Meditation: Let’s Start At The Beginning
You get home after a long, stressful day of work and think, “what can I do to break this cycle?” So in an attempt to find some balance, you decide to practice meditating. You turn off the TV, sit down, close your eyes and begin. Thoughts start to flood your mind; “I’m tired, what did that person mean when they said that today, what should I eat for dinner, wasn’t there something I was supposed to do when I got home, I need to clean, I’m hungry”…..
You scold yourself and attempt to clear your mind. As you force the thoughts out, they come back stronger or get replaced by other thoughts. You feel your back stiffen and is that your leg cramping? Now you feel a little itchy. Your phone rings… wonder who it is…
After a few minutes of this you decide this isn’t working and give up. Maybe it’s a bad time or maybe you just aren’t good at meditating, right? Wrong. You don’t need any special skills to meditate, you just need to give yourself the proper tools and set yourself up for success.
Meditation is not about clearing the mind and “not thinking about anything.” It’s about focusing the mind. The goal of meditation is to create a more Sattvic mind. As we are taught from the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, a Sattvic mind, it is a balanced, stable mind that can see things clearly. You are able to handle all situations calmly and coolly.
Doesn’t that sound nice?! It’s a nice goal to work towards.
So where do we start? First, you must take actions to prepare the mind and body for meditation. Breath work is key to preparing your mind. Deep inhales and long exhales activate the parasympathetic nervous system which takes your body out of the “flight or fight” stress mode that many of us find ourselves stuck in. Diaphragmatic breathing (focusing breathing from your diaphragm and filling your lungs deeply) has a very calming and stabilizing effect. There are many breathing techniques to explore to find the one that works best for you.
Yoga asana (postures) is another tool. This is actually the purpose of the Yoga asanas. Not to get a shapely body (which is just an added bonus), but to create a healthy body that is able to sustain long periods of meditation. When our body is unhealthy, it creates obstacles for us as we attempt to achieve a healthy, balanced mind. Stretching before meditating helps our body to loosen and function at a more optimal level, creating one less distraction for us.
Create a space for meditation. This can be shutting off electronics, turning down lights, lighting incense, softly playing spa music, etc. Creating a ritual around setting up your space for meditating also prepares your mind and helps to get you into a meditative state.
Pick an object to focus on. This can be either a physical object, outside of you or something you visualize in your mind. As stated in Sutra I:39, pick something that is appropriate for you. I visualize a crystal being: a human shape in crystal form (hence the name of my business). As you focus on the object you have selected bring yourself deeper into all aspects of the object. You will eventually feel yourself becoming one with and acquiring aspects of the object. Be mindful of the object you pick, make sure it has the qualities you desire.
Meditation does not have to be done sitting still in one spot. There are many forms of meditation including using art, music, walking, etc. They all have the goal of focusing the mind. Pick whatever works for you. You will find the most benefit and greater success if you find a teacher to explain the tools and guide you through your personalized program.
You can meditate, you just needed more information!