“Make your mind your friend”- Yogi Bhajan
As I scroll thru my social media feeds in the new year, I read a lot about cleansing diets, starting exercise programs, and making resolutions. What about beginning or re-starting a regular meditation practice? There’s so much information out now about why it’s good for you and I’ve noticed my students love that part of class. In fact, the purpose of the physical asanas (poses) are to prepare the mind for meditation and stillness. The ancient practice of yoga wasn’t to create hot looking fit bodies…it was a spiritual practice of movement to prepare for sitting meditation.
Getting Started With Meditation
A good way to start a meditation practice is to read about it and find something or someone who really resonates for you. Today it’s so mainstream we’re seeing celebrities like Oprah, Madonna, Sting, Katy Perry… and even Hillary Clinton’s alternate nostril breathing practice making headlines. Aside from these famous pop icons putting meditation in the spotlight, there’s a growing number of spiritual teachers and therapists like Sharon Salzberg, Marianne Williamson, Tara Brach, Pema Chodron and so many others. The first book that really influenced my meditation/ self- awareness deep dive was, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, both introduced to me in yoga classes years ago. One of my first yoga teachers described it as “coming home to yourself” and that stuck with me. In our busy lives it’s really important to check in with ourselves and get right with our minds. You don’t have to be a recluse or a monk or “enlightened” to have a regular meditation practice. And you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy retreats. Today there’s a lot of options available. And, in my opinion, there’s no right way or one size fits all. Meditation doesn’t mean transitioning into lotus pose, closing your eyes and blanking out at the sound of a singing bowl.
We’re hearing more and more about meditation being offered to children in schools, addiction recovery programs, veterans hospitals, special needs, chronic pain management in clinical settings, terminal illness and even corporate environments. Why? Because neuro science tells us that calming the nervous system and having the ability to access your own relaxation response to manage sympathetic nervous system, promotes self- healing to live a life that makes us feel good about ourselves. Yippie … #yestothat.
Heidi’s Meditation Picks
So, here’s some of my personal picks for getting your meditation on at a time that works for you:
Audio Meditation apps :
- Calm App
- Stop, Breathe & Think App
- Headspace App
Real Time Group Meditation / In Person Meditation
Look up Yoga Studios, Health & Wellness Centers, and fitness centers in your area that offer meditation and if you’re looking for religious meditation many churches, temples and places of worship offer weekly meditation.
Meditation with Bryan Gates from – Breathing Room
Making Meditation Work For You
Now that I’ve mentioned some resources, make your intention realistic by thinking about what your days look like and start with short durations at ideal times. By that I mean maybe 3 minutes when you wake up (yes, the apps have super short ones), waiting in the car at a school pick up (my favorite time when my daughter was little), on your commute, or at night before bed. At one time, I even meditated in the middle of night feeding my daughter by just breathing in sync with rocking my daughter back to sleep. It kept me grounded when I was frustrated with waking up all night. Once you know how, you can get meditative on command. Bring your own personal awareness to what works for you. Remember, meditation is a journey into yourself, you connecting with yourself on deep subtle levels. I came to realize that I really like breath meditation and group meditation. When I’m in a group I feel more responsible to hold the space and stay in it for the collective whole. Be curious and try different styles like sound, visual, or breathing techniques. No self- judgment, just keep exploring. Most important is to notice how you feel in the various styles… and then create a pattern because you want to go back to that peace and calm feeling.
Why do I carve out the time to meditate? Because a lot of false narrative builds up in my mind after a day of dealing with people, making decisions, and solving problems. Here’s some benefits of meditation I’ve noticed… less reactive, more patient, better communicator, less insomnia, more productive, less anxious. Now, when I haven’t meditated at least 3x per week I can feel myself getting impatient or forgetful, overwhelmed. Everyone has different narratives in their mind. Meditation gives the opportunity to become the observer of our own tendencies.
The goal of meditation is not to fix ourselves but to become self-aware to experience life more fully in the moment. All humans crave happiness. But if our minds are filled with anxiety, fear, doubts, anger, grief, sadness, depression…(I’ll stop here), we’re sabotaging ourselves. The nature of mind is to analyze, plan, critique, and compare. Meditation puts the mind and nervous system in neutral to see things clearer as they really are. So…. back to the quote I selected for at the top of this post: “Make your Mind your friend.” – Yogi Bhajan
If you have a meditation practice you enjoy or questions about starting a practice, please share in the comments. I love listening, learning, and sharing all things health and wellness.