Ah, the allusive art of meditation. It seems so simple, yet complicated; easy, yet difficult. And where to start? What to do? Who to study with? Are you even doing it right?
The topic of meditation seems to be coming up a lot these days. More and more studies are proving the benefits of meditation, and people's personal experiences are gaining traction.
While this is wonderful, I've also heard that it's left more and more people feeling confused and frustrated on how to adopt these practices.
Well have no fear, dear one. I am here to clear the brain fog with some simple techniques and starting points. I'm also here to state that meditation is not just sitting and trying not to think. While there are formal styles and disciplines that are worth dedicating yourself to, I believe that meditation can be done anytime, anywhere.
My meditation practice is very, very simple. Simple, yet oh so effective. Allow me to share with you my two go-to techniques that keep me calm and mindful.
Breathe and notice. Those are my two key words I come back to when I feel anxious, doing a task I don't like, or craving some meditation time. When you are wondering how to meditate, your mind wanders in meditation, or you are having a rough moment in life, think "Breathe and notice."
Here's what I mean.
I would dare to say that learning a few breathing exercises is all you ever need to do to learn how to meditate. Meditation is creating stillness and tuning inward. What better way to do that than to take deep, therapeutic breaths?
So if you are ever wondering what to do, breathe. It's quite simple, but it honestly will change your life. But know that I'm not talking about any ol' breath.
Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, and take some deep breaths. What hand is moving more? Ideally, the hand on your belly is expanding, pressing that hand out. THAT is where the breath needs to be. Your belly muscles are meant to be your primary breathing muscles, but a lot of people find belly breathing quite challenging.
So perhaps that is all you do in your meditation practice for now. You lay down or sit, conditioning your body to breathe comfortably from that space. And if your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the breath. To the sensations you feel. To creating space and calmness.
If that breath is comfortable for you already, one of my go to exercises is the Three-Part Breath.
After you've done some basic deep breathing, you are going to inhale in three different segments. First, the belly expands with air, second, the lungs fill, and third, the chest. Then exhale all of the air out.
Practice this a few times and then return to normal breathing. I practice this exercise all of the time and in all kinds of scenarios. In the car, doing dishes, falling asleep at night, in a boat, in a moat, you get the idea.
Bringing our awareness to our breath can turn any task into a meditation. Into a way of creating stillness and tuning in during any situation life throws at us.
I've gotten a lot of feedback from my clients and students about how learning how to breathe therapeutically has been the most influential things they've learned from me. Breathing! It's great.
P. S. You can listen to a guided version of this HERE.
Noticing the Little Things
Along with intentional breathing, you can switch your focus to the subtler things. How does this breathing exercise make you feel? Where do you feel tension? Can you release this tension with your breath? How are you really doing?
You can also take that into you everyday tasks. Eating, for example. Slow down and eat free of distraction. Notice the texture of the food. The flavors. Where your food came from. How does it make you feel? Is it serving your body or not?
Other examples would be noticing your surroundings while you exercise. How does it makes you feel? Where are you holding tension?
Again, meditation is creating stillness and tuning inward. Slowing down and noticing the simple, little, subtle things does just that.
Breathe and notice, folks. Start there. Yes, the depths of meditation are vast, but it's a lifelong study. Keep it simple. Don't overcomplicate. Be curious and see all there is to gain by breathing and noticing.
And let me know how it goes! I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Take good care.