Cultivate a Meditation Practice (Yes, You!) and Live with Less Stress
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, as I write this, I am sitting alone in my apartment, during a power outage, on my laptop, which I thankfully had the foresight to charge fully before the storm hit. It is really strange not to have the distraction of the possibility of the email alert going off on my phone or an incoming call or text. It is super quiet outside—I think most people have left downtown in favor of areas with electric. The sirens are becoming less and less frequent, and other than the wind, that has been the only prevalent sound outside.
So what am I going to do with all of this peace and quiet? Meditate, of course!
I know, I know. It sounds way easier than it is, but there are lots of little tricks and techniques that make meditating—which can seem like such a daunting task to anyone who doesn’t practice it regularly—quite simple.
And once you are in the habit of it, mediating is incredibly enjoyable. You become a more relaxed, more grounded person, able to navigate life with infinitely more grace and ease.
Ready to start?
While not necessary, sometimes it helps to have a little ritual attached to meditating, perhaps lighting a candle or a stick of incense—that way, if you do it every time, there is a clear signal to your brain that it is time to meditate.
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Then begin by simply finding a comfortable way to sit. Maybe for you that is kneeling propped up on a pillow or maybe it is cross-legged. Figure out the way in which your body feels best seated, and arrange yourself accordingly.
Once you’re ready, close your eyes. Rest your palms face up or down wherever they fall comfortably on your thighs. (You can play with palms up and palms down every time you meditate. Generally palms up gives you more energy, as you are “open to receive,” and palms down grounds you. Change it up depending on which you want more of an any given day.)
Now start to notice your breath. Don’t try to change it, simply notice it and observe it. Is it shallow? Is it deep? Is it easy? You can spend an indefinite time watching your breath. In fact, that can be your entire meditation practice, if you like. If your thoughts and focus start to wander away from your breath, don’t get upset, simply notice it, acknowledge the distraction, and gently guide your thoughts back.
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If observing your breath isn’t working for you at first, you can try to experiment with your breath. I like to lead meditation by using some yoga breathing. Begin with three deep breaths, fully inhaling and exhaling. Then transition to alternate nostril breathing. Do this first for four counts, then move to six, then eight, continuing all the way to 16 if your breath allows. By then you might find that all of that focusing on counting has calmed your thoughts and you have the ability to relax your mind and observe your breath.
It’s best not to start with huge expectations of meditating for hours. Instead, try five minutes. Use your phone’s timer and set aside those five minutes in your day for you. Sit and breathe, and you will be shocked at how quickly that goes by. When that is easy for you, change your timer to 10 minutes, then 20, and so forth.
Experiment with times of day: See if right when you wake up or just before you go to sleep works best for you—maybe you will end up doing both or some time in between.
The beauty of having a mediation practice is that you can do it anywhere. One of my favorite places to meditate is on the subway: It is the best way I know to enjoy my ride and tune out most of the crazy energy flying around the subway cars.
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There are all sorts of different ways about getting into your mediation practice, and when you are comfortable with it, it will evolve with you. But it’s never going to seem easy until you start, so start right now! Set your iPhone timer to five minutes and go. “Free your mind, and the rest will follow!”