As a yoga and meditation teacher I have heard the same thing for years from my clients – “I can’t meditate! My mind won’t turn off!” And quite truthfully I thought the same thing myself for decades. I thought that I was the only yoga student that truly could not meditate. I would go into classes and see all the people sitting in lotus pose, eyes closed, hand and fingers in all sorts of mudras (yogic hand positions). I too would assume the yogic meditation position as we waited for class to start. But I was a fraud!!! My mind was skipping all over the place! Even in Savasana (Corpse Pose) I would feel relaxed, but my mind was nowhere close to “clear” as my instructor had urged. I would listen to my breath, I would chant Om’s, I would try and try to clear my mind… but alas, I still had “Monkey Mind”…
So what’s a yogini to do? Well, truthfully I did what comes naturally to me – I studied. Okay, true confession here, I’m an academic nerd by nature and training J I read as much as I could about meditation, I went to workshops on meditation, I attended Hindu Satsangs and Buddhist Sangas. I even took a rather expensive training in Primordial Sound Meditation & was given my very own unique Primordial Sound Meditation mantra at the Deepak Chopra Centre. And truthfully, I learned a lot on this journey. In fact I learned so much that I now not only have a daily meditation practice, but I also teach meditation workshops and teach my wellness coaching clients meditation techniques that they are able to incorporate into their daily lives. The following is a bullet-point synopsis of the most important things I’ve learned, so that you too can learn to meditate – even if you have a Monkey Mind like me! J
- Meditation is something you learn through practice. Very few people are able to go into a decent meditation the first few times they try. For many of us it takes months, even years to find that deep sense of peace that comes from meditation.
- One-Size DOES NOT fit all: Contrary to what the lovely people at the Chopra Centre teach, a unique mantra may not work for every person. In fact, a mantra at all my not work for every person. Personally, I love mantra. It helps me to fall into a deeper meditation it gives me something to attach my mind to as it starts to relax. But when I first tried mantras, whether it was chanting Om or chanting my Primordial Sound Meditation mantra, it was more distracting for me than helpful. Again, it takes practice.
- It’s really important to try different techniques and to practice them over time. There are many, many, different techniques for meditation. Here’s a list of a 1. few to try:
- Counting backward from 50 with the breath. Inhale and on each exhale count either in your head or out loud if you are in a place that warrants it. Start with 50 and then count down to 20. When you reach 19, switch to counting on both the inhale and the exhale.
- Progressive counted breathing: Start by taking a deep breath and letting out all the air. On your inhale count to 3; on your exhale count to 4. Continue with that pattern 3 times, then increase the inhale to a count of 4 and the exhale to a count of 5. Again, continue with the pattern 3 times. You can continue to increase the count all the way up to inhale 9, exhale 10. Only go to a level that is comfortable for you. Then, bring the count back down again until your inhale is 3 and your exhale is 4. Again, a pattern of 3 times for each count is recommended.
- Guided Meditation: This is an excellent place to start. When I finally realized that I could in fact achieve deep relaxation it was with the aid of a guided meditation cassette tape – yes, I am that old J. Listening to a guided meditation helped give my brain something to focus on and thus allowed me to follow the story/ instructions into that deep state of relaxation. I have several free audio guided meditations on my YouTube site. Feel free to enjoy them via YouTube or via my website. You can also find free guided meditations through apps and podcasts. Just use your search engine and find some that work for you.
- Movement Meditation: This is a favorite of many Yogis and Buddhists. Yoga itself is actually considered a moving meditation. And, it of course, prepares your mind and body for the deep meditation that comes at the end of the practice through Savasana. Thich Nhat Han, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, has a set of 10 mindful movements that he and his monks practice every day. You can find these on YouTube and some yoga and/ or somatics teachers teach them in class (as do I). Buddhists, as well as many other people in general, are also fans of walking meditations. If you are lucky enough to find a labyrinth to walk, it is an amazing experience. But just slowly walking, especially in nature, and being mindful of each step is an excellent meditation. The key is walking slowly and mindfully though. Experience each step; be in touch with your breath; be aware of sights, sounds and perhaps smells and tastes.
- When you’ve gotten the hang of meditation with some of these techniques then you can try mantras, malas and pranayama. Stay tuned for a future blog on those wonderful meditation techniques.
Find me on FACEBOOK at www.facebook.com/peacefullivingwellness or on Twitter @PCFLIVING and let me know how your meditation practice is going. I’m happy to give helpful hints and encouragement.
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Love and Light,