When we think of meditation, we see a monk sitting, legs folded, eyes closed, silent, sitting still. We think that he is in complete peace, his thoughts aren’t going, and he’s not bothered by the flies and mosquitoes. His legs aren’t asleep and his back isn’t aching. From the outside, we think meditation is bliss. But when we try meditation on our own, we feel uncomfortable on the inside.
I go to group meditations once in a while. I’ve been to sound-healings where we are laying flat on the ground. I have also been to Mindfulness Meditations where we all sit around the room and are guided by a teacher. In the middle, I will open an eye and see everyone in their stillness with relaxed faces. Even while laying down, my bones start to ache after a while. While sitting, a cramp in my right shoulder develops. I get distracted by outside sounds and lights.
The point is, meditation is not all peace. It is learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable, being in pain, and training the mind to bring it to simplicity. It’s a practice. Some days you will succeed and some days you will have a difficult time. But as long as you are trying, you will receive the benefits and your mind will become stronger.
There are an infinite number of ways to meditate. So, don’t feel discouraged thinking that you are just limited to sitting in silence. You can . . .
- Lay down on your back (But not recommended in the morning because you have been laying down all night while you were sleeping)
- Concentrate on breathing in and out slowly
- Count in your head
- Concentrate on a color
- Walk slowly and mindfully around the room/anywhere
- Listen to music – any music! From Nirvana to Beethoven
- Listen to nature – the ocean, a stream, the wind, birds
- Dance (Look up Osho meditations)
- Sew, Stitch, Macrame (Or any other repetitive motion)
- Cook or bake
- Draw a mandala
- Color – there are adult coloring books
- Sing a mantra (I recommend the Gayatri Mantra)
- Create your own mantra and repeat in your head or out loud or even write it out – For example, “I am grateful” or “I am deserving of love”
- Listen to a guided meditation on Youtube
- Try Yoga Nidra
- Try Qi Gong
If you choose to sit or lay down in silence, feel free to use pillows or sit against a wall to make yourself comfortable. Meditation has no rules and you have to find what works for you. And when you feel pain or discomfort, be mindful of it and see how long you can last without moving or giving up.
Going to a meditation group can also be helpful because it forces you to stay with the practice. The group energy keeps everyone together and gives you the strength to keep going and maintain. Also, you can make new friends!
The easiest time to meditate is after the body has been moving and exerting itself. This is why we go into Savasana at the end of a yoga class. Working the body allows more space for the mind to calm down. So, no matter your physical practice, try to take 5 minutes to sit still at the end. If you’re having trouble finding stillness, do 20 jumping jacks and try again.
Meditation allows us the space to stop and just exist. To be one with ourselves and the universe. When we give ourselves this time and space, we can remove blockages, we can hear our intuition, we can feel the feelings we were repressing, and we can release tension and de-stress. It is easy for our mind to be a tangled web. Meditation teaches us that things don’t have to be so messy and cloudy. Actually, life is simple. We are blessed to be alive and to experience life. Not all experiences will be pleasurable and meditation can teach us how to accept the unpleasant and even appreciate it.
If you have any questions about meditation or need some advice or guidance in your practice, comment below.
When I encourage people to try yoga or explain that I am a yoga teacher, the most common response is “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible.” This is like me saying, “I cannot play basketball because I am not 6 feet tall,” or “I cannot run because I don’t have special, expensive sneakers designed for running.” It does not mean that we cannot participate in these activities, but, perhaps, we don’t have the natural talents or luxurious tools. Some people were born tall and others naturally flexible. We don’t invest in expensive equipment until we have invested our time. One of the beauties of yoga is all it requires is your body. You don’t need a fancy mat or fancy clothes…You can even do yoga naked.
So when I hear this response, it is just an excuse. A misconception. Yoga is not for only flexible people. Developing a flexible body is a result of practicing. So is strength and balance.
Yoga translates as union. It is a union between your body and mind. Between your spirit and the universal energy. It is the coming into being and the ceasing to be.
We move our body to the flow of our breath. We are not thinking about the laundry or work or the date we are going on tonight, we are thinking about our lungs inhaling and exhaling. Nothing in your mind. Empty your mind. Breathe. In. Out.
In order for us to go further in our practice, to gain more body control, we have to learn to cut our thoughts. Because we need concentration when we are upside down balancing on our hands. We need to teach our hips to relax when we’ve been in pigeon pose for over two minutes and our leg is going numb. Each time we hit the mat, we meet our threshold. We say hello to the wall and it is up to us to see if we can push it. Push the boundary even if it’s only a millimeter a day. Or don’t push it at all. Only you know what is best for your body.
Yoga is listening to your body. It is listening to your mind. It is surrendering. Letting go. Relaxing. Sweating. Breathing. Releasing. Existing. Healing. You can learn a lot about yourself by getting on the mat 1 hour a day. Because for that one hour all you are focusing on is moving your body and breathing. Your mind will wander. You will get frustrated. You will feel uncomfortable. This is why yoga is called a practice. Keep trying and those drops of bliss that you feel will turn to liters. And it will pour out onto the rest of your everyday life.
Be one with yourself. Learn about your body. Learn about your mind. Practice yoga.