Photo by: Sarah Livingston
I was repetitively telling myself "I can't meditate" when really I should have switched out the words "I can’t" with "I don't want to” because that was the actual truth. Avoidance is what it really was. I had to take the time to ask myself "Why is the silence so scary? Why don't I want to be with myself? Why do I need external things to numb my pain?” When I said I couldn't meditate that was like saying "I can't do yoga because I am not flexible." We do yoga and (may) BECOME more flexible, we use yoga as a tool to get into our bodies and in turn become less tight through breath and movement. Same goes for meditation. "I can't meditate because my thoughts go wild." Wellllll, that's why you meditate. To become aware of those thoughts, catch them in action and without judgment watch them dissipate. This practice has brought so much awareness into my life. Now even when I am not meditating, I notice when my thoughts start looping. As if I pressed play on an old mix tape. I like to compare my thought looping to the obsession with our phones. Looping from Snap chat, Facebook, texting, Skype, Instagram, rinse, lather and repeat. Same goes with thoughts. I have a set of stories I allow to play out in my head, looping, over and over again. I am holding my breath, I am no longer in my body and I am in the future, making stories up about things that haven't even happened yet. Sometimes things that happened in the past. I re-play them them because they are still within me, they haven't been released. This is all a process and I fully intend on continuing to explore it. It is only now that I actually believe it is safe to let go of the stories, I am finally ready to release them, each day through meditation.
If you think meditation is boring, or not for you, or blah blah blah, It' s just avoidance and that's ok. When you are ready it will come into your life, no need to force. I used to be a very anxious, talkative, defensive and reactive person. So I know how hard it is to sit and be quiet. This shit isn't easy for me. Its not meant to be easy though. Its meant to teach you more about yourself, to go deeper and find out the root behind these behaviors. I used to look at it as if it was a chore and now I look to it as a necessity to balance myself out, to find my inner peace. It allows me to shake what has got me wound up, sad, whatever it is, by letting it come up, sitting with it and then letting it come out. My body phsycially reacts when I push things down and avoid, it is no longer tolerable for me to ignore. Our bodies speak to us, it is our job to listen and in order to listen we need to first get quiet...
I have gotten past the avoidance hump and started a regular meditation practice. I wanted to share some tips for meditating that have worked for me. This is still a new journey to me and what works for me, might not work for you.
So my hopes with this blog post is to make mediation accessible to you. It is worth it to me to share this in case it helps even one person, one person is all it takes. Because It is not easy I would suggest trying different methods and see what one works best for YOU. Sitting in silence and stillness might not be the best way to dive in at first. Take a look:
My Tips for Mediation:
1. Meditation with Music-
This was my first experience with meditation. I met a lady who used to lead meditation with loud bass dropping music. Sometimes bass dropping, or many instruments. My teacher said to use songs without words but occasionally I use songs with little words and it still works amazing for me.
The trick is to listen to a note or listen to a specific instrument and as it changes follow the instrument or beat change. Focus on one aspect in the song and following it in order to allow your mind to come to a single point of focus. Again, this might not work for everyone. Music really resonates with me so I was completely sold when I realized I could mediate through music. After this experience she told us to look at ourselves in the mirror, stare into our eyes. I couldn't believe how bright my eyes and face were after meditating.
A few songs I recommend to get you started:
*Butterfly by Bassnectar
*Lucid Truth by Blackmail
*Miracle by Blackmil
*Spirit of Life by Blackmil
2. Guided Meditations-
This is my favorite way to meditate. I Use Isight timer almost everyday. I also use a guided mediation for sleep at night. For years I fell asleep with my computer next to me Net fix and chilling with myself for comfort. Staring at the screen is not great for a quality night sleep. When I first stopped watching T.V at night, it was really hard to sleep in silence so I turned to guided sleep mediations. This made all the difference.
A pivotal moment in my meditation practice was when I brought it self- compassion. I started to give myself a fucking break. Why was I judging myself so hard about meditation? I thought that meditation meant I HAD to do it in silence, sitting straight up, with my eyes closed with no thoughts allowed. Once I realized I am running my own show here, I modified to work with where I was. I couldn't clear my mind so I looked for help. Here is a big concept: with meditation and in life, be ok with asking for help and accepting it if needed.
