Today I want to tip you on meditation, on why and on how to. Meditating is something that used to be a part of my every day, but somehow we fell apart and for a long time there was a huge distance between us. I used to meditate every day when I was younger, when I had less thins to do and when my life somehow seemed more “easy” and more manageable. Perhaps it seemed that way because I meditated; I’m more like to believe that it seemed that way because that was how it was though.
The last couple of months I have been trying to implement meditation into my life once again. I have not come to the point where I meditate n a daily basis yet, but I meditate roughly three – four times a week, sometimes only two if I am too busy – this is paradoxical, I know!
Implementing meditation into my every day life again has been somewhat difficult given that I had to find the time to do it – when you are 28, time is something you need more of! The reason why has been underway for quite a long time, and current I am doing my thesis in Art History while I am starting my own little business, working a part time job and besides that we have just moved into a new apartment, and we have not yet settled in! I need more focus, I need more concentration, I need more energy and I need to be able to have a good night’s sleep, not only once in a while but every single night.
The list of benefits when meditating is long and I’ll just let you in on the most important ones; or, the ones I think is essential:
You will improve your concentration and your focus. Mediation will help you clear your mind and put you in a state of what I like to call ‘nothingness‘. This state will empty your mind for what needs to be freed; too many thoughts on this and that and too many worries. When emptying your mind you will feel ready to ‘seize the day’ or ‘seize your to-do list‘, you will become more productive and more creative, given that your mind will be ready and cleared to go.
When you are meditation you are focusing exactly on what is now. You are focusing on the present moment, and if you’d like, you can focus on the to-do’s and experiences you are in the midst of. I have experienced that by meditating, difficult decisions become easier to handle and difficult experiences become easier to overcome. Decisions ultimately become easer given that you reflect upon them and given that you (also) are able to put them away for a while to think of something else. Sometimes you really do need to put difficult things away and let your mind focus on something completely different, in this way you will be able to turn to your ‘difficult things or decisions’ again and somehow you’ll find that you have found a solution or a new path to enter.
It functions as a stress-reducer. Reducing stress ultimately improves your overall health. By reducing stress you will be able to keep an overview and let go of your worries more easier.
You will improve your overall health – not only by reducing your stress levels, too because it keeps down anxiety and once again: stress.
You will experience more self-awareness. This enhanced awareness of yourself will provide you with a better understanding of why you do as you do, why you think the way you think and why you say what you say and act as you act. Furthermore you will achieve a better understanding of your personal values and of your goals in life.
You will experience that your relations to the people surrounding you will be improved, given that you will gain more patience and focus on your presence in your every day life. This will lead to better and improved relationships with your partner, your family and friends. You will most likely experience that you will be able to cut down on commenting on or thinking about insignificant things that might have nagged you before, and you will improve your understanding of other people and their way of acting or feeling the way they do.
You will gain more control over your own thoughts and behaviour. When you are focusing on the present moment you will be able to chose which thoughts you want to focus on, you will be able to take a moment each day to think about your way of being and your way of acting towards yourself and the people around you. You will be able to not let yourself be controlled by habits, other people or a third thing, and in stead you will be given a freedom that you might didn’t know you had. This is one amazing part, and I am not quite entirely confidential with it yet, nevertheless I have experienced a few times now that I chose my habits to become habits and that I can reverse in order to let my habits become de-habits and just chose from a free mind – does that make any sense to you?
The ‘how to’ on mediation is obviously different from person to person. You’ll have to find a way that works for you. Sure you can browse for inspiration elsewhere but when you have fund your way you will know! It will simply make more sense to you and it will give you so much more than what you have tried out beforehand.
The list below is my experiences of what truly works for me, maybe it will work for you to.
This first one is one of my favourites, especially if I’m stressed out, feeling overwhelmed and need to retrieve my focus. My inspiration comes from the ayurvedic way of living, practising mindfulness, and finding my inner peace. It s called Trataka, which roughly means the focused eyes or the focused look, even though the latter sounds somewhat ridicoulous. Either way it works for me, and it even works (very well!) when doing visualisations. This is how to do it: put a candlelight on a table and be sure to keep it in line with your eyes. If it’s a coffee table, sit on the floor, maybe on a pillow, and straighten your back and neck. If it’s on a dining table, sit on a chair and likewise straighten your back and neck (this is not actually a part of the exercise, it will just improve your posture). Now, be sure that you sit about one meter (one yard, three feet) away from the candle light and begin to focus on the flame. It might help you to focus on the movement of the flame. Try not to blink too much and just keep you focus. If your mind starts wandering and your eyes likewise, make sure to ‘pull them back’ to the flame just to focus on it. You might find that you are only thinking about the flame and the movements of it, this I know, is a bit weird, but it will do you good. You might experience that you have thought on something that hasn’t crossed your mind for months, or that you, at te end of the meditation have found a solution to a problem, or even that you have forgotten all about that time and space. This is good. If you don’t succeed in the first go, don’t hesitate to try again, and again, and again. It took me quite a while to find the calmness to just sit there and focus. Sometimes I meditate this way for 10 minutes, sometimes for twenty, find your balance ad find your own way to do it.
Another exercise that I have gotten from both the ayurvedic way of life and from yoga is the Prana vidya. You might already know it or at least some parts of it, given that it is used in many sports and as the meditation ending of a yoga class.
Lie down on a mat, the floor, your bed the grass or wherever you’d like, close your eyes and begin to ‘scan’ your body. Focus on your toes and make sure they are totally relaxed, then focus on your feet, your ankles, your shin and lower leg, your knees, thighs, etc. Make sure all the parts you focus on are entirely relaxed. Now, chose a place on your body where you’s like to consider and feel your breath; this might be the tip of your nose, your stomach, your forehead or whatever you’d like. You have to be consequent with your choice and make sure you chose the exact same place every time you do this exercise ein order to make progress. I chose my chest, here I am able to really feel my breath, breathing in and breathing out. Now focus on your breath, feel your breath, listen to your breath, imagine how air is filled into your lungs, how it spreads to your veins and carries it around to every part of your body, every cell, evert fiber of your body. Now pay good attention to your breath and feel how it becomes deeper and slower. Just focus on your breath and whenever your thoughts begin to wander, just lure them back to your breath. This is the only thing you need to think about; your breath. Just breathe and focus.
Do chores with purpose: do the laundry and pay really good attention the wonderful smell of newly washed clothes, the feeling of the warm clothing coming out of the dryer, the, the colours, the way it looks and the way it feel. Just focus on your senses and what exactly is happening in the now, the present moment. This you can easily do on a daily basis; do the dishes and focus on the smell, the warm water, the way your dishes become clean, etc., when drying or straightening your hair while focusing on the heat, the way the straightener makes your hair look, etc., when you’re cleaning, walking the dog or drinking a cup of tea. It’s all about paying really good attention.
The ‘quick-fix’ colouring book
If you don’t feel like lying down or looking at a candle, get yourself a colouring book. There’s some really nice ones out there and all you’ll have to par attention to is to colour whichever part of the print you’d like to colour. When doing so pay attention to how the colours are colouring the paper, how you can control the tone of the colour and remember pay attention to the sound of it, the sound is so meditative in itself and so calming.
Doing yoga is one of my ultimate meditational needs. It be as simple as three to five sun salutations or as long as a full hatha or ashtanga programme. It’s all up to you, your needs and your time. I often do some sun salutations during the day. It opens up my body and calms my mind, given that I only have to focus on my breath and my moves. It is a wonderful way of ‘coming back’ or ‘finding yourself’ during busy days. Just remember to block everything else out in order to keep your focus.
Happy meditation, Anna