This is the follow-up to yesterdays “Who, What, Where, When and Why” of meditation which you can find here. Now for the “How:”
How to Meditate:
Once you get the hang of it, it really is as simple as “sit your butt down, take a deep breath and just let go.” But, for the sake of clarity and to honor the practice, I am going to break it down into a few easy-to-remember steps you take to really get the most out of it. These are: Set, Sit, Adjust, Focus.
SET the stage – I begin by lighting a candle or two and sitting down on a folded yoga blanket, in my favorite spot in my bedroom. I don’t light the candle to watch the flame (although some people do!). Instead, I light them to help create the ambiance of a sacred, relaxing space. Some people like to hold healing stones or Mala beads. Choose what you are drawn to for your sacred space. Some people meditate in silence, but my preference is to listen to relaxing music, or a guided meditation with my earbuds in. This helps to drown out any distractions from mental chatter, or from others in the house or outside my window. This also allows me to set a timer on my phone so that I don’t have to worry about checking the clock.
SIT (or lie) down – The point is to get comfortable. There are people who will tell you that you must sit in lotus pose, or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap, or never to lay down. I say forget all of that. I like to sit in lotus pose or easy pose, and there is some science behind these postures, with the way energy flows through our body, but sometimes I lie down too. The important thing is to get in a position where you can relax, but still remain aware. (Lying down causes some people to just go ahead and take a snooze!)
ADJUST your posture – It is best to keep your spine in a position where it is as straight as is comfortable for you. If you don’t want to sit on the floor, a high-backed chair is better than a recliner. The brain and spinal cord make up our body’s central nervous system, which is the most complex system and has the huge job of being our entire body’s control center. I think of our spine as an electrical-chemical superhighway of sorts. Keeping it straight ensures that it is able to send nerve and hormone signals and other messages to the body in the most optimal way possible. So, keep that spine straight and get comfy, but if you choose to lie down, not so comfy that you fall asleep! It’s fine to adjust yourself throughout the meditation also if needed. As for your hands, you may place them where ever feels best. Gyan Mudra is a popular hand position to help center the mind. I like to rest my hands on my lap with palms facing upward to receive all the good energy.
FOCUS – It is very helpful to give your focus a direction, to establish a connection between your body, mind and spirit to begin. I being by focusing my attention at my third eye and by chanting three times “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo,” which means “I bow to the Divinity within.” This is a mantra we use in Kundalini yoga for tuning in to one’s Highest Self. Some people find it peaceful to envision themselves enveloped in a beautiful white light to begin. Others like to set an intention – what do you hope to gain from this meditation? Experience inner peace? Connect to God? To turn off your racing thoughts and give your mind a break? Choose what feels good to you. After you establish this connection, then just focus on the music or the words to the guided meditation you may be listening to, or on the rhythm of your breath. What you don’t want to focus on is any thoughts that may creep in. When thoughts appear, try to let them drift by as if they were clouds. Now is not the time to unravel that problem or make a mental grocery list or worry about your kids or your schedule or anything at all. This is undoubtedly the most challenging thing about meditation but it is also the very purpose of it. In time, you will strengthen that “muscle” that blows thoughts away like clouds in the wind and you will be able to experience a quiet mind whenever you desire. It really is like a muscle though, and we must practice to get there.
Be easy with this…start out with a length of time that is manageable, maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I recommend practicing everyday, but if you forget that’s okay too. You will start to notice improved results as you get better and better and eventually you won’t want to miss it because you feel so good afterwards and your brain “behaves” better throughout the day as a result.
To close, I will leave you with something I like to listen to on a regular basis. It’s not technically a guided meditation, but I use it as such because I’m a big fan of Abraham-Hicks and I like where my mind goes when I listen to their videos as my meditation. YouTube is a great resource for all kinds of music and guided meditations. Play around and have fun finding some of your own favorites!