The Key To Developing A Meaningful Meditation Practice
Friends ask me all the time, “how do you meditate?!” They can’t believe that I can sit in silence every day without letting my mind wander. Most people tell me they can’t stop the thoughts in their head long enough to sit and meditate. I tell people that this is exactly why I meditate! The thoughts in our mind will always be there. Of course, my thoughts wander too. The key to meditation then is finding the gaps in those thoughts to create peace within your mind. This space will grow over time and eventually allow you to create new neural pathways in your brain that change how you react in certain situations. Meditation creates space in your mind for you to pause and decide how you will react instead of living in a reactionary state controlled by your past experiences.
How did I get started? Honestly, I was living under a thick cloud of depression and anxiety. Most days I felt like I had a weight on my chest. Sometimes it hurt to breathe. The quality of my breath was shallow- the air felt like it reached my throat, but it never seemed to fill my lungs. I was always braced and waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I was living without any quality of life. At my worst, I spent days fighting back tears just trying to get through each moment. I finally had enough. I had to take action. I reached out to a friend who I knew had some experience with meditation and she connected me to a dear teacher who introduced me to Heartfulness meditation. This is a wonderful meditation practice that focuses on living life from the light and love in our heart. What a beautiful place to begin again!
I came to my teacher with a completely open mind and heart. She instructed that we would sit together in silent meditation for about an hour for three consecutive days. From there, I would meditate each day on my own in the mornings. We would meet regularly after that to deepen my practice. After my very first session with her, I went home and slept with the peace a child. The relief was so sweet. Being able to let go for a short time mentally put my physical body into a total state of relaxation. I knew this was only the beginning of a life-changing practice. I now meditate each morning for about 10 minutes. I crave the practice and notice I feel more anxious and less grounded throughout my day if I miss a meditation.
Of course, my path to meditation was filled with challenges. When I started meditating alone each day, it felt bizarre to sit alone in silence with my eyes closed. I often needed guided meditations to help me become more comfortable with the practice. As a hectic work schedule and travel interrupt my practice, I turn to meditation apps to help me stay on track when I’m on the road. I also practice with a personal mantra given to me by my teacher. When my thoughts begin to wander, I repeat the mantra with each breath. It’s an ever-evolving practice whose rewards are infinite.
So how can you get started? Here are some basic tips for beginners to develop a meaningful meditation practice:
• Start with guided meditations: The Chopra Center offers beautiful guided meditations for any point in your journey, especially when it feels too uncomfortable to sit in silence
• Find a center or teacher: Research your local community to find a meditation center or teacher that connects with you
• Choose a mantra: Speak to a meditation teacher about a mantra (or short phrase) that reflects what the practice means to you or use one from a guided meditation
• Focus on the breath: Bringing your attention to your inhales and exhales during meditation is a great way to draw your focus away from your wandering thoughts
• Create a sacred place in your home to practice: Dedicate a special place where you will sit each day, even if it’s on your couch under your favorite blanket
• Begin again (always): If you miss a day, can’t focus during meditation, or keep checking your timer- it’s all totally normal!
In developing a meaningful meditation practice, remember that each person’s journey is unique. Most importantly, each new day is a chance to begin again. Be willing to forgive yourself and try again the next day. Start over as many times as you need. It is from this place your practice will truly blossom.
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