Do you meditate? Do you want to but don’t know how or don’t have the time? Meditation is widely-regarded as being an essential daily practice for maintaining a state of presence, calming the mind, controlling anxiety and having awareness of what we are feeling and what is going on around us. Presence allows us to fully be in the moment and meditation is a great way to achieve presence and remain in that place throughout the day. Those who meditate on a regular basis cannot speak highly enough about the incredible benefits and notice a huge difference when they fall out of the practice. I have dipped in and out of meditation for years and although I don’t have a consistent practice, I always come back to it when I feel depression and anxiety arising, and it really does help.
According to meditation app Headspace, ‘meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.’
This practice is also known as ‘mindfulness’, which is essentially a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment. We can practice mindfulness at any moment in life by simply being aware of what is going on around us. This is something that is becoming increasingly harder to do these days, especially with the rising addiction we all have to our smartphones which provide endless entertainment and distraction, removing us from the present moment. Watch a small child or an animal and regard how hyper-present they are. They hear every sound, watch every thing and are curious about what is going around them. As a result, their senses are sharp and they are living fully in each moment. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? More than that, it is our birthright. However, daily stresses and worries can remove us from the present moment and mean that we aren’t fully experiencing life. How often are you fully present? Check in with yourself now by taking a moment to breathe. Feel your breath. Listen to the noises around you. What can you hear? What can you see? Taking a second to reconnect can be incredibly grounding.
So, how we can make mindfulness a practice?
It is fair to say that not all of us have time to sit and meditate each morning but remember that meditation can happen at any moment. All you need to do is put your attention on your breath and that will automatically return you to the present moment.
A great app for helping with this is the Breathe app which focuses on resonant breathing, something that ‘induces a state of restful alertness and mental clarity.’ You notice a benefit simply by inhaling as the ball on your screen goes from small to large, and exhaling as it does the reverse. Something so simple really does help. Headspace teaches you how to meditate and holds you accountable each day, while also gently reminding you that it’s okay for your mind to wander and to struggle at first. You can even start by simply doing one minute meditations and tailor the experience to you. The app can also send daily mindfulness reminders to your phone, one of which is to simply ‘remember that blue sky’. Calm is another popular app, which offers meditation for sleep and stress reduction. The benefits of meditation really are endless and there are so many ways to incorporate it into your daily routine.
To get started, here is a basic meditation from www.mindful.org
The first thing to clarify: what we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in our brains. We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered.
- Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
- Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
- Follow your breath for two minutes. You can imagine the breath ball—inhaling as the ball expands, exhaling when the ball contracts.
For more meditation tips, check out https://www.headspace.com/meditation/tips
If you are interested in learning more about a meditation practice, research meditation studios or classes that may be located near you as this is also a great way to incorporate meditation into your weekly routine and meet new people. Classes are a wonderful way to discover the type of meditation that works for you and they are lead by an instructor who will guide you through the session. I attend meditation classes in LA at The Den Meditation and Unplug Meditation as then I commit to meditating for the 45 minutes that I’m there, and I always leave having taken something positive from the experience. Alternatively, YouTube is a great resource and there are many online courses which are often free and provide you with a guided meditation. Deepak Chopra offers a 21-day meditation experience with Oprah, which is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a meditation experience, hold yourself accountable and maintain a meditation practice.
Whatever your lifestyle, know that there is a way you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life, as it really does only take a few seconds to feel your breath and reconnect to the present moment, yet the benefits are truly endless. I always remind myself that simply being aware of everything going on around me, having my senses engaged, breathing deeply and living fully in that moment is a form of mindfulness. It also helps us to feel more grounded and gain mental clarity, which is crucial for handling situations with rationality and being able to truly appreciate all of the little things around us. I am making a pledge to be more mindful in my every day life and I’d love you to join me!