Ok, ok, so your mind is “too busy for meditation.” Or, perhaps you tried it once and it didn’t work. You’re not alone. Meditation is not easy.
But here’s the thing: if your mind is busy – you know, that “monkey mind” is constantly chattering away – or you find yourself super stressed, anxious, worried, unfocused, or depressed, then meditation may help. Aaaaaaaa lot.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, tension, anxiety and enhance overall wellbeing. It heightens our sense of awareness, increases our ability to process information more efficiently, and allows us to access the “present moment.” When we are present, our mind and body shifts out of our stressed “fight or flight” state and into a “rest and digest” state.
But here’s what no one tells you: meditation takes practice and patience in order to experience the benefits. It is not something you just do once in a while when you feel like it. It’s like going to the gym: working out once certainly does not change your body composition. Getting fit takes time and patience. Similarly, taming that “monkey mind” does too, but…it’s worth it, and it can help you achieve the peace and stillness you crave.
Here's what you need to know: When we first begin meditating, our mind can chime in pretty frequently. It’s like a little child who is used to getting candy whenever he/she demands it. And then all of a sudden we stop giving the child candy, and a temper tantrum follows shortly after. Our mind will throw a little temper tantrum when we stop giving in to its demands. We need to expect this, and allow a space for this chatter to happen. The moment you become aware of your mind chatter, and take immediate action toward shifting your focus back to the breath/mantra/visualization, that is when the magic happens. Reclaim your focus. It is the training of your focus that is important, not trying to achieve the "perfect," thought-less state. Over time, our brain rewires itself to tune out that chatter and refocus more often. We become an observer of our thoughts, and focus on the mantra, visualization, sensations or whatever experience that particular meditation brings about. Know this: you are not your thoughts.
Not sure where to start? Try this simple, yet powerful foundational pranayama (breath work) meditation.
Perform this pranayama (breath work) meditation every morning upon waking and every evening. Make sure you are in a quiet spot with no disturbances, and silence your phone. Keep a journal next to you in case you need to jot things down, such as that work assignment you forgot to do! It helps to keep a clear head.
- Set a timer for 5 to 15 minutes. You may start with 5 minutes, but you may find it goes by very quickly. If you use your phone for a timer, be sure to silence incoming calls and text messages.
- Sit comfortably on a pillow or cushion so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. Sit in half-lotus pose or whichever cross-legged position is most comfortable. You can also sit in a chair with feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Place your hands comfortably on your thighs or knees. Stretch your spine tall, and relax your shoulders and your belly.
- Take a deep inhale through your nose and allow the air to fill up your lower abdomen. If it helps, you may visualize a balloon in your belly, fully inflating.
- Once you take a full inhale, hold your breath for a few moments (about 2 seconds).
- Then slowly, breathe out through your mouth, allowing your belly button to draw in toward your spine, releasing all the breath. You may visualize the ballon fully deflating.
- Hold the breath out for a few moments (2 seconds).
- Repeat this, fully inhaling followed by a brief hold, then exhaling followed by a brief hold.
- Be open to experiencing and noticing sensations and feelings throughout your body. Just observe them, and try not to judge whatever comes up for you. Keep your focus on the breath practice.
- As soon as you notice your monkey mind chattering away, come right back to focusing on the breath practice. Instead of succumbing to thoughts, focus on the rise and fall of your belly and expansion of your ribs with each inhale and exhale.
- Continue this until the timer is up. Afterwards, you may want to journal write about your experience or anything that might have come up for you.
- Perform this practice every day, either in the morning or evening (or both!). Stay committed, and the benefits will reveal themselves to you.