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I think it’s safe to say that meditation is trending. Mindfulness and meditation have become the cure-all for many diseases, and are the current shining stars in the wellness world. It seems as though every few weeks a new study or finding comes out about the benefits of practicing present-moment awareness. Stress relief, weight loss, heart health, increased happiness, heightened productivity and even rebuilding the brain’s gray matter in just 8 weeks are some of what seem to be the infinite perks of meditation.
Okay, we get it – everyone should meditate.
But, it’s not all that cut and dried. Meditation seems like second nature for some, but for many people, it can feel hard and unachievable. If you feel an aversion to meditation, you’re not alone. Many cringe at the thought of sitting in one spot and trying to “zen out.” Additionally, there are so many false beliefs about meditation that can easily create resistance.
For example, a common misconception is that meditation is difficult and you have to know how to stop “thinking thoughts.” That alone can be a scary concept!
The truth is, it’s actually quite easy to get started with a meditation practice. If you’d like to begin, but don’t know where to start, here are some tips to kickstart your path toward your new meditation routine.
Yup, that’s it! Anytime, anywhere. If you’re feeling stressed or just need a quick pick-me-up, stop and take a giant deep breath, fill your belly up with air, expand your rib cage and slowly release through the nose on the exhale. The slower your in-breath and out-breath, the better. Becoming conscious of your breathing opens up the door to mindfulness. We often forget to breathe fully and consciously because it can be an involuntary function. But the cool thing is that it’s also something that can become voluntary and controlled. Many gurus and sages teach that when you master breathing (through the practice of various pranayama techniques) you can balance your chakras and master your life. Now, I can’t promise that you will start levitating once you become a pranayama wizard, but what I can say is that the breath is the fastest way to draw your attention inward, into your body and the present moment. If there’s one easy way to start a mindfulness practice it’s to pay attention to your breath at any given moment.
Just like any other task or activity that you deem important, put meditation on the schedule. Play with meditation times and find what works best for you. Meditation is easiest for me immediately when I wake in the morning. I roll onto my back and place my awareness on my breath, repeat a silent mantra and set an intention for the day. Another prime time to meditate, in my experience, is before bed. Mornings and evenings are when my kids are asleep and there is quiet and fewer disturbances. Find what works for you and stick it on the calendar.
One of the easiest mantras to use is the sanskrit word OM. OM is the “sound of the universe”, so it’s an easy one to connect to for most adults and children alike. Repeat the word silently in your mind and “hear” the mantra as if someone is saying it to you. Mantras are an “instrument of the mind” and a way to train yourself to concentrate on one thing. When your mind begins to wander to a thought, sound in the environment or otherwise, simply guide your awareness back to the mantra. It’s just that simple. The more you practice using mantras, the easier it will become to not only focus on the mantra, but also increase concentration in your daily life, making zeroing in on one task or goal much easier.
If you’re stumped about where to start, I highly recommend Grokker.com, an online video wellness site that has tons of yoga and meditation classes. They have various meditation series’ led by experts that easily guide you through mindfulness practices. Everything from “meditation for surrender”, “getting focused” and even an energy meditation series is offered. I’ve noticed that my kids will also join in with these, so I’m able to put them on during the day.
I know what you’re thinking, “A meditation device!?” Yes, there are some great tools that can gently help you become more aware of your wandering mind and teach you to be in more control of your thoughts. MUSE, for example, is a brain-sensing headband that connects to your smart device to give you real-time feedback about your brain activity. Throughout your meditation, you will hear a soft breeze in the background and if your mind begins to have increased activity or thoughts, you will start to hear more turbulent wind. In this way, it trains your brain to calm your mind and bring it back to focus. There’s also the Meaning to Pause bracelet, which sends a gentle vibration to its wearer every 60-90 minutes to remind you to pause, breathe, and check in with your physical, mental and emotional state. This bracelet, though it may not be able to teach you to meditate, will encourage coming back to center and the present moment throughout the day, which is a great start.