Meditation is a practice. One that is done regularly, with the intention of calming the mind, creating focus and building resilience. Life throws you ups and downs, and challenges that will test you. For instance, pain, physical or emotional; conflict with loved ones; an intimidating job interview or a tight deadline. As result, we require tools that help us self-manage these challenges. These challenges, although different, require a sense of calm, hope, clarity and well-being.
How do we find this?
Through the art and practice of mindful living.
There is an old Cherokee tale about the two wolves. It goes like this. A grandmother is talking to her grandson. She says, “There are two wolves fighting inside everyone. One is anger, envy, regret, arrogance, greed, self-pity, lies, inferiority and resentment. The other wolf is positivity, love, non-judgement, compassion, humility, kindness, hope and empathy.”
Subsequently, the grandchild thinks about it, and asks, “who wins?”
She answers, “The one you feed.”
The lesson behind the fable
This ancient fable tells us a lot about scientists’ theories on neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability for us to continuously grow and change if we set our minds to it. Therefore, we can create new neural pathways, through practice, to rewire our brains. Just like learning a new skill. For example, just like cycling or learning an instrument, we can train our mind to be kinder, more compassionate and less reactive. More importantly, this will allow us to experience greater mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Simple Tips for Starting your Meditation Practice
- Schedule your meditation practice. Our busy lives often rule our world. Therefore, our back to back meetings and deadlines often leave no room for personal growth and relaxation. To get around this, schedule your meditation in every day for 1 week.
- Create a meditation time and space. Practice your meditation at the same time and place every day. Importantly, figure out a time and place that works for you. Ideally, it is quiet and you won’t be interrupted. For example, you could even corner off a little part of your room, dedicated to this practice. Similarly, have a meditation pillow that is set aside for your meditation time.
- Small steps. Set aside as little as 6 minutes for your daily meditation practice. Setting an objective goal, such as a certain amount of time, will make it easier for you to reach your goal. You could set a minimum and maximum. For example, 3 – 10 minutes per day. Remember, consistency, rather than time is key. In other words, rather meditate 6 minutes per day than 42 minutes once a week.
- Prepare your body. Find a comfortable position. For instance, this can be sitting, standing or lying down. Then, close your eyes or turn your gaze inwards. After that, take three deep breaths. Continue with easy, normal breaths and find a point in your breath to focus on throughout the meditation. This could be your stomach rising on your inhale, or the feeling of air flowing out of your nose.
- Use a guided practice. If you are new to meditation, and you’re not sure how to meditate, use a guided practice. They are an excellent way to get the most out of your time. There are a few fantastic apps, such as Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm and Simple Habit. On the other hand, reach out to me. I have a few great guided meditations that I’d be happy to share.
It’s important to remember
Be kind to yourself. It is normal to get distracted during a meditation. A thought, or worry or plan pops into your head. When you notice it, return to your meditation focus. Each time you bring yourself back to your focus, you are strengthening your mindfulness muscle.
Be accountable. How do you like to hold yourself accountable? Tell a friend you are about to do this and let them know once you’re done? Or partner up with a buddy and do it together. Or simply put it on your to-do-list and tick it off at the end of the day. Whatever works for you.
Reflect on the benefits. When you end your practice, jot down or take note on the benefits that arise from your practice. Is it the calmness you experience? Are you feeling happier or more present? Or are you satisfied simply by the fact that you have dedicated a few minutes to yourself? Acknowledge and then thank yourself.
Take a step, and start with step one!
If you’d like to read more about meditation and it’s health benefits, read my article called Monking Around with Meditation.