We are nearing a meditation tipping point. Research is beginning to show that meditation is as essential to our overall health as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Mindfulness helps improve overall health and wellness, quality of sleep and digestion and reduces stress yet many of us do not know how to begin our own meditation practice. Below you will find three easy to learn meditations which you can begin practicing at home. Choose one technique and practice for a set period of time daily, anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes. You might find one technique more accessible, and if so, choose to make this your daily practice for the next month and watch the benefits arise in all areas of your life.
Before we begin, we need to de-mystify meditation. You are human and you are going to have thoughts. You have a new thought every one to 1.2 seconds so when you sit down to meditate, you will experience thinking, but that does not mean you are meditating incorrectly. The key is to develop a new relationship to your thoughts where you allow the thoughts to arise without attaching to them. If a thought comes to mind, kindly invite yourself back to the focus of your meditation technique.
The key to meditation is not quantity but consistency. Rather than picking a specific time to meditate daily, add meditation to your regular routine. For example, maybe you choose to meditate after you brush your teeth in the morning or the evening. Integrating meditation into your routine will help your practice become consistent. We do not eat breakfast, brush our teeth or go to bed at the same time every day so it might not be realistic to expect to meditate at the same time each day. If you re-frame meditation as part of your daily routine, you will experience more regularity in your practice.
For each meditation, find a comfortable seat. This can be anywhere -- on the floor, in a chair or even in bed! Give yourself permission to rest comfortably with your back up-right if possible. Place your hands anywhere that feels restful. This might be in your lap or on your knees.
Close your eyes and scan your body. If closing your eyes does not feel comfortable, than leave your eyes slightly open and find a spot a few feet ahead of you and gently rest your gaze there. As you scan your body, notice if there is any tension you can release. Check the hinge of your jaw, the space between your eyebrows and your hips. Encourage the body and mind to pay attention without creating tension. Take a few minutes at the start of each practice to soften the body before you begin.
Breathe: Start to notice your breath. Let the breath be natural and watch as the breath gently rises and falls. After a few moments, notice where you feel your breath the most in your body. You might feel your breath in your belly, at the center of your chest, or along your nostrils or upper lip. Rest your awareness on the place in your body where you feel your breath the most. If it helps, you might even rest a hand on that place to further encourage your awareness there. As you sit, continue to bring your mind back to your breath and back to the place in your body where you feel your breath the most. As sensations, thoughts, or distractions arise, simply say to yourself "not breath" and bring your focus back to your body. This way the thoughts are not "good" or "bad"; the thoughts are simply not the breath. Continue like this for the amount of time you have set aside for your meditation. The breath is like your inner pause button. As you step back into your day, remember you have the ability to pause and come back to your breath anytime.
Candle Gazing: Light a candle and place it a few feet in front of you. Make sure to place the candle somewhere stable and safe. Begin by closing your eyes, scanning your body, and noticing your breath. After a few moments, blink your eyes open and gently rest your gaze on the flame of the candle. Allow the gaze to be natural. If you need to blink, allow yourself to blink. Soften the muscles around the eyes and simply rest your gaze on the candle. Continue to rest your gaze on the flame for the period of time you set aside to meditate. The environment outside of the flame might shift, become translucent, and sounds might even change. This is ok, just continue to bring your awareness back to flame. At the end, close your eyes and take a few moments to rest your awareness back on your breath. The steady flame of the candle represents inner steadiness you always have access to within. Carry this inner steadiness into your day.
Gratitude: Slowly and specifically call to mind the people, places, and experiences you are grateful for in your life. Begin with the place you call home, the clothes on your body, the food you eat, the people in your life, the places you've traveled, mentors you've had, your community, and eventually expand out to the world. If your mind wanders, come back to giving thanks even for the smallest things in your life such as your morning cup of tea. Continue to bring the mind back to gratitude over and over again. Research shows when we give gratitude for two minutes a day our overall outlook on life improves and happiness levels increase. The next time you feel challenged, pause and reflect on three things you are grateful for in that moment.
At the end of each meditation gently re-open your eyes and begin to re-animate the body. Take a moment to say thank you to yourself for taking time to get still today.