As a yoga and meditation teacher I am inspired by the plethora of information coming out about the benefits of a yoga and meditation practice! More and more data is emerging, highlighting how a regular practice can help lower blood pressure, increase feelings of well being and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. As if this isn’t enough to spark your interest, research supports the claim that 30 minutes of meditation a day can positively impact the parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
For military spouses who live a life in constant motion and perpetual change, a meditation practice can be a game changer; however, almost daily I hear from students who have tried to start meditating, only to give up because they feel like they aren’t doing it right or it just feels impossible. The idea of clearing or quieting the mind feels like an insurmountable task. Practicing in a studio setting with a well trained teacher can be a very helpful way to kick start your practice but getting to a class can be challenging for military spouses who are juggling many balls, wearing many hats, and struggling to keep their head above water.
The good news is that you don’t have to go anywhere to start a personal meditation practice! All you need is a willingness to try something new. The premise behind meditation is simple. Get quiet, be still, and focus on being in the moment. If you are focusing on doing these three things, you are practicing meditation!
As practitioners if we learn to move away from the idea of mediation as an end state and instead focus on meditation as a process, we are less likely to see ourselves as failing in our efforts. The truth is, just by trying it we are doing it! Meditation is the process and practice of being here now. It is the journey. It isn’t about getting anywhere. It is the experience of being present and learning how to settle, soften and breathe, no matter what is going on around us.
While there are many forms of meditation, all with their own nuances, here is a stripped down set of instructions to make the basic practice accessible to those who are just getting started.
- First, designate a quiet space in your house or workplace where you won’t be interrupted. Set a timer for 1 minute at first. (Don’t bog yourself down by trying to start out with 30 minutes, although a 30-minute meditation is glorious! You can lengthen out the time as you start to get more comfortable.)
- Sit down on a cushion, a chair, or on the floor. (Don’t make too many rules for yourself. This is your practice. Keep it simple!)
- Sit up tall and lengthen out your spine by rooting into your seat. Reach the crown of your head up toward the ceiling. Roll your shoulders back slightly and open your chest.
- Let your hands rest in your lap, or place your palms face down on your thighs. Close your eyes and begin to scan your body noticing any sensations that arise. As the sensations come to your attention, acknowledge them briefly then continue scanning.
- Next, focus your attention on your breath. Watch yourself breathing and notice the rise and fall of your chest. Each time your mind wanders gently draw your attention back to your breath. Do this over and over again throughout your meditation time. You can watch your breath, count your breath, or just listen to your breath.
When your timer goes off, congratulate yourself! You were meditating! There is no such thing as being bad at meditation. Commit to practicing in the morning when you first get up and then again in the evening before you go to bed. As you get more comfortable sitting in stillness add time to each session. You may be surprised at how much you look forward to these quiet moments of reconnecting with yourself and finding your way back home. Happy meditating, friends! Namaste.