Here I go, recommending more dreaded selfcare strategies to you…. I’m going to share my experience with starting a meditation practice, what I’ve experienced and gained from having one, and how hard it was to get one going in the first place.
And, as always, what worked/s for me might not work for you. But maybe you can try out a few different methods and find one that’s right for you.
When meditation was first recommended to me, it was a very definitive Hard No. I did not have time to sit still for 10 minutes, let alone 20-30 minutes a day. I had an overflowing plate and was already stressed on time – how was wasting time sitting in silence going to help improve my situation?
But I begrudgingly tried it anyway, just to confirm my preconceived notions.
And guess what?
I was right. It was total BS and I could not possibly sit there with a calm mind while my brain was running thru the list of things I could be doing with my time. I was too antsy to sit still and would give up after two minutes at best. And who could blame me? Three kids, career, laundry, cleaning… life.
(Please don’t stop reading here…)
Fast forward a few months and I found yoga. An online yoga community that focused on a holistic practice -- body, mind, and soul. And guess what was included?
However, these were new and different types of meditation. Meditation through movement (yoga), meditation through breathwork, and mantra meditation.
With these practices, I was able to quiet my thoughts and focus in on something. I wasn’t just sitting there trying ‘not to think’. I was focused on my breath, movement, or a mantra.
There was a purpose to it, I felt like I was at least doing something productive. These forms of meditation worked for me. Now I understood it, I finally got it.
And I did begin to feel better. Feeling slightly ‘lighter’, less stressed in general. I also had a few tools to use to remain calm and not overreact when difficult situations did arise (well, I’m still working on the reacting part).
Deep breaths, people, deep breaths.
As with most things I like, I began my deeper dive into the practices. I enjoyed the mantra meditation practice, so purchased myself a hand-knotted mala. Mala beads date back thousands of years, have deep spiritual significance, and are used in prayer or meditation practices.
I began practicing mantra meditation to support my intentions. Usually using affirmations associated with the chakra system – I know, I see, I speak, I love, I do, I feel, I am.
When using this method, you say your mantra 108 times with each bead serving as the counter. Holding you mala in your hand with the tassel towards you and holding the beads between the thumb and middle finger, you rotate the necklace one bead at a time as you say your mantra (or breathe). Starting at the center, the tassel or guru bead, working your way around until you return to center.
Photo by Deniz Cengiz on iStock
There is spiritual significance to the number 108 in Hinduism and Buddism – it is believed there are 108 chakras (energy centers) in the body that connect to the heart chakra. In Buddhism there are 108 material temptations/mental impurities we must work through to reach enlightenment.
It is also believed 108 represents Source/God/Universe and is the basis of creation. So, by repeating your mantra 108 times with your mala beads, you are connecting to the Universe/God/Source (whichever aligns with your specific belief system).
Eventually I began to get more comfortable doing seated meditations with the intention to slow my thoughts and calm my mind. The idea is not to ‘not think’ as I had originally believed, but to not attach to your thoughts.
To not allow myself to get tied up in a story line. To acknowledge the thought and let it go rather than think ‘oh, yeah, I need to do blah blah blah’ which leads to any and all things related to that thought and the five others that follow. Pema Chodron, one of my favorite teachers, recommends simply labeling it as a thought and then focusing again on quieting the mind.
My mind still wonders, but I am quicker about recentering when thoughts do show up. It’s called a practice for a reason…
I’ve also used candles and incense in my practice as a way to focus my mind. Lighting a candle and focusing on the movements of the flame, the scent of the candle or lighting incense and focusing on the smoke and scent. Incense is a great timer as well… light a stick and meditate while it burns (they do make mini sticks by the way).
Taking your practice outdoors – a walking meditation, or seated in the warmth of the sun. This is an easy way to add grounding to your practice, connecting to Earth.
Guided meditations have also been a large part of my practice, both breathing and visualization meditations. I find I am fairly good at visualizing (imagining) and the voice of the guide keeps me focused on being in the moment. I’m less likely to trail off into my wondering thoughts, thought I still do from time to time. There are several apps to choose from – Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm. You can also find plenty of practices on Youtube.
So my suggestion -- give it a shot. Try out a few different methods and practices. Maybe (hopefully) you’ll find one that works for you.
If you're interested in any of these resources to support your practice, you can check out our meditation line here. Reminder, as always, you do not need any of these things to begin or maintain a dedicated practice -- all you need is you!!
Peace & Love