MEDITATION 101…what can happen + how to make it work for you
Wrong. So wrong.
Let me walk you through a typical morning meditation experience. Now this is going to sound like I’m trying to convince you not to meditate. But quite the contrary. I’m trying to de-mystify the experience, mostly to demonstrate that meditation isn’t this inaccessible experience nor is it only for the truly enlightened and spiritual’. It is, however a skill that needs to be learned, practiced and approached with dedication.
Here’s a snapshot of a standard meditation session:
- Wash face + brush teeth
- Light candles
- Sit in meditation chair
- Set timer to 20 minutes (I keep this on really low, with a gentle alarm tone and no vibrate!)
- Close eyes and begin gently repeating mantra
- Battle non-stop with the words and thoughts whipping around my head – continually steering back to my mantra
- Fight the urge to give up early, open my eyes or feel frustrated at every single distraction/sound!
- Alarm goes off – stop repeating mantra
- Rub hands together and then press palms into eyes
- Gently open eyes
As you can see – hardly enlightened or blissful, right? My morning session is usually the hardest one. Being a Vata dosha I am the most active – mentally – during the morning. I struggle to tame the monkey mind. Generally the 50 things I have to do before getting to work are simmering underneath the surface. Each ‘thing’ wants to be acknowledged and set free to run rampant through my mind, banging into each other and generally causing a mess.
Even though it’s a struggle, that AM session is actually the most necessary. Without it, the monkeys in my mind multiply throughout the day and that’s when the struggle truly begins. I battle to find stillness, and just sitting and ‘being’ with the experience, whatever that may be. It feels impossible to formulate my day, act with patience, stay clear and maintain ‘big picture’ thinking. Over time I’ve slowly found a routine that helps me domesticate the wilderness messing about in my mind. These usually happen before I settle into my meditation chair. I don’t always do each one but pick and choose depending on how I am feeling.
Stretch – a few gentle sun salutes and long held hip openers connected with ujjayi breathing (a gentle whisper/ocean like sounding breath created by contracting the glottis in the throat and breathing in and out of the nose)
Journal– I take some time to note down my intuition for the day, expectations, goals and desires, or simply just a stream of consciousness to help me get ‘stuff’ down onto paper and out of my mind.
Affirmations – I have a written list of affirmations. Really they are desires written as if they have already come into fruition. This helps me remember the ‘bigger picture’ and makes me feel a little more connected to myself. It reminds me of what I’m working towards without getting too micro, as we do most days with our ‘things-to-do’ lists!
Pranayama – practice a few yogic breath-control techniques. My favourites are Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) and Kappalbhati (forceful breathing)
My advice, if you struggle with your morning meditation session don’t be afraid to find a routine for you that works. You could try the above or even some other options such as:
- Drink hot water + lemon to cleanse the body
- Morning exercise – sometimes a run or workout really , pen the body + mind allowing you to go deeper
- Shower, dress and get organised before sitting down to meditate.
- I know alot of people would disagree and they believe it’s important to move into meditation not long after you rise but some people wake with a really active mind and need to find ways to help them along the way
For me, things have changed a bit. Now that I am practicing Ashtanga-Vinyasa every morning at 6am (out the door at 5:45am) my morning meditation practice has taken a bit of a battering. At the moment, I make sure my meditation and savasana (relaxation) session at the end of my yoga practice is at least 15-20mins. I use this time to totally bliss out and let go. Previously, savasana would only last 5 minutes at the moment and I was always so aware of my surroundings. Now, I let the sound of the breath as students flow through their practice wash over me like a wave, lulling me into a deeper state.
Sometimes I meditate at lunch, sitting in the park, or even in my car. In the evenings I meditate in my yoga room with a candle lit, wrapped in blanket – the snug, cosyness makes me feel safe and protected. The energy is much more subdued and my mind almost seems eager to be rid of its thought-shackles to hang out in ‘the gap’ – the place between your thoughts, the pause button where you can let out a big exhale. And when I am there, it is so soothing and blissful. My mind wobbles between the gap and thoughts, so it is still a constant push and pull as I steer back to the mantra. However, little cues tell me that I am in the right place.
Here are a few little things that can happen during a meditation session.
- Hot hands + feet
- Feeling of heaviness or lightness
- Unsure of where you are in time/space
- Sound around you becomes dulled and distant.
- Feelings of anger, frustration and agitation may arise
- Feelings of elation, joy, sadness
- Spontaneous tears
It’s good to be prepared for any of the above and more and realise that even when you don’t feel ‘blissed out’ that you are still reaping the benefits of meditation but clearing stagnant emotions, baggage and energy.
Over time, by slowly training the mind to fight the monkeys you too will come to reap the benefits of meditation. It isn’t this weird tree-loving yogi thing, and it’s not just for people that are into hippy sort of behaviour. It’s a skill – just like learning to ride a bike. And with time you will develop the skill so it’s become something of a life-force for you. Giving much more that it takes.
What happens in your meditation session? Or have you yet to try it… if so, what do you think about meditating.
Signing off with an exhale.
Pause. Listen. Live