Meditation 101 : A workshop to learn the basics. You are about to learn about something sacred. This is something that will not only relieve stress and anxiety but will bring you more peace in your life and lead you to a better version of you.
Two and a half decades of practice
I first came to know about meditation in 1995. For the past 25 years I have been meditating most every day. This practice has become a precious life-line for me— more serenity, ease and grace are in my life because of it. And, this practice can be one for you too. There are techniques to share that will keep you connected to the bigger picture, to let go more, and to remember that in times of vulnerability– we are supported and comforted from the ‘coming-home-grounded-feeling’ that spending time in heightened awareness and quiet stillness cultivates.
Trust me on this one, it’s worth every ounce of effort.
What is Meditation?
Meditation really boils down to any activity in which you control your attention. Meditation include mind-body techniques that help you feel relaxed and can even produce physical benefits, such as decreased heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure. There are two general forms of meditation: concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation.
Transcendental meditation (TM) is a popular form of concentration meditation. In this practice you sit in a comfortable position and focus your attention on one thing—such as your breath, or a mantra, a sound or phrase that is silently repeated. A mantra can be as simple as “I am peace” or “Ohm” or even a whole prayer repeated over and over. The idea is to keep a passive awareness as you are the “observer” of your thoughts. If your mind wanders off to other thoughts or sensations, you gently and firmly bring your attention back to your breathing or your mantra. For best results, it is suggested to meditate twice daily for about 20 minutes. However, as a beginner I recommend to start out simple— five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the latte afternoon, gradually increasing until you reach approximately 20 minutes ( this can happen over months).
A meditation practice can be as simple as dedicating 5 minutes lying in bed before going to sleep and five minutes after waking up to do a body and breathing relaxation.
Mindfulness meditation is known as intentional moment-to-moment awareness, what I term “present moment.” It is a non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts and actions throughout your day. Staying focused at the task at hand is an example of practicing mindfulness meditation: as you wash the dishes, focus on the soap and water cleansing the dish, notice if your mind wanders off to another thought and then gently and firmly bring your attention back to the fact that you are washing a dish. Mindfulness becomes a “moving meditation” throughout your day.
For some, and maybe you count yourself in this group, it may be initially breaking through the barrier of thinking that meditating is for gurus or is a granola-hippie thing, or thinking that you just don’t have the right personality to be still. But meditation can be as simple as dedicating five minutes to breathing and body awareness. Another option, or a complementary idea to silent meditation, is the practice of “present moment”—mindfulness meditation.
I find that present moment is an effective way of quickly and surely pulling myself out of a frenzied, overwhelmed, “busyness” feeling and replace it with a delicious sense of of calm. In time, focused attention becomes a “moving meditation,” if you will. Because when my thoughts are pattered in several different directions, it’s as if I am walking around half-asleep, functioning on auto-pilot. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and on arriving thought to yourself, how in the heck did I get here?
An Intimacy with Awareness
This morning I took a shower. However, I wasn’t really in the shower. My thoughts were already in the future, pondering what I would make for dinner, and organizing my day’s to do list and work schedule. Like many of us, I was nowhere near being present with the task at hand, in the shower. By noticing my wandering thoughts and bringing my attention back to the shower, I began to feel the cleansing water’s soothing sensation on my skin, allowing the warmth of the water to relax my stiff muscle. I became aware of the moist air, smelled the fish mint scent of my shampoo as I managed my scalp, and took in the aroma of my lavender body soap washing away the staleness of the previous day. This awareness became heightened and beautiful — a meditation, when I brought my attention back into the present moment. After my shower, when I truly stayed in the shower, I stepped out clean, refreshed , relaxed, and ready to greet the day.
A Winning Combo
Attentiveness to the present moment combined with a daily ritual of guided relaxation or concentration meditation—is the step to create more peace and serenity in your life. Just as you diligently recharge your phone’s battery, this carved-out time is equally essential. It’s an authentic and natural way to create a quiet, still space inside you and build capacity for tackling the unexpected. LET GO of any guilt for taking time for yourself. In this place of uninterrupted surrender you rest, recharge, and bring much needed clarity and joy into your everyday. You become the best version of you, and I assure you that it ripples out for everyone around you to enjoy.
Simplicity is key. Here are two of my all-time favorite techniques to begin a closed-eye meditation practice.
Abdominal breathing with the mantra “So-Hum”
Abdominal breathing is the quickest, single thing you can do to relax your body and therefore your mind. I use it constantly in my private practice in teaching other how to relax.
Bring your attention to your breath. Follow your breath, and allow your mind to be the observer, just watch your breath come in and out. Place your hand on your abdomen with your thumb on your navel and let your other four fingers fan below. Feel your breath in your abdomen, and notice how your abdomen is gently rising and falling in rhythm with your breathing. As you breathe in, your abdomen rises. As you breathe out, your abdomen falls. This takes some concentration. It becomes much easier with practice. Focus on you natural rhythm, smooth and effortless, breathing in and out. Let your breath soothe you, taking you to a place of comfort; the thoughts of the day disappear.
Add a mantra
This option can really help you stay focused. I learned this variation through the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, India. Imagine there is a line that connects your navel to your throat. As you breathe in, your breath travels from your navel to your throat. As you breathe out, your breath travels from your throat to your navel. Add in the words SO-HUM. Breathing in from your navel to your throat , you say the word (to yourself) SO; and breathing out from your throat to your navel, you say the word HUM. In Sanskrit SO -HUM means “I am that” beyond the limitations of body and mind, at one with the absolute.
Breathing in colors
Breathing in the colors of the rainbow is a simple and effective way to treat yourself to a mini-relaxation. Take a few minutes to practice now. In your imagination, hold each color individually in your mind and “breathe in” each color, one at a time. Begin with the color red. Breathe in the color red. Exhales as it fades away. Orange; breathe in the color orange. Exhale as it fades away. Yellow; breathe in the color yellow. Exhales as it fades away. Green; breathe in the color green. Exhales as it fades away. Blue; breathe in the color blue. Exhales as it fades away. Purple; breathe in the color purple. Exhales as it fades away. Gold; breathe in the color gold, now envision the gold color shimmering through out your body. Exhales as it fades away. Notice how you feel? Do you feel relaxed, peaceful, energized?
Balancing Time and Space
Can I encourage you to create a ritual for your day? To dedicate a time and specific space to self-care—a welcomed habit that at first softly whispers in your ear, “Come and use this time and space.” Eventually with some dedication, it comes to feel like such an essential part of your day— as necessary as the air you breathe.
In the beginning, I often felt awkward or guilty for taking this “me” time, and there were days I let other things become priority. However, I am proof in the pudding that the carved-out commitment to caring for body and soul pays back in huge dividends of energy, clarity, and joy—more than enough to nurture oneself and still have plenty to share.
For more information, visit www.truewellbeing.com