It Begins with Mindfulness: Finding the Best Meditative Practice

When many people hear “meditation” their first thought goes to someone sitting cross legged on a small rug in complete silence with incense burning in the background.

I know I did.

But meditation is one of those things where it’s different things for different folks. So if you look at it in that way, it becomes much easier for you to see yourself doing it and therefore benefiting from it.  I try to meditate every day. It’s an important part of my selfcare regiment and helps me combat the daily stresses of life. 

I’ve been familiar with meditating for quite a few years and was practicing only as needed. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I began incorporating it into my everyday life. My anxiety had reached an all time high and my depression was taking me to all time lows. The mix of these two (unmanaged) were beginning to take a seriously affect on me and was basically kicked my ass on a regular basis.

My life was spiraling. My health (mentally and physically) was deteriorating. I had difficulty handling home, work, family, friends.. ok, EVERYTHING.

And yoga saved my life.

When I began yogi training, it became apparent that meditation and yoga went hand in hand.  The idea was to mix breathing, meditation, and asanas (physical yoga sequences) together so that I could create holistic balance of mind body and spirit.  My instructors always championed the idea that self love and self care grows exponentially with stillness and that learning the art of meditation was essential. 

However in all my years of practicing it never really hit home until I was truly suffering.. 

and so it began.

Meditation is a unique, personal practice and can therefore look different from person to person. And, it even looks different when your needs are different.

Here are a few ways to incorporate meditative practices in your life.

Traditional

Begin by carving out at least 5 to 10 mins a day.  Set a timer on your phone or watch to help keep track of time. If you’re really into it you’ll be surprised by how much time passes! 

Lay down in a softly lit place with either your lower back or neck supported. Or, if you prefer sitting, do so with both feet flat on the ground in front of you, back fully supported and your arms in a neutral position. Close your eyes and begin to take deep meaningful breaths. 

Breathe in for seven seconds, hold for two, and breathe out for another eight seconds. And if you’re not used to deep breathing (and that rhythm is too intense) try four seconds in, one second hold, and five seconds out. Always remember to breathe out more than you breathe in. This helps with stabilizing your presence.

Then, focus on being in the here and now. Pay attention to the way your limbs feel, how your heart is beating, the temperature of the room and how it contrasts to your body. 

Clear your mind and relax. 

Hold Your Gaze

Gazing meditation is helpful when closing your eyes is either not possible or uncomfortable. To do this type of meditative practice you first start by sitting upright either on the floor or in a chair. Your back is straight, with neck and back aligned. Legs and arms are neutral and relaxed.  

At this point, instead of closing your eyes, you will focus them on one stationary object. It can be a spot on the wall, an object you’ve placed in direct eyeline (like a paper weight or ball), or even something as simple as the flame of candle. 

Shut out all other things in the world but this object. 

From here, you will alternate between holding your gaze on the object and lowering your gaze (or closing your eyes) for a moment and reflecting on what you were just focused on. The idea of this practice is to workout your senses. By focusing on the object and then breaking that focus, you are gently training both your concentration and visualization skills. 

“If you can focus your eyes, you can focus your mind.”

-Unknown

Does Music Give You Life?

If being in total silence and solitude isn’t your thing, try using music. Take the same preparatory actions as traditional meditation, but instead of quietness, play some soft music. Jazz, Classical, or anything instrumental with soulful instrumentation (like drums or stringed instruments) is ideal. However, in all honesty, you could really use any type of low tempo music that doesn’t have words (or at least very many words). 

What you want to be careful of when choosing your tunes is that you’re picking something that will sooth your energy. It’s hard to achieve stillness and clarity when there are words in a song because words tend to paint pictures and/or access memories. Two things that will work against you.

Find Guidance

Guided meditation is also a good way of meditating when you don’t want to be in silence. With this method, you can either be sitting or laying down with support. Your eyes can be open and lowered or closed. And from here, you are now relying on someone else’s words to help you find stillness. 

Good practice would be for your guide to rest your physical body by helping you focus internally. You’d then begin to explore outside of yourself by visualizing places or things that bring calmness. And from there, stillness. 

These days there are so many ways of finding guided meditation. You can of course go to Youtube and search for a voice that “speaks to you”, but there are also apps. 

Two of favorite apps are Calm and Headspace. Both are free to download and have free exercises. However, you can also upgrade to a paid subscription for access to more specialized practices.

If none of these methods speak to you THAT’S OK! As I said before, there is no “right” or “best” way to meditate. It’s all about finding a good fit between your personality and needs.

Sometimes you need stillness on the train for your commute to work to help you feel relaxed and ready for productive day. Or you may want to wind down before bed after a busy day so that you can fully rest. You may even just need a pick me up in the afternoon after a big presentation in that morning. 

In any case, some form of meditation should work. In fact, research has shown that meditation helps alleviate stress and reduces anxiety and depression.  So what harm would it do to just being open to it?

Give it a honest try. And if none of these work for you, find some other way to practice mindfulness and meditation.. There are literally hundreds of ways to do this. I would even suggest talking to your counselor about it!

And P.S..

If you don’t have a therapist, get one. Therapy is for Everyone.

 

 

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