This day in age is breeding a lot of mental health issues because we struggle to find stillness and peace in the chaos. It doesn’t help with the noise of social media, catty politics, and the negativity of news. During this winter season, it’s essential to find time for solitude and calm by cultivating this wonderful mindfulness practice.
About a month ago, I went on a two day retreat at a Buddhist monastery in Mt. Baldi. At this wonderful retreat, I not only learned how to properly meditate, but I also learned incredible tools to train the mind to get back to the present moment whilst meditating. Today, I hope to share these tools with you.
I always wanted to get into meditation but didn’t understand it, have the patience or “time”, and didn’t enjoy the sitting aspect. I want to note that meditation isn’t necessarily about being blank-minded; it is about observing your thoughts and focusing on the breath. Also, you may not get results in the beginning because again it is a practice. Remember to be kind and graceful towards yourself whenever doing something new.
The type of meditation I’ll be explaining is seated. Something I didn’t know was that you shouldn’t really sit cross-legged (unless doing lotus pose) and should rather place each shin parallel to each other. This is called the Burmese position. It’s much more comfortable and viable for all body types. Also, I was mistaken in thinking that I have to straight-up sit on the floor. Actually, this is bad for the posture and a cushion is needed under the tail bone to tilt the pelvis forward and make it easier to stay upright. I lastly learned to place my palms up on my knees with my thumb and pointer finger touching to create an energetic seal (this is one of many hand positions) Once I met these three conditions, I found a lot more comfort and excitement in my practice!
20 minutes has been found as the golden amount of time for meditation but people can find usefulness in as little as 5 minutes! I have been meditating for almost 3 weeks now and I must say that it does get easier and I actually look forward to meditating now. I prefer to do it in the morning but on my low days, I will also incorporate guided meditations throughout the day.
One huge tip in conquering meditation is labeling. When a thought or stream of thoughts interrupt your focus while meditating, simply label the thought in 1-2 words and you will notice it will fade away as you get back to your breath. The main goal of meditating in my opinion is to focus on your breath as much as you can. However, our brains are made to think so labeling helps us redirect back to the present moment. If I am thinking about what I want to eat later, I can gently say in my mind “food” or “future mind” and the thought will dissipate.
Another tool is to use visualizations, mantras, and connection to your body. My favorite visualization is to look at myself from the outside and see myself surrounded by a light yellow glow that shines brighter and wider with each breath I take. My favorite mantra statements are “I am as I am. May I accept myself as I am. Things are as they are. May I accept things as they are.” Make sure whether you’re speaking mantras or labeling that you use a gentle, soothing, soft tone of voice. As a last resort, you can check into the body and the 5 senses.
The Insight Timer app is truly amazing. It is like a database of guided meditations and courses as well as a great timer. Thanks to Melanie Yetter and Jeny-Rae Vidal of Yogabody Studios for teaching me this life-changing information and leading the retreat. I hope you decide to integrate some meditation in your life because we are not meant to stress as much as we do.