2013 Wellness Challenge Week 7 Recap: Meditate Every Day
I used to have a consistent meditation practice, but then I lost it.
All it takes is one skipped day to throw your routine completely off track; You skip one day and then before you know it you’ve completely lost your mojo. Five months later, you wonder what happened and vow to start anew. One month later, you still haven’t started and excuses abound.
That’s how personal practices work for most of us, especially ones of spiritual pursuit. We conceptualize that it’s good for us and we feel good after we’re done, but the measurable differences are hard to quantify day by day so it’s easy for us to say that we’ll be okay without it.
It’s the unseen effects on our energy and productivity that go unnoticed, the slight changes in overall mood and wellbeing that collectively over time become profound but are easy to miss on a daily basis.
How to Meditate
Meditation, just like yoga, comes in a lot of different varieties. Most people who decide to meditate (myself included) sit down one day on a cusion with a straight back (or as straight as they can possibly make it), close their eyes and start meditating. They have no idea what they’re doing or what they should actually be doing, except that isn’t the point of meditating to do nothing?
Sort of. At first, I didn’t know what I was doing and I thought it was silly to read more about how to do it. What was somebody going to tell me how to do? I ended up reading a book and doing a little research. Turns out there are infinite ways to meditate just like there are infinite ways to cook spaghetti. At the end, they all work, it just depends on who you listen to and what works best for your personality.
The biggest misconceptions about meditation is that the goal is to quiet your mind. This is an attractive selling point since everyone can relate to experiencing the crazy monkey mind that distracts us throughout our day. Problem is, erasing all our thoughts from our mind is not really the point. Show me the person who’s mind is absolutely quiet and I’ll pay you $500. No one’s mind ever goes completely blank until they die (although, my boyfriend claims he’s never thinking about anything without frou from practices to help him get there). The real point of meditation is to learn how to detach from all these thoughts so that we can continue to be productive individuals without being distracted by our to-do list.
Just sitting down and closing your eyes probably isn’t going to do much in the name of helping you detach from your thoughts.
Four Steps to Create Your Own Meditation Practice
A teacher of mine provided me a very specific 4-part meditation that involves a mantra (affirmation), chanting, pranayama (breathing) and then sitting in silence. The preparatory gestures are meant to help focus my mind on the task at hand and at the very least make me feel like I’m doing something.
Follow these 4 steps to create your own meditation in this same vein.
Step 1: Affirmation
Choose an affirmation that you can repeat to yourself silently. Make sure your affirmation is in the present tense. Examples include I am healthy, I am strong, I am kind, I am compassionate, etc. Repeat this mantra for a certain number of times (your choice, I do 12) and then move on to the next step.
Step 2: Chant or Sing
If you’re into Sanskrit chanting, grab some Krisna Das or Snatam Kaur and find a song that you really love. Sing along or chant to yourself a certain number of times (again, I do 12). It’s recommended you do this out loud so that you can reap the vibrational benefits, but I understand that sometimes there are other people around who might hear you and this can be awkward at first. If you must, sing along in your head.
Step 3: Breathe
You can easily complete this step by counting your breath. Choose the same number you’ve used for the last two steps and count your inhales and exhales. See if you can do this without getting distracted by miscellaneous thoughts.
Step 4: Sit in silence
Finally you’ve prepared to sit in silence. Grab a timer and start with 1 minute. If you start with too much time, you’ll be in agony over how difficult it is and never want to do it again. As you get used to the timing, gradually increase your sitting sessions until you feel comfortable ritualizing your practice for a certain number of minutes each morning, evening, etc.
Note: Try to meditate at the same time every day. This could be right when you get up, right before you take a shower, right before you go to bed, etc. This will ensure you create a habit and over time reduce the amount of willpower it takes to complete.
More Meditation Resources
Meditation is a devotional practice in that you are dedicating time to yourself for reflection and self-care. Once you’re able to detach from your thoughts, you’ll find deep insights pop up to help guide you through the toughest issues in your life. Prayer works in much the same way as meditation except that you’re not actively asking anyone for help in meditation, rather you’re trusting that the universe or God will provide the answer when the time is right. Remember, meditation helps you uncover the truth, and sometimes that can be very scary. Many of us have spent our entire lives running as far away as possible from our truth.
If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, I recommend the following fun resources to help get you started with a regular practice.
- Book: Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana
- Videos: Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project
- Challenges: Deepak Chopras Meditation Challenge
- Guided Meditation: 1-minute guided meditation
P.S. – Look for more guided meditation downloads from me in the future!
What is your favorite way to meditate? Let me know in the comments below!
Image credit: HaPe_Gera