Very often we get caught up in our busy lives and habits. We wrestle with anxieties, or numbly live our lives on an automatic mode. We tend to repeat similar patterns of thinking, persistent behaviours, neglecting the needs of our soul and bodies.
Often we think that for self care we don’t have the time. So we wait until we go on a vacation, or maybe a yoga retreat, to find some space and time to sit with ourselves, in a peaceful environment, and indulge ourselves in some wholesome activities.
Although retreats and vacations are great (and highly recommended), in order to cultivate a wholesome lifestyle and derive lasting benefits from our yoga and meditation practices it is necessary to establish a daily practice.
Meditation and yoga can help us to develop critical skills that enable us to have a more compassionate, kind, balanced, and joyful way of life. Like any other skills that we learn in this life, these practices require our dedication, and not to be treated like a fast food solution.
The antidote to living an unfulfilled life on auto pilot is to cultivate more mindfulness. Mindfulness means being aware of what we are thinking, saying, feeling, and doing in each moment. To cultivate a kind heart, and to live with our ethical values.
To cultivate Mindfulness we can start by establishing a daily sitting meditation practice. Eventually, we can expand our meditation practices into the regular course of our day, bringing mindfulness into all aspects of our life and existence. Short periods of times, many times per day, is a sacred formula for mindfulness.
Meditation enables us to be a silent observer without getting involved in our stories. The practice of mindfulness meditation is not only a tool to reduce stress, or get us more productive, but also an act of courage; the courage to sit quietly with whatever arrises, and hopefully to find a stillness in ourselves, so that we can meet this ever changing world around us.
Through a steady meditation practice we can become a gentle and compassionate warrior who can transform their fears and strong emotions into a source of wisdom. Meditation can show us how we are not alone in this. Everyone is suffering. Everyone wants to be healthy, happy and safe, just like us. Meditation teaches us to be loving and kind to yourself, to others, and towards everything that arises.
Here are some simple tips for how to begin a daily mediation practice.
1. Commit to do this practice for a certain period of time. It is easier to set a daily meditation goal of 1 or 2 months than demanding an immediate lifetime commitment of ourselves. Hard expectations can discourage us before we even start. Then commit to a manageable goal with your whole heart
2. Set a timer of 10-20 minutes to start with. Gradually you can increase your sitting time, or you can even shorten it. It is your consistent effort that counts, so 5 minutes is better than nothing. Remember, it is scientifically proven that 7-9 minutes of meditation per day can change the structure of your brain.
3. Commit to a regular time of day to sit. A great time to practice meditation is after waking up, or before bed. In the morning, after waking up, our mind is still soft and less under the influence of daily noises. Maybe you’ll need to wake up 15-20 minutes earlier, or miss your favorite late night show, but it is worth it.
You can formally schedule a meeting in your calendar: meeting with Myself. Treat it like any other business or social meeting you don’t want to miss. There is nothing more important than catching up with our own inner worlds.
4. Find a comfortable place to sit. You can sit on the floor, use a meditation cushion, or if that feels uncomfortable use a chair. Create a safe space where you can return to that is preferably quiet. If helpful, you can decorate your meditation place with crystals, flowers, photos, candles, or anything that will make you feel more cozy.
5. If you are living with kids or pets it is likely they will come and visit you during your meditation time. But that’s ok. My daughter would often wake up and either sit in my lap or nap next to me. Eventually she become bored with me just sitting, so now she just does her thing and ignores me.
6. Switch off your phone and try to be present.
7. Let your body posture to be steady and at ease, with a straight back. Relax your shoulders and legs. Your body should be both alert and relaxed. You can use a wall to support your back from slouching, if necessary.
Extend your neck through the top of your head, and ground yourself through your sitting bones. Your eyes are gently closed, or you can softly gaze in a steady spot in front of you (useful if you start to fall asleep during meditation).
Your lips are gently sealed with the tongue resting on the upper palate. Relax your jaw. Rest your palms on your knees facing upwards. Give yourself a few moments to centre and ground.
8. You can begin with a simple breathing meditation. Start noticing your breath. Notice where you can feel your breath the most. Maybe it’s in the lungs, maybe in the nose, or even in the abdomen. Choose a place and just rest your attention there. Feel it. Be with your breath. Try to stay present with one breath at the time. You can even accompany a word with your breath, if needed, to keep you more present. Simple words like ‘inhale- exhale,’ or ‘in breath – out breath,’ or any other repetitive words that speak to you.
9. Don’t fight it. Our mind is busy. The nature of the mind is to wander. To make our mind completely stop is almost impossible. Like trying to make our ears stop hearing, or our eyes to stop seeing.
Your mind will inevitably become distracted and wander away from your breath during meditation. And that’s ok! Sometimes we get absorbed in thoughts, sometimes we got lost in our stories or emotions that arise. That moment when we notice that we have been distracted from our breath is a magical moment. This is our critical moment of awareness; awakened to what is actually going on. We can consciously choose to acknowledge that moment without judgments, guilt, or blame, then gently let go of that moment, and bring our attention back to the breath. We are trying to stay present, being mindful of just one breath at a time.
Your breath is always there for you, and once you get more comfortable with this meditation you can use it anytime, anywhere.
10. Keep it simple.
When your meditation time is done, open your eyes gently and finish. Notice your breath during the course of the day and see how this practice can be useful to you.