Written by Alecia Norman, Yoga Teacher
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are becoming fairly mainstream these days. Even large corporations are starting to encourage meditation to assist with stress management, anger management, and relieving daily frustrations. However getting started with meditation can be quite the feat for some, and early “failures” can be discouraging. Well, let’s start here: There is no such thing as failure in meditation. Whew! That takes a load off. You can’t do it wrong! The fact that you are making the time to meditate is already a win! So, set aside any expectations or pre conceived ideas of what meditation looks like and lets do this together.
Listen To Your Body
Our bodies talk to us all day every day. But sometimes it’s hard to hear when the noise of the world gets too loud. The easiest way to begin the practice of meditation is to shift your focus to your body. Setting the intention to just observe and receive insight. Starting with your breath. Take notice of your inhales and exhales. Keep breathing as you normally would and listen. What do you notice? Is your breath long and deep? Quick and shallow? Are your inhales and exhales of equal length? Is one longer than the other? No judgements here just awareness.
Next you can try listening to your heartbeat. If it suites you, you can close your eyes and place your palms on your heart and just listen. Still noticing your breath and also searching for a new rhythm. Become aware of the beat, the power, the flow of your heart. And keep breathing.
That’s it! You’re Meditating! You can sit in this simple breathing meditation for as long as you like. There are no rules on time. You can meditate for one minute, one hour, or one week! Any amount of time that works for you.
Sometimes it can be challenging to sit in stillness for a period of time to meditate. Particularly if you are not accustomed to sitting on the floor or with your legs crossed (Because that’s how they do it in the movies, right?) Well, don’t despair, you do not have to be seated to meditate. Walking meditations are a great way to start a meditation practice. You can do this anywhere. A walk around the block, a walk in nature, or walking to a specific destination.
The key to a walking meditation is finding a single aspect of your walk to focus on the entire time. It can be the feel of your feet meeting the ground, the rhythm of your arms moving as you walk, the sound of your breath, or the sounds in your immediate surroundings. Even something that could be thought of as irritating, like loud construction work, can be used as a focus point for a meditation. As you walk, if you feel comfortable, you can soften your gaze and turn all of your senses toward your chosen focus. And don’t forget to breathe.
Eyes Open Meditation
One thing that can be immensely helpful when starting a meditation practice is starting with your eyes open. In any meditation it is natural for the mind to wander. Thinking of tasks that need to be done, replaying a disagreement from earlier in the day, or even thinking “am I doing this right?” “will this work for me”. Every person that has ever meditated has had this happen to them. If you are having this happen when you meditate, try opening your eyes. Again, focus will be key here. In this instance, where your eyes are focusing. You can find a single object or area to focus on while you meditate. This can be anything from a blank wall, a candle flame, a particular branch on a tree, or an item sitting on your dresser. Try to find a small area or item to focus on. The bigger the focus the more your eyes will want to jump around as opposed to remaining still and calm. When you have your vision in focus, you can soften your gaze, let your vision go a bit blurry and breathe.
Guided meditations are a great way to get into a meditation practice. You can access thousands of guided meditations online and even find ones that are specific to goals that you are working on. Whether its relaxation, sleep, abundance, health, wellness, energy, or love. You can easily find a guided meditation that focuses on that area. You can listen to these sitting, laying down, or walking. Typically the guide will recommend the best position for that particular meditation but feel free to make adjustments based on what your body is calling for. One tip, if you are listening to a guided meditation on your phone you may want to utilize the Do Not Disturb function or Night Mode so that you will not be interrupted by calls or notifications. It is important to be able to completely sink in for the duration of the meditation. It will put your mind at ease and help you to dive deeper into the practice.
Mantras / Chants
The great things about mantras is that they can be as simple or as complex as you would prefer. There is no wrong way to do it. A mantra is a word, or set of words that have significance to you. Mantras are not one size fits all. They can range from simple “I am” statements to ancient Sanskrit chants that are practiced as part of yogic tradition. You can try on a few different ones or even make your own. Here are some examples:
- Om (ohm): The simplest to repeat, yet a powerful acknowledgement of connection between all beings.
- I am open and ready to receive great love.
- I radiate health and vitality.
- I am safe, strong, and loved.
- I look for positivity and find it.
- I am calm and at peace.
- Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (lo-kah sah-mah-stah sue-kee-no bah-vain-to): Peace and contentment for all living things.
- Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (nam-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo): Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect.
- Aho Mitakuye Oyasin (a-ho mi-tahk-way oy-yah-seen): oneness, interconnectedness, and harmony with all living things.
When you find a mantra that resonates, you can repeat it to yourself, quietly, out loud, or in your mind. You can do this while sitting, standing, walking, or even doing other tasks, like laundry. You can even incorporate your mantra into your physical yoga practice, saying it to yourself before and after your practice.
These are just five examples to get you started, but remember there is no limit to ways in which you can meditate. The most important thing is that it feels right for you. Meditation is a practice. And like any practice it takes time to get “good” at it. So don’t give up, and keep trying new ways until you find your way.