For me, meditation has always been an elusive solve for life's anxious moments.
"Just meditate, and you will be stress free!" - the internet.
While that sounds really amazing, the thought of grasping how to meditate has always been ironically overwhelming. Thoughts of...am I doing it right? Why am I thinking about a cheeseburger instead of nothing? Who meditates, anyway? Besides Ketut? Are those shoes still on sale at Nordstrom?...stir in this overpopulated brain of mine.
Because I love the concept of calming the mind, I did what every naturally curious person should do. I took a Dabble class called Mindfulness and Meditation taught by the lovely Dr. Serena Wadhwa. She outlined ten different ways to meditate, walking us through each approach – and I am now well on my way to being a guru. Ok not really, but I'm finally beginning to understand! The class inspired me think in ways that will help simplify this aggressively content-heavy culture that we absorb into our heads day in, day out.
Here, a just a few of the takeaways from our teacher that might help you, too.
Mindfulness has become somewhat of a trend in our culture today, what might be considered the "cool" meditation. To me, it's one of the most difficult methods. Why? Because it involves intentionally paying attention to the present, while shelving all of the other racing thoughts for later. We humans typically have 60-65k thoughts per day, which is terrifying! How do we mute all of these thoughts? It's not easy, and takes a lot of practice. But when done correctly, it can be life changing.
Imagine a cloud. Now, put all of your thoughts on that cloud and let it float straight through your mind, disallowing it to invade the present moment. You are allowing your thoughts to be there and you're acknowledging their presence, but there's no interaction. The idea is to focus on what you see, feel, taste or can touch in the very moment instead, and delegate your thoughts to the appropriate time, versus all at once.
2. WALKING MEDITATION
Walking meditation involves the process of paying close attention to your senses in the moment. Start walking at a normal pace, then slow down. How do your joints feel? Are your shoes comfortable? How does the ground feel that's touching your feet? Start walking at a normal pace again and do the same exercise. What do you notice about yourself? I've started to do this on my early morning walks, and it helps clear my head.
3. YANTRAS AND MANDALAS
Yantras and Mandalas are my favorite method, mostly because it involves something I'm good at – coloring! These circles with repetitive patterns inside allow you to simply color the shapes over and over again, which becomes a very soothing activity. Research shows that when we do something in a patterned movement with our hands, it connects to our brain and can alleviate anxiety. Because it's repetitive and we bring our minds back to a similar method over and over again, it allows us to focus on one thing – allowing all other thoughts to float by on that cloud. Why do you think adult coloring books are so popular right now? It's therapeutic AND you get a pretty picture to hang on the fridge! Yes, please.
4. BREATHING MEDITATION
How you breathe can dictate how you think. Do you breathe from your chest or belly? Is the breath fast or slow? Start to pay attention. Put one hand on your chest, and one on hand on your belly. If you are breathing from your chest, you're in stress mode. Belly breathing is a more restorative breath. Breathe in through nose, keep your chest still and let your belly go out. It allows your diaphragm to open and fill the lungs. I personally like to count my breaths, it helps me control my breathing and reset my frame of mind.
What do I like best? For me, it's all about finding a short period of time to be mindful during the day, preferably in the morning before work. I set aside time to make my favorite tea and write down one line that represents how I am feeling in the moment. I focus on that feeling, and only that – which eliminates a cluttered head.
These are just a few of the ways to practice meditation in our day to day lives. Let me know what works for you!