One of the most frequent questions I get is “How do I start meditating at home?” The reasons people wish to start mediating are almost always because they have stress in their life. This stress may show up in chronic pain, illness, insomnia, and more but the underlying issue is stress.
There are many ways to meditate as there are things that cause us stress in our life. Our chatter minds (chitta we call it in yoga) cause us undue worry and anxiety by replaying scenarios over in our head. Most of these scenarios are in the future or occasionally they are playing out how we may have been able to respond differently to something that happened in the past. Either way, our goal in mediation is to bring ourselves back to the present moment. In the present moment there is no such thing as the future it isn’t here yet. Also, there is no such thing as the past. It too, does not exist. Yet our minds the crafty machines they are use these places to distract us from the Now.
So how do we in this world of always being plugged in and playing many roles in our life reduce our stress without quitting our jobs and living as hermits the woods somewhere?
The answer is by connecting to the present moment, by learning to calm the chitta and realizing that all we can truly control in our life is how we react to that which is occurring around us at this very moment. There are many books, CDs and guided meditations on YouTube you are welcome to access, however to begin a meditation practice I recommend keeping it simple, short, and consistent.
Step One: Create a Sacred Space:
- Find a place you can be free from interruptions. Whether they be pets, children, significant others, cell phones, work that may call your name, etc.
- This space may be a room or a small corner in a room all you really need is space to sit (more details on the sitting part in the next section)
- You may wish to decorate your space with things that are sacred to you. This may include items such as a stature or photo of a deity you resonate with, a picture of a loved one, or favorite travel place. You may wish to include stones, candles, incense, or other items of ritual. None of these items are a ‘requirement’,but they can help to set the energy of your space.
Step Two: Get Comfy
- Meditation is done seated with a long spine. I am going to repeat this. Meditation is done seated. If you are lying down, the practice becomes deep relaxation. Relaxation also has many benefits – but according the ancient Yogic texts, meditation awakens kundalini energy that lives at the base of the spine sending it upwards with the goal being enlightenment once it reaches the crown chakra. That can’t happen if you are lying down.
- Some people choose to sit on the floor in “Easy” cross legged pose. This isn’t always easy for everyone. If your body is holding tension from your posture, the mind will not quiet. If you need to, use a folded blanket, a cushion, or pillow for a seat.This can be as simple as a throw pillow from your couch or as specialized as a Zafu Cushion.
- If the above tips don’t help, you may also use a yoga block to help alleviate pressure you may have due to tight hips by placing your sit bones at the leading edge of the block when you sit down.
- And finally – use a chair if your hips or low back are unhappy. Place a block or other item under your feet so that your knees are in line with your hips and slide forward to the front of the chair to avoid “dumping” into your low back.
Step Three: Start Small
- Grab a timer and set it for 2 minutes. Yes two minutes.
- Get comfy in your seat and set the timer.
- Watch your breath as you inhale and exhale.
- When your chitta mind starts thinking let that thought dance out much like it danced in and come back to your breath. Do this as many times as you need to in the two minutes.
- When the timer sounds thank yourself for practicing and slowly open your eyes.
- Repeat for one week and start adding an extra minute each week.
- Really commit to a month of this practice. Oftentimes people give up too quickly and too easily when they bring something new into their routines. You will start to see powerful shifts in how you respond to life events.
- Do some yoga prior to meditating. Movement of the body helps to quiet the mind. In fact, the purpose of yoga is to prepare for seated meditation.
- I suggest this as a morning practice. Your day unfolds much like it starts. If you are running around in chaos in the morning or start by running late, your day will unfold with the same energy. If you start the day peaceful, present, and focused that is the gift you have given yourself for the day. Of course any meditation is better than no meditation!
- The goal in the beginning is not to be free from thought completely. That is not our nature. What we want to avoid is jumping on a “thought train” where you think: “I need to get milk.” “While I am at the store, I need to pick up a birthday gift for the little neighbor girl.” “I can’t believe she is eight already.” “where does the time go?” “She likes horses. I should get her something with horses.” “The state fair is coming up. I always enjoyed the horse barn.” “Oh cheese curds. . . . . ” “Why can’t I shut this down?” We have all been there. Simply state to yourself “thinking” and come back to the breath. Don’t beat yourself up over it, redirect and refocus. Repeat as needed.
- Remember, just like your yoga and life, it is a practice, not a perfect!
- Now get your tush to the cush and change your life!
Just like we strive to take our yoga asana practice off the mat and into our lives, we want to also take our meditation practice off the cushion. My favorite way to be meditative in my daily life is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is a state we are in during all of life’s activities. Where we begin to use our senses to experience life rather than our minds to push through it. Of course meditating helps bring us to a place of peace and allows to meet our higher self “atman” where we can start to have these experiences with everything we do. A couple of examples to get you started: while washing dishes notice the way the warm water feels on your hands. notice the motion you create as you wipe down the plates, the feeling of the soap bubbles. During your morning walk notice the gentle yellow light the rising sun is casting on the landscape, the long length of the shadows, smell the dew from the grass. Sit on the patio and just watch a tree. Notice the subtle shades of the bark, it’s texture, the sound of the rustling leaves and the songbirds that call it home. notice the feeling that all of this awareness causes in you.
If you are wanting help to create a home practice, whether it be meditation, yoga asana, or just need some advice, I am available for one on one sessions and would love to help you give stress the boot. Please contact me to schedule your personalized session.
Until next time, wishing you as always health, harmony, and healing.