Quite simply, I would not have the quality of life that I do without meditation. It keeps me focused and grounded and at the end, I always know the right thing to do (whether or not I do the right thing or not is a something I’ll cover in Mindfulness). I think people often have the wrong idea of meditation. They think they need to be sitting with their ankles on their hips, on top of a mountain somewhere, chanting to God. Well, for some people that does the trick, but for me, climbing to the top of Mt. Rose every day doesn’t sound fun. I also don’t understand chanting and I don’t believe in God. But I do believe in my Higher Power (HP) who I call The Universe. For the focus of this blog I won’t dive too deep into higher powers, I do think a little explanation is needed though so you can understand how I meditate.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “Not only are we in the Universe, the Universe is in us. I don’t know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.” That is pretty much the basis of my belief in my HP, the Universe. I pray/meditate/ask/talk to the Universe and it responds through me, then I act upon whatever I’ve received. Here is where you might be thinking, WTF is she talking about. Remember my flood story from the part 1 of this blog? The man prayed to God to save him and God sent boats. Now God isn’t going to physically pick this man up and place him in a boat. That’s levitation and this is not Harry Potter World. God was answering his prayers by sending boats, it was up to that man to act on his own to save himself. You might still be confused, here is a real life example. Right now I’m manifesting making the switch to teaching yoga and personal training fulltime. When I pray/meditate- Preditate? Medipray?- first thing in the morning, I thank my HP for everything coming my way in terms of my intentions and goals. I ask for the motivation, tenacity, and ambition. I pray that I might be an inspiration to someone today to live a better life. I pray for those struggling and ask for my HP to guide the thoughts that I think, the words that I say, and the actions that I do. I pray that I may be of service to my fellows.
So now you know how I meditate, I’m sure you want some tips on how you can do that too; especially if you’re not sold on the idea of a HP yet. Fair enough. But before we learn how to meditate, let’s consider why we meditate. Meditation teaches you how to respond in a constructive way, rather than impulsively react. It’s organized around the concept that you are naturally whole, you are capable of well-being, and your thoughts are messengers. That awareness is key. Along with awareness as a key concept of meditation, so is receiving and using every opportunity as a learning experience. Receiving is your ability to accept and respond gracefully to every experience as opposed to having a dismissive, reactive, f*ck you attitude. Receiving and welcoming keeps you connected to the experience instead of lashing out with knee-jerk reactions. Receiving allows you to step back, take the moment in, and gain perspective. In this moment you are more than the experience, you are aware of your awareness. When you are aware that you are aware, the emphasis now becomes on what you are aware of. Make sense? Try this, say hello to yourself in your head. You “heard” that, you recognize that thought. You are aware of your awareness. You are awareness. And once you are awareness, you become mindful of judgment, resisting, refusing, and trying to change situations. How often has that happened to you, your thoughts are running wild in your head how much you dislike someone. You replay everything they’ve ever done or said that hasn’t set well with you. Then suddenly you catch yourself and think, ‘wow I’m being really bitchy right now’. That is you becoming aware. You are awareness. And you learned this from the focus you created in your meditation.
Sometimes you don’t want to receive “negative” emotions though. Let’s call them ‘scratchy’. Sometimes you just want to feel irritated or mad. That’s natural. Over time you’ll learn to welcome and receive these scratchy feelings uncomfortable as it may be. Think of the scratchy feelings as a messenger to help you live a better life. By receiving them you’ll learn there are healthier ways to live in that moment instead of what you’re currently doing. The scratchy feelings are your body’s way of getting your attention; they are disharmonies way of getting your attention to take action and reconsider what you could be doing instead to be happy and healthy.
Still with me? If so, now let’s talk about to how to meditate. You might say, Morgs I don’t know about that HP thing and I don’t understand awareness. Or maybe you think, this sounds like a lot, I don’t have time. You might even be thinking, ‘my thoughts run wild, there’s no way I can slow them down’. My answers to those, do you want to feel more connected to life around you? Do you want to be a part of this life on a deeper and more meaningful level? Do you have 5 minutes to yourself every day? Can you make 5 minutes to yourself every day? Even in the bathroom? If your answer to all those questions is no, then maybe meditating isn’t for you yet. And that’s ok. But if you think there is something out there bigger than you, even if you don’t know what it is, and you can make 5 minutes for yourself- yes even in the bathroom- then you are ready to meditate.
The purpose of meditation is to create focus and become aware. It is about focusing your attention on your experience. The reason for focus: it allows you to be here now. Your only reality is This Moment, right here, right now. Peace is found in such awareness. First you must find quiet. A space free from distraction where you can tune out any external stimuli. This might be in bed in the morning pretending to still be asleep. It might be in the bathroom. I meditate in the morning in my car before I head off to teach yoga. The radio is off and I simply start talking to my HP, an intentional conversation. I’m a master at multi-tasking, so to sit still like this and focus on nothing but this conversation takes a lot of focus for me.
An exercise to get you started, once you’ve found your quiet place, sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed (less glittery squirrels to catch your attention that way) and try to focus on something else other than your thoughts. Intentionally clear your mind, try to disengage from all the thoughts that are used to running rampant in your head. In yoga, we call that the ‘monkey mind’. As a monkey jumps from tree to tree, our thoughts come in one after another. So basically, stop thinking. If a thought comes into your mind (because that’s what the mind is for, it’s human nature), acknowledge it and let it go. Imagine you place the thought on a cloud and watch it float by. It takes effort and patience. The more you practice dis-attaching from your thoughts, the easier it becomes, until it’s effortless. You can listen for sounds around you and identify them: that is a car going by, that is the clock ticking, that is the faucet dripping. Suddenly you aren’t thinking anymore about picking kids up from cheerleading and football or dinner you need to make, you are simply listening and your mind is still.
Another meditation exercise is counting your breaths. I like to use the square breathing technique- all through your nose, inhale to a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold at the bottom for 4. It might take some getting used to; it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re going to suffocate holding at the bottom of the exhale. You get used to it, I promise, and it doesn’t feel so panicky. Repeat that a 5-7 times then let your breath return to normal.
You might also try a mantra. On the inhale you think to yourself ‘I am’ on the exhale consider what you are. I am… love. I am… patient. I am… forgiving. You can think about things you want to be as well to set an intention of something as well as a way to manifest it in your life.
Meditation is a journey and the fact that you’ve even been considering it means you’re on the right track. Be gentle with yourself. Be patient, curious, and persistent. Know that this awareness and focus is possible when you nourish your practice and give it a chance.