There are certain things you should know about meditation, things that can bring you closer to this practice and closer to your own peace and serenity.
Several of my clients get stuck during their meditation practice and often give up because they have some sort of misconstrued notion of what meditation actually is. Perhaps it’s all the photos of people meditating looking so peaceful that throw them off. They themselves don’t feel very peaceful, so they must be doing it all wrong, right? Little do they know that what they’re feeling/thinking is very normal. Here is a quick and dirty guide to either get you started or recharge your less-broken-than-you-think meditation practice.
5 Things You Should Know About Meditation
1. You do not actually silence your thoughts.
You simply, or for some…not so simply, learn to watch them go by without attaching emotion to the thoughts. One of my meditation instructors described it as watching traffic without deciphering between the cars. When you realize you’ve gotten distracted by a certain thought, you simply come back to the breath and start again. No judgment.
“Meditation is listening to the Divine within.” ~ Edgar Cayce
2. You do not need to sit on a cushion with incense burning chanting mantras all night long.
Meditation doesn’t have to be all that formal or all that woowoo, actually. In fact, there is no one right way to meditate. Some people like to listen to music, whereas some practices teach you to focus on the breath. The best thing to do is to shop around and find what suits you best. There are free apps (I love Omvana), Pandora stations (Heart Meditations Radio), YouTube videos and many many more resources that will help along the way.
3. You do not need to block out a certain amount of time every day.
Simple meditations can be as short as a single conscious, “Thank You!” A quiet moment of gratitude is a great place to start. And that can happen on the subway, stuck in traffic, in line at the grocery store, waiting at the Dr’s office, you name it. Tuning in to just a few conscious breaths each day is more powerful than you think.
4. Meditation is not attached to any specific religion.
Sure, many of the tenants of Eastern meditation come from Buddhism or other religions, however, you do not need to believe in a certain doctrine in order to practice and receive the vast benefits of meditation. Vipassana meditation, for instance, is a practice originally taught by Gotama Buddha but has nothing to do with Buddhism per se. Vipassana meditation teaches you to focus on your breath and the physical sensations in/on your body that we often overlook, bridging the gap between mind and body.
5. Meditation is a constant practice.
In yoga, each class is different. Every time you enter the studio, you do so with a different body and mind, whether you are aware of it or not. Some days you might have more balance than others; some days you may feel stronger; some days you feel like a natural, probably a yogi in your past life, others more like a stubborn toddler, inflexible, ready to throw a tantrum in any posture. And that’s why they call it a practice. Meditation is just like that, which is all the more reason to develop patience, compassion, and forgiveness along the way.
I practice 15-30 minutes of meditation every day depending on my schedule. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes it’s whenever I can squeeze it in throughout the day. My ideal place is on the beach or at the park with no music, just my breath. But since I live in Brooklyn, NY I have to get creative. I use a few props to get me feeling more zen at home. I like incense or sage, and I love a good guided meditation to mix things up.
Onward! Or should I say inward 😉