When planning our trip to India I knew from the beginning on what I would like to focus on developing for myself during this time: my meditation practice. After a month here in India it has developed tremendously and I feel excited to be sharing my insights on meditation with you and some tips for those who are interested in trying it out or developing their existing meditation practice.
Meditating has been the hardest part of my yoga path from the beginning on. I seem calm and relaxed to many people, which I am most of the time…but there is something inside of me that isn’t that calm and relaxed. That something was a mind full of thoughts, which I had developed over years, like many of us. When I sat down to focus and concentrate my mind started to go crazy and instead of the thought processes slowing down and me being able to observe my thoughts they just accelerated and almost took over. I did have times where meditating came a bit easier and I could already feel the amazing benefits it has. Still, I felt that there was some unrest inside and something telling me that it wants to calm but can’t. So our India trip just seemed to be the perfect opportunity to approach this matter with ease. Maybe you can connect to my experience or you have formed ideas that keep you away from practicing meditation. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing these tips can surely help you.
Let go of expectations
Meditation these days is often advertised as the magic recipe for stress reduction, tiredness, or frustration. What extremely helped my meditation practice was to approach the practice with much more ease, letting go of all of the apparent benefits meditation has and just allowing myself to experience it. Since I have done that meditation for me completely changed. I didn’t have all these negatively worded expectations in my head that I am supposed to experience and could simply enjoy the process and make my own experience.
Secondly, after I started experiencing benefits without expectations and labels chosen by others I asked myself what the benefits of meditation are for me worded positively. So instead of mentioning what meditation ‘fights’ I asked myself, what does it give me. Some of the great effects for me are a sense of calmness, feeling that everything is ok, and the sensation that time stops, which makes me feel very peaceful. I also feel a sense of excitement coming from my belly, which I get almost right after meditating. Other benefits for me are that I am able to clearly see ideas (either during meditation or right after) I have and to be able to concentrate very well when working on them, especially during the hours after meditation.
Find your way
Meditation makes your mind calmer, positive, and peaceful by concentrating and not giving importance to the thoughts running through our head. By concentrating on one thing we train ourselves to focus and not to drift away with our thoughts, as we tend to do so easily. Knowing this now you can think of a form of meditation that best works for you. Many of us have a picture in our head of a month or ‘yogi’ sitting for hours with closed eyes without moving and use it as a reference for meditation. This person might be in a meditative state, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. There is no one single form of meditation or minimum time required in order to meditate. You can start with two minutes a day and then slowly extend that number. Here are a few examples of forms of meditation, just to get you inspired. You can come up with anything that works for you:
- sit down on a chair or floor (whatever is more comfortable for you), close your eyes and just count your breath.
- turn on a candle, sit down comfortably and stare at the fire without blinking until your eyes burn too much that you have to close them. Focus on the picture of the fire that you will keep seeing also with closed eyes.
- draw, paint, or colour a pre-drawn drawing fully concentrated.
- chose a spot outside in the nature you particularly love. Sit comfortably, breath deeply and just focus on one of the things around you.
- go for a walk, deepen your breath and either count your breath or the steps.
- try out a guided meditation. In a guided meditation someone talks you through and this can help you in focusing and concentrating. You can find plenty online. Find one that you connect to.
As you can see there are so many different ways of meditating and you are not restricted to sitting in lotus position on the floor without moving. Chose what works for you, location wise, focus wise, and posture wise. It is about you and your experience. Also, remember to bring your focus back whenever it starts to wonder. This can happen anytime during meditation. Just notice it and concentrate on one single thing again.
When starting your meditation journey be patient with the development. It could be that sitting and concentrating comes very easy to you and that you might experience some benefits straight away. It could also be though that it will take some time. Do not expect something magic to happen from the beginning on. We are human beings and by nature most developments unfold slowly, step by step. While in the modern world we are used to fast and quick changes, the practice of meditation takes us back to nature. It is the same with yoga bodily postures; consistent practice will bring long lasting developments. I like to compare it with building up a muscle. You won’t be able to lift 10s of kilos within a week, but within an extended period of time. Just as we need to train our muscles so do we need to train our mind.
Become aware of how you’re feeling and the small developments throughout your meditation practice
Meditation offers a great space for self-observation. When our mind becomes still we are able to get in touch with our true self. Sometimes there will be thoughts or emotions coming up, which you wouldn’t have expected or didn’t even consciously know of. Just allow these things to come up and to be released. I am a big fan of writing things down. I truly believe that it helps to let go and confront yourself with whatever it is. If you can connect to this idea or are just open to trying it out have a little book by your side and after you finished your meditation you can write down your experience, thoughts, emotions, and also how you were feeling during the meditation. If you notice any positive changes throughout the day write them down as well. Use the diary as a helper, not as a main component of your meditation practice. During meditation, don’t think about writing things down or memorizing things. Then your meditation would lose a lot of its power.
One of the most important things I have learned when I let go of all the assumptions around meditation, and approached it with ease and an openness, is that it’s actually really simple and personal. You just start and will automatically develop your own way and experience in your own time.
How about trying it out right now? Just go for it. Turn off your computer or lock your phone right now. Set your alarm clock so that it rings in 5 minutes. Close your eyes, wherever you are and just focus on your breath by either focusing on feeling it or counting it. Enjoy the experience and see whether this kind of meditation works for you.