Master Your Own Style of Meditation
I have Stephanie Helmers from Balance Now Zen and Pow as my guest poster. She is the owner of Zen and Pow studio and I wanted someone who knew about meditation to share their knowledge. I feel that meditation is definitely part of being a happier you.
Meditation. What does this word even mean? When you hear the word meditation, you probably envision a Buddhist monk sitting high up in the mountains on a cushion in complete stillness as he practices the Guyan mudra and chants the mantra, Om. Am I right? Well, that can definitely be some people’s reality of what meditation is for them, but probably not most. By definition, the verb ‘to meditate’ or’ meditating’ is,
“To think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”
What I think this definition is lacking though, is the fact that meditation is for everyone, everywhere, and at any time! In my opinion, even the dictionary definition of meditation gives us the sort of image as I previously described. I do agree that it is a method of relaxation, most definitely. But it may not be spiritual or religious and it definitely does not need to include chanting or even silence. So, what then is meditation? My aim is that by the time you’ve finished reading this article, you will come to understand that meditation is different for every single person. I also hope that you are interested in giving it a try incorporating it into your own life and making it your own–master your own style of meditation!
First of all, meditation is for everyone. As stated, I truly do believe that anyone can and should have a daily meditation practice. Why? Because it literally changes your brain. People who meditate think and perceive things differently than those that do not meditate. A book that I am currently reading, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, by Arianna Huffington, touches briefly on how meditation is a game changer for all, especially in avoiding work burnout in our busy modern world. She uses a plethora of various research throughout the book to back up her claims and even describes of a study that discovered how meditation can increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex area of the brain and decrease the amount of thinning that occurs during aging. This, in turn, increases cognitive functions, such as, emotional and sensory processing in the brain. Furthermore, MRI’s were actually used to study the brains of Tibetan monks and they found the previous claim to be true that meditation is mental training for the brain and those that partake in meditation have shown to have noticeable changes within their mind body connection.
Not only does meditation change your brain, physically, but it also helps one to stay calm in situations of stress, refocus the mind, and ultimately, allows you to take time for yourself! How often do you find yourself stressed out at work or maybe in school and just need a few minutes to refocus and catch your breath? That is exactly the time to meditate! Meditation is also proven to promote positive emotions, such as compassion, gratitude, joy, kindness, as well as increase self-esteem and confidence. In fact, for this reason, meditation is often used to help those that suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Meditation is also being used by large companies today to help employees become more positive and productive while creating a sense of calm within the work place.
Are you convinced yet that meditation is for you? Maybe you’re thinking now, where would I meditate though and when should I meditate? The answer to these are completely up to you! You could meditate in your room, in your bed, in a space at work, in your car, while you take a shower, while you are on a walk, outside in your yard, on your front porch, on vacation somewhere beautiful, etc. The list goes on and on and on because there is no right or wrong answer! Do you need a meditation cushion–NO! Absolutely not, although they have some really pretty ones out there on the internet, of which I would love to add to my own mediation space. But, truthfully, it’s not necessary. You can meditate literally anywhere that you want to create a sense of inner calm and stillness. Ultimately, somewhere that is not distracting to you.
And what about the time of day? Again, up to you! You could meditate first thing in the morning, you could meditate on your lunch break, in the afternoon, or in the evening before bed. Whatever works best with your schedule, as long as you try to keep it consistent. Some people find it best to do it first thing in the morning to get their day off to a good start, while others prefer it before bed to unwind and relax before they fall asleep. Do what is best for you!
Another question may be, do I need to meditate for an hour or a few minutes–how long should I spend meditating each day? Essentially, meditation is a practice. Did you catch that? Just like yoga, playing a sport, or playing an instrument–Meditation is a practice. This concept is so very important to understand! I suggest beginners start with 5 minute meditations a day for 3-4 weeks. After you have done this consistently each day (or pretty close to each day) for 3-4 weeks, you can begin to increase the time you spend in meditation to maybe 15-20 minutes. Overall, you need to do what is best for you and your schedule. If you only have 3 minutes, then that 3 minutes is better than no time spent in meditation. Do what you can daily, even if it is a short amount of time–I guarantee you won’t regret it!
So maybe by now you’re thinking, okay I think I could do this and benefit from the act of mediation, but how do I do it? Am I supposed to just sit in silence and pretend to be in deep thought? Although you may feel like this at first, it will get better, I promise! I still cannot believe how antsy I was at first, but with some persistence I have improved tremendously and look forward to my meditation practice daily! I started out with guided meditation podcasts, such as Meditation Oasis. They have some great music and audios to walk you through a mediation specific to an emotion or event in your life that you want to focus on. I still use these guided meditations from time to time, but I have found myself getting better at meditating without them. I enjoy playing quiet yoga music sometimes and other times I enjoy complete silence, it really just depends on my mood and how I’m feeling that day .
Another addition to my meditation practice is the use of essential oils. I love to turn on my diffuser or just simply apply the oils directly to my wrists or temple to help me dive deeper into the feelings and sensations that I am meditating on that day. Some of my favorite essential oils to mediate with include combinations of, lavender, frankincense, peppermint, and rosemary. Essential oils, such as lavender, help calm me down. Peppermint and Rosemary help to make me more alert and focused. Frankincense is said to strengthen spirituality and connection to your crown chakra, plus I also like the scent of it. I love the use of the oils with my meditation because it livens my senses while I focus on my breathing.
Furthermore, you can use stones to meditate, but it is not required. I am just learning more about crystal stones for healing and use a few myself for my meditation. These include, fluorite, moonstone, howlite, and amethyst. Fluorite is said to balance the crown and third eye chakra in order to clear tension headaches (as I suffer from horrible migraines), calms an overactive mind (perfect for meditation), and can lower levels of tension within your home. Moonstone focuses on balancing the third eye and solar plexus chakras in order to activate intuition, balance ida (female) and pingala (male) energies, and draws out any old emotional patterns. This is the stone known as “The Goddess Stone”. Howlite is said to balance the third eye chakra in order to help encourage authenticity, open the mind in order for it to receive inner wisdom, absorb any emotions of anger directed towards you from others, create a sense of calm and reasoned communication, and formulate ambitions for both spiritual and material. Lastly, amethyst is also said to help balance the third eye and crown chakra and is known as “The Healer’s Stone” to help open doors to spiritual experiences, improving concentration and sleep habits, protecting one from negativity, and again, alleviating migraines and headaches. If I am using these stones for meditation, I usually just hold them in my hands while I meditate. There are many others ways you can use specific stones, this is just the most basic way to simply incorporate them if you want to do so.
As you can see, my focus lately has been a lot on the solar plexus, third eye, and crown chakra so far this new year. This can also be strengthened through a mantra. I encourage my yoga students at my studio to chose a mantra or intension for our beginning meditations that they can carry this with them through our yoga practice and on into the rest of their day. Some of you may even be familiar or have heard of mala beads, used in meditating on a mantra. I have a beautiful set of chakra mala beads that I enjoy using when I have a very strong mantra I want to meditate on. My main mantra so far this new year has been, “I am strong, determined, and focused.” It has carried me so far through many challenges I have faced in my business and dealing with stress and negative energies.
Lastly, some people enjoy creating a designated space for their meditation practice, but again that is totally optional. I never really had the intension of doing so, but found myself gravitating towards one main space and ended up adding small items to create a meditation altar one piece at a time. It has actually been very enjoyable collecting items for my meditation altar as they come into my life. Mine is pictured below and looks out my front window. It includes some candles, an oil burner, my mala beads, crystal stones, some essential oils, my chakra banner, and my yoga mat with a chakra blanket. Some of these items have even been given to me as gifts and I loved adding them piece by piece.
Now that you understand some of the benefits of meditation, where and when you should meditate, and other aspects you can add slowly to increase and strengthen your meditation practice, let’s talk about how to start if you’re a beginner.
- Figure out a calm and non-distracting space for you
- Find a comfy position, could be seated or lying down
- Find a relaxed position for your hands, if I’m sitting I enjoy to stack my hands palms up and rest them on my lap
- Gently close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath
- Begin to calm your mind by focusing on reciting a mantra, playing yoga music, using a guided meditation audio, or being in complete silence, always come back to your breath and/or mantra when your mind becomes distracted. This is naturally going to happen! The whole point of meditation is to quiet the mind and always go back to the breath when you realized you’ve wandered off, without judgment of yourself.
- Once you’ve complete your meditation for 3-5 minutes (increasing length of time whenever you feel ready), notice how you feel and if your body has been swept with a sense of calm and stillness. If not, maybe you need to stay in meditation longer and as explained, it will come more naturally to you the more you practice!
- Once finishing the meditation, come out slowly. You could even jot down a few notes in a journal reflecting on your practice, how you felt, whether you were completely engaged that day or had trouble focusing. It is important to track your progress and understand that every day will be different.
- Do a few stretches coming out of the meditation and return to your day with a newfound sense of calm and positive energy that you took a few minutes out of your busy day to help rebalance and refocus yourself. YOU made time for YOU.
Are you ready to give this a try? If so, click here for a beginner’s guided meditation recorded by yours truly. For even more guided meditations found on my website, click here. Leave a comment letting me know how this meditation practice went for you, I would love to hear about your experience! I hope you begin to incorporate the practice of meditation into your daily routine and begin to feel the benefits it can offer you and your mind body connection. Remember, meditation is a practice and it’s your practice. Continue to master your own style of meditation. Peace and love. Namaste.