but also in Jainism of India, Confucianism & Taoism of China, and even Sufism and Judaism. The practice of meditation came West when texts were translated to European languages around the 1700's. While meditation and religious spiritual fulfillment were deeply connected, as it moved into Western culture they were disconnected and packaged as something for any and everyone. By the 1960's meditation was being researched from a scientific perspective. Today, medical science continues proving the positive mental and physical effects of the practice of meditation. This is a very brief history and I encourage you to dive deeper into the origins and history of this ancient practice to fully understand and appreciate it. On a broader note, I think it is so important to do your own research (from reliable sources) and to understand the history and origin of any practice that you want to add into your own life. I will provide you with a deep appreciation and knowledge/understanding which will add to the richness in your own life.
The number one benefit I truly love about this practice is that it is cumulative. It is like a bank account. Today you could "deposit" 3 minutes and tomorrow 5 minutes and you keep adding to the account. Do what you can when you can. You're building emotional and physical wellbeing overtime. The practice of meditation can provide an overall sense of calm and balance. It helps to reduce stress and even build skills to manage stress when not in meditation. Some other benefits of a meditation practice include:
- building self awareness
- gain new perspectives
- lowering heart rate & blood pressure
- improving sleep
- cultivating patience
- increasing creativity
- staying in the present
It is also said that meditation can help to reduce anxiety, depression, and headaches among other medical conditions.
There are many types of meditation to explore to find what you like best. A few of my personal favorites include; Guided Meditation, Mantra, and of course, Yoga. There is also Transcendental and Mindfulness Meditation, Tai chi and Qi gong from Chinese traditions.
Guided meditation is just that, being guided along a visualization of a calming and peaceful environment. In Mantra meditation you draw your focus to a word or phrase that can be repeated aloud or mentally to avoid distractions. Through the western practice of yoga, you create a moving meditation by linking the movement of asana to the breath. Transcendental meditation is similar to Mantra in that you focus on a word or phrase to even a sound, but it is done silently and in a specific way. The sound or sounds used are very specific to the meditator.
How do you get started? Well, the first thing I will say is DO NOT think that you are doing it "wrong" because your mind is wandering or not "clear" or "empty". This is a practice. We cannot master something with only a few tries.
Always find a comfortable seat. You can prop yourself up on pillows or cushions. Hips always above the knees. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable sit in a chair but keep your feet firmly on the ground. You can also sit with your back against a wall.
Start with 1-2 minutes at a time and work your way up to longer meditation times. Remember this is a practice. It is like taking your mind to the gym. Like you take your body to the gym, you don't just run in there and tear up 10 miles on the treadmill and then deadlift 250 lbs. (can you tell I also don't go to the gym 🤣) ANYWAY... You get what I mean, you have to work your way up longer meditation sessions. And again, it is ok for you to have random thoughts come in as you meditate, this is normal.
A few other ways to help you get started...
Focus your attention on your breath. This can become a meditation in itself. As you sit in silence draw your awareness to your breath. Notice how each inhale and exhale feels entering and exiting your body. Maybe count to 4 as you inhale and 5 as you exhale through the nose (longer exhales resets the nervous system). When your thoughts begin to wander draw your attention back to your breath which will draw you back to the present moment.
Body Scans are another one of my favorite practices. Like bringing your attention into the breath you bring your attention into the different areas of the body. Taking time to notice sensations without judgement or labeling. Allowing the sensations to simply exist and take note.
Another great way to get started is with walking meditation. This is awesome for those of us who find it hard to sit still. Go for a walk, preferably outside, without distraction (ie silence your phone). Stay aware of the sights and sounds. Focus on each step, how your legs move, feeling the ground below with each step.
I hope you found this to be helpful along your journey. I invite you to try my free self guided meditation for Self-Love here and stay tuned for more meditations coming soon. Let me know what you are looking for in a meditation practice. I would love to incorporate it into my offerings. Remember that a meditation practice is just that, practice! Know that it will take you time to develop and you can start with small time increments. It is cumulative, so fit it in where you can. I heard once that you should meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you are busy, then you should meditate for an hour! I love that!
Prepare for the holiday season with 12 Days of Meditation!! I am hosting a free meditation series on Instagram beginning December 9th to help you through the holiday stress! See you on The Gram.
Outside of my 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher training knowledge, I used the following articles to assist me in writing this post: