Demystifying Meditation: 3 Practical Ways to Cultivate Inner Peace
There is a plethora of scientific literature that outlines the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of meditation. I think it is safe to say that we know meditation is good for us; similar to how we know we should eat our vegetables or drink water for optimal health. However, I also think it is safe to say that we don't always do what we know is good for us.
This isn't about shaming ourselves, but it is worth taking a look at why we are not integrating meditation into our daily life despite being aware of the many benefits it has to offer. In my personal and professional experience, I believe the two largest contributing factors are:
Not understanding exactly what meditation is
Resistance to something new/unfamiliar/we are not good at
Understandably, the combination of these two potential obstacles makes it quite discouraging to even try, and especially stick to, any form of a meditation practice. It is worth noting that it is, in fact, a practice. As in- something you will get better at with practice- no different from running, singing, cooking, or drawing.
There are a vast variety of meditation styles, but that is not my intention to delve into that here. This is the 'introduction to', the 'beginners guide', the 'on-ramp' to inserting easy, practical ways to embody the essence of meditation. Your own personal preference and style will organically develop, but you have to start somewhere. And firstly, as was with myself and many of my clients, that somewhere is eliminating excuses by debunking the myth: "Meditation is not for me."
Since this limiting belief most likely is repeatedly fed by excuses, let us call out the two most popular ones. (Again, stressing no judgement here.)
"I do not have time."
"I cannot shut off my mind."
With these stories in mind, I will offer the 3 easiest ways to weave meditation into your day- everyday.
But first: I have good news....
You are not adding any additional time into your day.
'Shutting off' your mind is not required.
Believing that you must 'shut off' your mind is probably one of the most common misconceptions about meditation. Reframe it so that you simply do not attach to your thoughts, creating a thought trail.
For example, let's say the thought 'I need to go grocery shopping' pops in to your mind. Simply notice it, then redirect using your breath; instead of continuing down that thought trail, ultimately leading into making a list and planning dinner etc...
Thoughts will come. But whenever you notice you are attaching to a thought, simply acknowledge it and let it go. And as I mentioned earlier, you will get better with practice. Just like your endurance improves while training for a 5K race, when you have no prior running experience. Every minute you are able to run without stopping, you are making progress. And you go a little farther over time, noticing each training session it is actually getting easier.
Before I offer my suggestions, I would like to plant a seed to help you get creative with your own personal ways that will work for you and your day. In simplest terms, meditation involves two very simple, yet powerful components:
Because of our fast paced lives, we very seldom are still, in present mind.
So, I present to you some of my favorite ways to invite moments of mindful stillness into my life, everyday.
Power Shower- For some, this may be your only alone time for the day; take advantage of it. Do not allow your monkey mind to take you down all sorts of thought trails in this sacred space of solitude. Be present. Connect to your senses. Feel the water on your skin. Notice your emotions. Envision the cleansing and clearing of your energy field. Let go of what no longer serves you and let it wash down the drain. This is an amazing way to either start or end your day. Maybe both :) BONUS: Keep a candle in the bathroom. Simply light the candle, and set your intention for the day (or night). This is the moment your powerful act of mindfulness begins. After your Power Shower, before you exit the room, simply blow out the flame and recite (aloud or in your mind) 'It is done.'
Peaceful Warm Drink- Often, our morning beverage is what we look forward to the most. This is the perfect time to be still and present. Pour your coffee, tea, broth, or mushroom drink and find a comfortable place to sit and enjoy it. Yes, that is it. Enjoy your drink of choice. However, the only way to truly enjoy it, you must be present. Sit quietly, but again, connect to your body, to your senses. Notice your breathing pattern. Ground yourself. Feel your taste buds ignite. No mental 'to-do' lists running in the background, no multitasking. The day will begin once you finish your magic potion. And actually, speaking of magic.....BONUS: Again, lighting a candle or incense is a powerful, deliberate outward expression to mindfully enter the space of stillness and presence, dedicated to your well-being. The act of watching the candle flame or smoke from the incense also has a hypnotic effect, helping to minimize the likelihood of getting lost in thought. (My personal favorite activity is to watch the sunrise while the birds are feasting on the feeders I have adorned my front yard with.) Before your first sip of your Peaceful Warm Drink, bless your drink, express gratitude, and/or set your intention. Then when you finish, affirm (aloud or in your mind) 'It's a good day for a great day.'
Mindful Movement- Ok, this one may feel easier for some because you don't have to be still! But moving your body daily is essential for vitality, and breathwork is the best way to bring yourself immediately into the present moment. Taking a short walk and synchronizing the breath is a simple way to practice walking meditation. I like to find a cadence with my stride and my breath. For example, inhale for the count of 5 steps, then exhale for the count of 7 steps. Find a rhythm that feels good for your body. BONUS: If possible, bring your Mindful Movement out into nature- a nearby park, lake, beach or forest preserve trail- to maximize health benefits. You can bring your awareness to the sights, sounds, and scents around you. Or, you can utilize guided walking meditations, solfeggio frequencies, or binaural beats on your walk if you prefer. The are many free apps available. When you are done, and are feeling amazing, thank yourself and Mother Earth for your healing session.
These are just a few practices I implement on a daily basis. These examples are not adding to my day. It is simply taking activities that I already do and becoming intentional. You can adjust accordingly and customize your own. I hope this gives you a place to start, and minimally, makes meditation (stillness and presence) feel more attainable.
Finally, I want to stress that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. You can make it as practical or as whoo-whoo as you would like. That is the key. As you like. It is your practice. And you are only going to do it if you like it. And you are only going to benefit from a meditation practice if you actually do it. But I promise you, once you feel the empowerment of cultivating your own inner peace, you will prioritize your time to make it happen because those minutes of stillness and presence influence the trajectory of your entire life.