Meditation sounds simple enough but for some it can be a scary, overwhelming task. For a lot of sporty, athlete-minded people, it's really hard to focus on something that doesn't have a physical component. What first comes to mind for most people is a Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love situation where she sits in a room trying to block out every thought that pops in her mind and can barely last two minutes. Why is it that we are so afraid to confront ourselves? I'm guilty of scrolling through instagram mindlessly just so I don't have to confront my to-do list. Technology has made us distracted from picking up on the subtle signals that our body and mind sends to us. I've been preaching to friends and family that slowing down is OK. We are conditioned to think that if we don't constantly strive for something that we are lazy or unmotivated but prioritizing mental health should be the most important thing on our to-do list. It leads to a more positive mind which then leads to increases in productivity and confidence. So how exactly should we meditate?
This is a really personal decision that will vary for everyone but here a few things I focus on while building my own meditation practice.
- Find a comfortable seat. It's important to sit up straight to open up the energy channel in your airway so the breath is smooth and strong. Some like to sit on a block or a towel, some like to be in full lotus. It's a personal decision based on comfort.
- Focus on the Breath. Breathing is so important here. The breath is constantly in the present so if you focus on your breath then you are constantly living in the now. It gives the mind something to focus on. It's that familiar phrase that anxiety is living in the future and regret is living in the past. Let it all go with the breath. Notice how your inhale inflates your chest and abdomen and notice how your exhale gets slowly squeezed out as the torso deflates. My yoga teacher taught me to keep track of my breath by using my fingers as an abacus, touching my thumb to each finger to help keep track and keep the mind focused.
- Try alternate nostril breathing. This is one of my favorite breathing techniques that I always do after I complete working on the Primary Series in my Ashtanga practice. Take your right hand and face the palm towards you with the thumb facing directly up, fingers pointed to the left. Close the ring and pinky finger, leaving the pointer and middle finger and thumb open. Take your thumb and place it on your right nostril and your pointer and middle together on your left nostril. Alternate opening and closing each nostril. Now add in the breath. Start with an exhale out of the right nose with the left nose shut using your two fingers, inhale in the right nostril and then close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale out of the left nostril. Inhale in the left nostril then close the left and exhale the right. Inhale into the right nostril (left closed) and close the right exhale the left. Repeat as desired. This is great for anxiety!
- Don't block out all thoughts. I think one misconception is you need to sit and not let a single thought enter the mind. For me, I use this time to evaluate what thoughts DO come in my mind when I'm silent. I believe they are finally fighting their way to the forefront, begging to be heard. It's just about looking inward enough to listen to the mind. If I start to let multiple thoughts enter my mind and forget about even breathing then that's when I try to bring it back and quiet my thoughts.
What are your favorite ways to meditate?