We all know meditating is good for our mental health and balance. We recently added a meditation timer to our YogicFoods apps to encourage, stimulate, assist, initiate (pick one) a daily portion of healthy mind-food alongside a balanced diet.
But. Meditating is hard. There, we said it. We've been at it for years and just as we thought we cracked the nut, we were blessed with our lovely daughter and gone were the quiet moments of mindfulness. Admitted, there were some quiet moments, but we'd rather catch up on zzzzs. A busy job, active social life, family, money troubles, vacation wishes, holiday dinner plans... It all rushes through your mind and it's hard to stop those thoughts. Many books have been written about how and why to meditate and just as many or many more techniques and variations exist. We tried quite a few of them and here we will discuss some difficulties everyone faces and tips, tricks and ideas to help you through it.
1. Meditating is first of all like any other exercise or routine you start, it takes practice to get better. Rarely is someone able to switch off and go into deep focus from day 1. Daily practice is of course the best, and that's the first struggle to overcome... When? Trust me, it all starts with will. Once you recognize the need and are willing to commit to a daily routine, you will find (or make) free time to take a moment. For me it's after the children are sleeping, for some it's a few minutes right after waking up and others find just before going to bed a good time.
2. Ok, so you sit on the floor, wearing your yoga outfit, legs crossed, hands on your knees, eyes closed, just like you've seen in the pictures, now what? Where do you start, what do you do? This is where you breath. Yes, in and out, like you do all day unconsciously. Now, however you are aware of your breathing. And you're going to try to exhale longer and inhale longer so your breath and heartbeat start to calm down. When you are stressed, have a head full of things that need to be done, still remember conversations with your boss and thinking of what you should have said.... Breathing is a very hard exercise. I have had it so many times, can I skip this? I don't have time to breath... Well, you guessed already, no skipping, it's the breathing that does all of the prep work.
3. By now you're most likely like 'hey my shoulders were up to my ears, wow I'm so relaxed' and you want to sleep, you're yawning, your eyes are watering, oops you just nodded off. Being relaxed is wonderful, but not the main reason why we meditate. We want to get into deep focus, to connect to the inner Self. Maybe you need a more active meditation, for example chanting a mantra. Choose a mantra, chant it on a comfortable speaking tone monotonously on long breaths. Whenever your thoughts drift away you can focus on consciously chanting each word. Feel how the words flow from your lips. It isn't about singing, it is about getting a thoughtless mind. In time you will find you no longer need to chant out loud, then reciting silently in your mind will be enough. There are many chants, a few at least for each deiti, but a simple Wahe Guru or Sat Nam holds enough Divine power as well. If you are looking for a mantra more focussed on unfolding the opportunities within yourself and enhancing self-esteem try the Kundalini Yoga mantra "I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am bliss". Also very good to introduce to children.
4. There are other ways too. Start with the breathing, that remains the same. Next you can focus on an image like a yantra mandala, a positive image of your choice or an affirmation. Also a candle is often used, but make sure there are no drafts. After staring at it for a while, try to rebuilt that image in your mind. Don't give up and keep pulling the image back into the centre of your imagination. Or you can do a yoga set, starting with breathing exercises, and use the released prana flow through the body to meditate. Use a yoga set that works on each chakra rather than doing fancy difficult poses. Afterwards focus on all your limbs, feel the tinseling sensation in your fingers, neck, back, every part of your body. Combine it with deep breathing and try to sink deeper into that sensation with every breath.
5. Kundalini Yoga has many meditations for particular uses; to let go of the past, to let go of anger, to enhance patience, to recharge your energy field ... you name it. These poses, static or dynamic, are to be done every day for 3,7,11,33 and eventually, but that will take a while, for an hour. Doing an exercise as meditation, mostly involving finger, hand or arm movement, helps to focus on the now. It also forces you to go beyond the physical limits you thought you had and teaches that the mind can will the body. A very different approach but worth a try if the 'typical' way of meditating is not for you.
6. Lastly I want to remind you of Osho's words, that you can make anything into a meditation. When you're cooking, driving, working out, eating, vacuum cleaning the house, crafting, bringing the kids to school, every activity can hold a meditation. You don't have to sit on the floor with your legs crossed and your eyes closed, but you do have to be in the moment. Focus, be aware and do it.
Have fun trying and don't forget to activate the daily meditation reminder in the today widget of your phone. Start small and set your meditation timer for 3 or 5 minutes, then slowly built it up.