It’s important to approach your practice of meditation with an openness in mind and body to avoid frustration. I understand that meditation seems unobtainable to many people. “I can’t meditate. My mind is too busy,” or “I tried to meditate once, but my body hurt so bad that I gave up.” Before you abandon meditation, try these two tips. If you are curious, this will help you begin a beautiful love affair with meditation.
FIRST- the physical body:
Imagine centuries ago the ancient sages sat all day every day meditating to gain clarity and enlightenment. On their path to Self-realization, their bodies became stiff and uncomfortable from sitting. They began to move and stretch so that they could feel more stable and comfortable in their physical bodies. This act of stretching is commonly referred to as yoga. However, the “postures” or stretches are only one limb of yoga, called asana. Yoga asanas were intended to prepare the body for meditation, also known as “dhyana.” Last month I wrote about how sadhana is an act of self-love. Sadhana is when yoga becomes a daily spiritual practice. To meditate comfortably, you need to move before you sit. Yoga asana will condition the physical body by building flexibility where you are tight and strength where you are weak.
How can we support our physical body when moving isn’t enough?
If you are experiencing a physical limitation, there are yoga or meditation “props” that are intended to support your body. Prop support will allow your body to relax so that when you do meditate, your physical body will not be the distraction. You can sit on a pillow, folded blanket, or a yoga block. Other alternatives are Back Jacks or zafu pillows. A good rule of thumb is that your knees should rest below your hips when you sit. If sitting cross-legged is challenging, simply open your legs wide. Connect with how you feel, opposed to how to think you should look.
SECOND- the mental body:
Dhyana is meditation. Here we aim to free ourselves from suffering. Meditation is currently being used as therapy for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, performance enhancement for athletes, just to name a few. According to a recent discussion in my yoga therapy lecture, Scientists have determined that meditation plumps the pre-frontal cortex, which is associated with higher order brain functions, and the amygdala, which is associated with fear actually shrinks.
Knowing the benefits of meditation should inspire you to try and master your mind. Prepare your mind for meditation by finding your drishti or focal point. With eyes closed find a focal point inside of yourself to gaze upon, i.e. the space between your eyebrows or tip of your nose. With eyes open, you could also gaze towards a candle flame sitting at eye level arm’s distance in front of you. That technique is called trataka. After finding your drishti, then focus on your breath to still the myriad of distracting thoughts. When your mind wanders, simply return to your breath awareness.
Keep your initial meditation practice simple and you will fall in love with the practice over time. Next week I will publish a blog about How To Meditate. Please subscribe to Shakti-Bhakti Travels and receive my next blog. Together we will delve into meditation, and I will educate you on meditation for community, how to meditate, the art of walking meditation, and meditation for kids. Thank you. Namaste.