your meditation practice: a beginning
Meditation is a simple yet powerful tool to release stress, cultivate peace, and is ultimately a journey inward to discover who you really are. Many of us associate ourselves with the roles we play each day (parent, child, partner, supervisor, employee, etc.) but we are much more than that. Ask yourself the question “who am I?” and notice the answers that come up. Are your answers related to your name, job title or role you play in your family? Those roles are all impermanent. What will happen to you when those roles evolve or you don’t have a job anymore? Will you be nothing? Of course not.
When we identify ourselves with our jobs, we are dependent on other people’s approval. Meditation helps us discover inner peace that is independent on outer circumstances. We will still care about what other people think but will experience less inner turbulence.
Research shows we have about 70,000 thoughts per day. They are coming in every second and they are usually the same thoughts we had the day before. Meditation is not about stopping these thoughts. It is about witnessing them and letting them go. It is about creating space in between those 70,000 thoughts and slipping into the space of silence where there is the possibility of a new, unconditioned thought to arise.
How to practice?
There are many different styles of meditation, just like there are many different styles of yoga. My meditation practice consists of using a mantra. A mantra is a tool to focus the mind onto one thought. The mantra is a thought but we are not attaching meaning to it. Imagine if we used a mantra like “whole foods”. Close your eyes and silently repeat whole foods to yourself. What came up? Probably a lot of stuff about yummy avocados and coconut water. My mantra does not ignite more thoughts. It is the subtle anchor to release all the other thoughts. Eventually, we will let go of the mantra as well and slip into the space between thoughts.
Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. This does not need to be on the floor. Take several deep breaths before you begin, keeping your awareness at your breath. Let go of the controlled breath and invite the silent repetition of your mantra. If you do not have a mantra, silently repeat “one” on your inhale and “two” on your exhale. Let the mantra be effortless, as if you were hearing it in the background of your awareness. At some point you will notice your awareness drifting to other thoughts, sounds, or a sensation in the body. Gently let that thought go and come back to the repetition of the mantra. When coming out of your meditation, take a minute or two before opening your eyes and moving back into activity.
When to practice?
It is important to make meditation a part of your daily routine so it becomes a habit. It is ideal to practice at sunrise and sunset. The more we can align ourselves with nature, the more balanced we feel. This can be challenging though so find a time that works best for you. My suggestion for the morning is:
- Wake up
- Drink a glass of room temperature water with lemon
- Move the body a bit, this could be a forward fold, downward dog, something gentle
This may not be the best routine for you. You may need to walk your dog prior to meditation or nurse your newborn baby. Walk your dog or feed your child, without your phone. Listen to the sounds of nature and your environment. After your meditation, you can enjoy your coffee, shower, e-mails, and everything else you do in the morning.
For the afternoon meditation, fit it in after work but before your dinner/cocktail.
How long should I meditate for?
This week, meditate for 5 minutes morning and evening. If you’re settling in with your meditations and they are feeling comfortable, try 10 minutes the following week, 15 minutes the third and fourth week. If this is overwhelming, stick to 5 minutes. These are suggestions. Any time is better than no time.
Where to sit?
Find a quiet place where you can sit for the duration of your meditation uninterrupted. My morning meditation, as long as I wake up before our children, is in the living room on a big, comfy chair. If I’ve slept in, I will sit upright in bed. In the afternoon, sometimes my meditation is in the car before I pick up our girls. Yours may be on a plane. Eliminate the obstacles you create so you can sit twice a day, every day.
What experiences will I have in meditation?
- Repetition of the mantra
- Slipping into the space between thoughts
- Falling asleep
The first three experiences will happen in every meditation you have, no matter how long you’ve been meditating for. Someone who has been meditating for thirty years will have thoughts. Thoughts mean you are alive! You will always have thoughts but you are not your thoughts.
When I first started meditating 15 years ago, I thought I was meditating for some flashy experience. I meditate so I am more present, mindful, loving, patient and compassionate during all the non-meditating hours of the day. Basically, to tame the bitch that lives in my head 🙂
Enjoy this journey inward. If you miss a meditation, don’t beat yourself up. Remember, you are only one meditation away from your daily practice.