The last couple weeks I have shared some beginning information about meditation and how it can benefit your daily life. What do you do with that information? What forms of meditation are there and how can you practice them? The truth is that almost any daily routine or process can be used as a meditation. People are amazed to find out that they are not tied to having to sit on a pillow in a room that is completely quiet, candles burning, incense wafting, and you trying to focus on not thinking about things.
Today, I am going to share with you a few different ways that you can try meditation to fit into your life. We will cover the basic type of meditation and go to some different ways you can tie it to your daily routines.
Beginning to Meditate
Meditation takes many forms in today’s society. All have one thing in common, they use concentration techniques to still the mind and stop thought. Various practices exist such as chanting (Mantra), focusing on energy centres in the body (Chakra Meditation), breathing, mindfulness (Mahamudra), loving kindness, formal sitting (Vipassana), expressive practices (Siddha Yoga), and walking to name some of the styles. Try each style and see what works for you or you may want to alternate between the techniques from time to time. For the purposes of this article, I will discuss Mahamudra and walking meditation.
Practical Steps To Begin Meditating
- Find a place where there are few external distractions. A place where you feel emotionally comfortable, safe, removed from pressure and stress is the optimal location.
- Wear clothing that is loose and sit or lie in a comfortable position.
- Plan to meditate in an area that is warm and comfortable. You might want to have a blanket or light covering as some people experience a feeling of coldness when they aren’t moving around for a period of time.
- Candles can be used to focus attention on the task at hand. If you use them, remember to be cautious and extinguish them before leaving the room.
- Relaxation is a key component of meditation. Take a few moments to bring about a state of relaxation by taking a deep breath through your nose, expanding your lungs and diaphragm. Hold the breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale through your mouth. Do this several times until you feel relaxed.
- Calm, soothing music can be helpful for inducing a state of tranquillity and relaxation
- If you are hungry, have a little something to eat, as it is not necessary to meditate on a completely empty stomach.
- Put your expectations aside and don’t worry about doing it right.
Meditation Done Differently
It’s surprising people when they learn that they are not tied to sitting somewhere in complete silence to meditate. We see it in movies and hear from others that it requires you to sit crossed legged, breath deeply in your nose and out your mouth while keeping your mind clear. This may work for advanced practitioners, but it is not the only way.
Mahamudra is the form of meditation that is a way of going about one’s daily activities in a state of mindfulness. It is meditation integrated into all aspects of our lives. This following exercise is one you can do anywhere to create a feeling of inner peace. It is particularly helpful for those times you are stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store or bank, at the office when days are hectic, or when you are picking up the kids from school or extra-curricular activities. What I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it, wrote Hugh Mulligan. Meditation helps us remember to stop and smell the roses.
Begin by taking a deep breath. Breathe deeply and as you do expand your lungs and your diaphragm. Hold the breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale through the mouth. Focus on your breath and clear your mind. Do this several times until you feel the slowing of your breath and a deep sense of peace fill your body. Consciously feel the peace permeate your body. Drop your shoulders and connect through the top of your head to Universal Energy. Repeat. If you wish, send peace to those around you by connecting to their hearts with light and love.
A walking meditation is simply an exercise in awareness. There are four components:
- Become aware of your breathing
- Notice your surroundings
- Be attentive to your body’s movement
- Take some time to reflect on your experience when you return home.
To practice walking brings awareness to walking wherever you find yourself. Take notice of your breathing. Are you taking short, shallow breaths without even knowing it? If so, take several deep breaths and center yourself in your body and in the present moment. Appreciate the wonderful body you have and the blessing of being able to walk.
Notice your surroundings. What season is it? Take a few minutes to listen to the noises around you. Feel the wind, sun, fog, rain or snow on your face. Look at the people, animals, birds, sky, trees, and buildings around you. Breathe in and out and realize that you are an integral part of the environment.
Pay attention to your body. Are you holding tension in your shoulders, neck, solar plexus, lower back, or legs? Breath into any areas where you are feeling tension and let it drain into the Earth. Next, pay attention to your posture. Are you standing straight and tall or slouching? Walk in a way that is comfortable for you with your body loose and uplifted. Walk with dignity and confidence, one foot in front of the other and pay attention to the experience of movement.
You can walk mindfully anywhere, along a sidewalk, walking your dog, in the mall, along the hallways at work. You simply remind yourself to be in this moment, taking each step as it comes. Some people find it helpful to repeat a mantra (mantras are sacred words repeated in order to bring focus to your mind). You can also use a variation on the walking mantra by counting your breaths. Walk more slowly than you usually do and count how many steps it takes for your intake of breath and how many steps for your exhale. In this type of meditation, your attention is focused on both your steps and your breathing bringing together a wonderful balance of peacefulness and awareness.
Take some time to reflect on your experience when you return home. Five or ten minutes brings closure to your walk and provides an opportunity to make the transition from this place of peace to ordinary day-to-day activities. This can also be done if running is your preferred exercise. Follow the same steps.
Basic Traditional Meditation
Most people are more familiar with the traditional style of meditation. This is where you would sit cross legged and focusing on your breathing and keeping your mind clear. Below you will find a more simplified version of this method to incorporate into your daily life. The difference is that there will be no focus on how you sit and regimented breathing.
This style of meditation can be done almost anywhere. It does require a place to sit and since you will have your eyes closed, some basic form of privacy. None of these are hard and fast rules, just guidelines to start with.
- Find a comfortable spot to sit. You dont have to sit cross legged, simply sitting in a chair is enough. Put your hands in your lap or wherever feels comfortable. Just dont hang them from your sides, you want to be comfortable.
- Close your eyes. Dont force the closed. Allow them to stay closed if they can, but if not dont focus on any specific spot. Look beyond what is in front of you without focus.
- Take a few deep breaths. This allows you to release any tension you may be holding onto and allows your mind to shift to meditation mode. They dont have to be in through the nose and out of your mouth. Just simple deep breaths.
- Dont focus on thoughts that enter your mind. Let them come and go. If you find yourself lingering on one, acknowledge it and let it go. Remind yourself you can look at it later. Release it back to the stream of consciousness.
- Sit as long as you feel the need to work through things. Slowly take a couple breaths before you open your eyes and go about your day.
What works best for you
There is no need to try to force yourself to follow a meditation practice that doesnt work for you. Like other things in life, you find what works best for you and make it a part of your routine. Meditation can be done in a traditional methind, during exercise, or just in your daily routines. It is what works best for the situation and yourself.
Do you have ways of mediation that I didn’t list here? Why drop them in the comments below. Remember that how you do things may work for others and provide them with a new outlook to succeed where they have felt trapped and lost.