Below are a few suggestions on where to start:
-Insight Timer- My favorite app!! For guided meditation, sound healing, Yoga Nidra, music, really they have EVERYTHING! And it's FREE.
-Cody App- My friend Aubry Marie has a guided meditation on there. Check it!
-Deepak Chopra also offers guided meditations
She has guided meditations on You Tube FO FREE, her voice is wonderful! Subscribe to her channel:
3. Sit in Silence with breath-
This didnt work well for me at first, it took a while to get to this, like years. I used other tips on this list well before this was an option for me. I suffered from anxiety and depression and sitting in silence would trigger me to start those looping thoughts. Eventually I realized that those thoughts needed to come up and out. I had to simply just notice them, otherwise how would I put an end to them? Once I became aware of the repetitive futuristic thoughts I was able to stop them dead in their tracks. At first just for a minute or two but with practice I have had those moments of stillness more often.
Tricks that worked for me:
* Counting your inhales and exhales
* Making your exhales longer than your inhales
*Focus on a specific chakra, or the chakras as a whole
*Set an intention and use a mantra to repeat, could be a single word or a sentence
If you are wondering what a mantra is:
"A mantra is an instrument of the mind—a powerful sound or vibration that you can use to enter a deep state of meditation. Like a seed planted with the intention of blossoming into a beautiful perennial, a mantra can be thought of as a seed for energizing an intention."- Tris Thorp
4. Breath work-
This too is newer to me. The door has opened on some amazing shifts now that I have discovered how often I hold my breath. Past traumas, stress, our bodies being tight can cause us to hold our breath. I call myself out all day long. Morning, noon and night I ask myself Why are you holding your breath? Then, I breath. Its really that simple.
In our yoga practice, in the physical asanas, we usually use the Ujjayi breath. Not always but in most the classes I have taken this has proven to be true. I only do this within my moving meditation because it cultivates heat in the body and discipline in the mind. This breath makes the lungs work a little harder, helping to strengthen your lungs.
Open Mouth Exhales:
Since I hold my breath often most times I need an open mouth exhale to give me some space to come back to a natural flowing breath. To release clenching. I take them whenever needed.
Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Also known as Nadi Shodhana. It means "Clearing the channels of circulation."
This breath has said to :
*Improve your ability to focus the mind
*Support your lungs and respiratory functions
*Restore balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the
*Rejuvenate the nervous system
I won't begin to explain this breathing technique as it is a bit lengthy so go ahead and look it up.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique:
Dr. Weils described this breathing technique as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system”. Below Dr. Weils explains how:
1) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. 2) Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. 3) Hold your breath for a count of seven. 4) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
He emphasizes the most important part of this process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect in the body.
I encourage you to research each style of breath work to see which is right for you. I only gave a brief overview of the ones I am working with currently. There are many more techniques out there. I am still exploring.
This is brand new to me. From my experiences so far chanting "OM " is about as far as I have gone. I started leading it in my classes recently and the energy it creates sends chills down my skin. Its magical. A burst of energy through my body. For this I would say start in a group. I say that because I have done it alone and I have done it in a group. The feelings and visuals I get from doing it in a group are so powerful. I was beaming after I did my first rolling OM with a group. We did three in a row and seriously, whoa! I see how people get a high off meditation and chanting.
6. Japa Meditation-
Using Mantra and Mala beads. I did this ONCE. BAHAH! ONCE. It was hard. plain and simple. I was SO antsy, I didn't feel that my mind was in it. About half way through I was in another place but I wanted some freaking abundance in my life!! So I sat with my mama beads and repeated a mantra of abundance, 108 times. I will do this again, sometime, maybe? We shall see. Maybe this will resonate with you more than it did for me. I realize you dont hold on, clench and force to gain abundance, I just really wanted to get through 108 times!
For some reason when the needles go in I find stillness. Most likely because there are needles in me and I feel like a human voodoo doll. Really though, there is something about the way I feel during acupuncture. Its really relaxing and it allows my body and mind to relax. If you are looking for a double whopper, check out San Diego Cosmetic Acupuncture. Cosmetic and therapeutic at the same time.
"It doesn't have to be only in meditation that we feel free, it can be in our every day life. Meditation is a tool we use to get there."