Why meditate? There are many beneficial reasons for meditating. One, in particular, is to reduce stress and calm the 'monkey mind.' In his article, 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation, Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD writes: "Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. You can do it anywhere, without special equipment or memberships." "I can't meditate." In my practice of Reiki and sound healing, I have heard this countless times. When I ask why people think they can't meditate, they say, "My mind is too busy. I can't shut it off. When I try to meditate, all kinds of thoughts pop into my mind. For example, there's a mental To Do list that needs to be worked on. Or I replay the recordings in my head that are on endless cycle loops, reminding me of regrets, shame, and guilt for unresolved issues." It's amazing how many of us have basically given up on trying to quiet our monkey mind. Could it be because we have unrealistic expectations of how to meditate? Is it because we think that closing our eyes and sitting still for half an hour will automatically make our mind go blank? Or are there just too many tempting distractions vying for our attention? A good number of people are always under stress, without allowing for any down time. As a matter of fact, we can seem addicted to stress, making sure we are on the go all the time. And when we do have a moment, we allow ourselves to become distracted by anything that will prevent us from tuning in to our own inner peace. Different things are always calling for our attention, such as TV, social media, surfing the Web, checking e-mails, etc. How easy is it to just resort to one of these distractions instead of using this time to help center ourselves and feel a sense of inner peace? Can we take just 15 minutes out of our TV or social media time to calm our stressed minds and bodies? It's a conscious decision that we need to make if we want to reap the benefits of meditation for mind, body, emotions, and spirit. We can show ourselves some self-love through regular meditation. Following a daily practice helps us to have something to fall back on when our life gets particularly stressful, for example while traveling, visiting family, health concerns, financial worries, etc. When things get tough, we don't want to have to start getting acquainted with meditation. Our regular practice is something wonderful that we can rely on to relax us. Meditating every morning for half an hour has helped me immensely to become more peaceful and focused in my life. When I feel myself becoming un-centered and listening to all my ego-mind chatter, I take time out to ground myself and meditate. I always feel more balanced afterwards and better able to deal with difficult situations.
One of the first steps we can take toward a healthy meditation practice is to have realistic expectations. When first starting to meditate, we can set ourselves a realistic amount of time for a beginner, like 5 minutes. In this short time, we can presence ourselves just by focusing on our breathing, for example. We can listen to our breath, feel it flowing in and out of our nose and into our lungs. If we do this just for 5 minutes, we automatically begin to calm down. In her article, "If You Have a Busy Mind and Can't Meditate, Try This" Susan Bernstein writes that sensory awareness is a great way to bring peace to the mind, "I noticed that when I turned my focus to my immediate sensations, my mind stopped worrying about the past or future, and I felt really present in the moment. The mind chatter went on hold when I deliberately approached with my sensory awareness practice with curiosity and wonder."
Here's a tip from my own personal meditation practice. After a few weeks of practicing sensory awareness in my breathing, I started to lengthen the amount of time for my meditation. I also added a counting mantra and a breathing exercise. I counted up to 6 on my in-breath and doubled that number for my out-breath to 12. (You can work with numbers that suit your own rhythm of breathing, 7/14, 8/16, etc.) Sometimes, it takes me 5 minutes to calm down with this breathing exercise, but most times, I get into a completely meditative state (no longer counting or focusing on my breath) within 2 or 3 minutes. And if thoughts do pop into my head, I acknowledge them and return to my breathing exercise. This always brings me back to a place of peace. Try it, and let me know how it works for you! © Erika Marie Rose and Good Vibes, 2019