The ancient art of Meditation is a powerful method to unravel the causes of negative behavior and relieve chronic patterns of stress. With patience and practice meditation leads to more clarity, focus, and present minded awareness. Sometimes I wonder how I ever functioned without it!
If you're new to the idea of meditating here are some of my personal tips to get you started:
Begin with short sessions and gradually add time as you practice. (No longer than 5-10 minutes at first. Set a timer if necessary.) Just like you wouldn't be expected to swim a Great Lake the first day of swim lessons...Avoid trying to meditate for hours like an enlightened Monk your first try. I've noticed letting go of expectations in the beginning of my own sessions has allowed me to sink into a much deeper relaxation.
Find a quiet, peaceful, and relatively dark space. If possible create a small alter of photos of loved ones, inspirational art, or anything that has personal meaning to you. Light incense or candles if you like. Make it somewhere you want to spend time in. Disconnect! Put your phone on silent in another room...(it won't spontaneously combust without you.) Nature is nice too!... For Example... Meditate while floating on Paddle Board. ;) ;)
*(If you're sitting crossed legged and have tight hips place yoga blocks or folded blankets under your knees.)
Close your eyes and set an intention to be patient and gentle with yourself. It is normal to feel like your mind is racing. This happens to even the most advanced meditators at times! Continuously remind yourself of the reality of the moment... You're sitting still breathing and you can plan what to get your friend for her birthday later.
Begin to deepen the breath a bit and let the muscles of the face relax. Focus on breathing fully and evenly in and out of the nostrils. Slowly and repeatedly begin to release unnecessary tension and holding in EVERY part of your body.
If your mind is wandering avoid following a chain of thoughts and simply come back to the awareness of your breath.
Do not force or strain to breathe, be as smooth as possible. Most of us take too shallow breaths on a daily basis, particularly when we're under stress. The lungs and diaphragm also need practice to strengthen.
Alternative methods to hold your focus are to recite a positive affirmation/mantra (such as I am calm and balanced or Om) visualize a beautiful scene, pranayama (breath/energy movement) or the use of other beads. Find whatever invokes a personal sense of peace and don't be afraid try all sorts of techniques. Remember they are only tools to help you sink further into yourself.
Holding my concentration on mantras has also greatly improved my inner dialogue with myself. Think about how you talk to yourself sometimes... Would you ever hang out with someone who spoke so harshly about you? Of course not! We unknowingly repeat all sorts of mantras to ourselves daily and inevitably we start to believe them.. Even the bad ones! Meditation allows you observe your thoughts and transform the "not so kind ones" into positive reinforcement. For example instead of confirming your ego's belief that "you can't focus." Begin to silently repeat "I am calm and focused." You'll find the more you sit quietly with yourself, the more you naturally want to support yourself!
If you consistently make a meditation practice a priority in your routine, it will quickly become a vital part of your day! I will admit, sometimes I'd rather deep clean my entire apartment than sit with thoughts for five minutes! Developing a deeper relationship with yourself isn't always easy, but it is always worth it! Like anything, meditation gets sweeter with dedication and the guidance of a knowledgable teacher.
Om and Aloha!