It's safe to say that yoga has become widely accepted in our Western society in the past decades. Perhaps for those who might not otherwise partake in an ancient Eastern practice, taking a yoga class is like taking an exercise class. Yoga will keep you fit, and we all know that physical movement is good to keep the body healthy but we need to show our minds the same love that we have for our bodies. Developing a daily practice can seem daunting at first. I love to share my personal journey to help people understand that developing supportive practices does not happen overnight or only to people who have been immersed in deep self care their whole lives. I was raised not knowing a thing about any of this and I spent a good amount of my youth not taking good care of my body or my mind. Yet we all have to start somewhere. We can all look at others and think "easy for them" or "it's not even worth it, I'll never be that disciplined". Truth is, no matter where you are at this exact moment in your life, you deserve to develop a meditation practice that will support you throughout your days. I've put together some tips and insights I've learned along the way in my years of building a steady, supportive meditation practice. Enjoy!
It's not about clearing your mind or stopping all thoughts
There is a common myth that holds us back from meditating that in order to do it "right" you must clear your mind of all thoughts. Try something for me right now, close your eyes, take a slow deep breath, and clear your mind of all thoughts. Done? Cool. How did that work out for you? My guess is that the instant your eyes closed and put effort into clearing your mind, your mind reacted with roughly 100 thoughts, memories, ruminations and song lyrics all at once. The mind doesn't like to be told what to do and it will never be clear of all thoughts. The trick instead is to sit back and let the thoughts come and go without grabbing hold of them in any way. That's it. When we learn to allow the thoughts to just be, they lose their control over us. We can start to notice when we are being swept away in the river of thoughts and we can come back to the only thing we ever really have- the present moment.
Find what works best for you
There are many different methods of meditation out there, so feel free to try out different ones until something clicks. And for some, even after that click, you may want to continue trying out different methods and practices. I never stick with one lineage of meditation or yoga and I used to think that made me flighty or undisciplined. Turns out I am just a Gemini and I've decided to embrace it instead, and accept that I love trying new things. But back to you- here are a few different schools of meditation with free guided practices, maybe one of them will work for you. 10% Happier and Headspace are two cool, modern and simple apps with guided meditations. You may want to check out Metta Loving Kindness Meditation which is a Buddhist practice (I will save a whole post to write about this amazing practice in the future). There is also TM Transcendental Meditation which is a mantra based meditation I have yet to try - but this is what the Beatles were learning while they were in India.
You don't have to sit on the floor
You know all of those poses from yoga class? Turns out they had a very specific purpose behind them. The ancient yogis kept their bodies strong and limber so they could sit in a cross legged or lotus position to meditate for long periods of time. However, if you've taken my yoga classes or read up on my blog, you will know that I never ever want someone to not reap the benefits of yoga and meditations due to inflexibility. So, if sitting cross legged is too much for you, sit your butt down on a chair and get meditating. There! A big scary excuse solved! You're welcome.
5-10 minutes a day can have a huge impact
We tend to be all or nothing don't we? Because we can't find 45 minutes to sit and meditate in a day, we do nothing at all. The biggest gift I gave myself in my meditation journey was permission to do as much or as little as I could squeeze into my morning. Some days that meant setting a timer for 5 minutes. We all have 5 minutes if we choose. Five minutes could just as easily be spent scrolling Instagram or deciding what to watch on Netflix. Five minutes. Start there. Once you start feeling good and noticing the effects those five minutes are having, you may even try ten minutes. It could grow from there, or maybe it won't. And that's okay! Any time you spend on cultivating yourself through meditation will do wonders.
It's not about achieving anything
This can be a hard one to wrap the mind around. In our society, goals and achievement are what tend to drive us. When this way of thinking crosses over into our self care routines, we can set ourselves up for disappointment. I used to think that I had to practice yoga and meditate for at least an hour every morning or it wasn't good enough. After sitting through a meditation session in which my mind was racing, I would think I had failed. On the flip side, when my mind quieted during a session I would think that I had done it right. When we approach our practices as a goal to achieve it sends the message that we are searching for something outside of ourselves to get better. But yoga and meditation share the same beautiful truth - that they are practices that help us peel away the layers to get to the wise, knowing and peaceful version of ourselves that is always within.
If any of this has piqued your interest but using an app or following along with a class seems like too much, try this out. Simply find a quiet space, sit comfortably in a chair or cross legged on the floor, turn off your phone ringer and set a timer for 1-5 minutes. Then breathe. Allow the breath to come and go through your nose and keep your mouth closed and gently smile. Bring your attention to the tip of your nostrils and notice how the breath is cooler on each inhale and warmer on each exhale. Every time you notice your mind has been wandering (which it will), bring your attention back to your inhales and exhales. That's it! Keep this up until your timer goes off and take a second to notice your state. After even a few minutes you may feel calmer and refreshed.
Give it a try and leave a comment letting me know how it went!