Stressed out but think you can’t meditate? I thought so too! I used to be a go-go-go person. A runner, a dancer, a swimmer. Loved to be on the MOVE all the time. I also loved naps and still do! Shhh!
But in the past, I could simply NOT sit still and meditate.
Now, I even look forward to it. A moving meditation, walking or running is great, but it’s a very different experience from sitting still and quieting the mind.
I started out by setting a timer and meditating for 5 minutes at a time. Nothing complicated. Just focusing on the breath or on a mantra (“so hum” is a favorite go-to. It means “I am”). If thoughts arose I acknowledged them and continued.
When I incrementally graduated to 20 mins I found that the first 10 mins were really a warm up, and only then was I able to get into a state that I can only describe as a brain massage.
Now, when 20 minutes are up, I sometimes keep on going because that zone is just too good to get out of. And it really spills into the rest of my day or night. So if you think you can’t meditate for long maybe try longer! See whether you have the same experience I did!
Trust me, I was no meditator and now I’m loving it.
To get you started, here are three simple ways for you to try meditation:
Japa mala meditation:
Find a mala online (I bought a couple of great ones on Etsy that are made with lava beads, which I can infuse with essential oils). This is a string of beads similar to a rosary, with 108 beads and one larger bead. Sit crossed-legged on the floor, supported by a small cushion, pillow, or a yoga blanket. Keep your spine erect, the crown of your head reaching towards the ceiling, and your shoulders relaxed. Keep a downcast gaze or close your eyes. Holding the mala in your right hand, slide the beads one by one with your thumb (as in this video), while internally repeating a mantra. It could be “OM,” “So-hum” or any other longer or shorter mantra of your choice. When you’ve gone through all the beads a few times, you’re done. Focusing on a mantra and on the movement of your thumb over the beads should help. Still, know thoughts will arise and that being aware of that fact is already a form of meditation!
For this kind of meditation, which is actually my current go-to, I get ready just as above, but skip the mala. I may wear one around my neck or my wrist, infused with an essential oil of my choice, but instead of counting beads, my hands are resting. I keep them face down on my knees if I need grounding (to feel more rooted and secure) or face up if my energy is low, to recharge. After a few deep breaths in and out of the nose, I set a timer for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes and as I relax my shoulders, I chant a mantra silently or even out loud if I’m alone. I do love “so-hum” (I am) but I also enjoy the Ganesh mantra: “Om Gam Ganapataye Namo Namaha” said to help remove obstacles, or the Gayatri mantra: “Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ, tát savitúr váreṇyaṃ, bhárgo devásya dhīmahi, dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt” a chant of gratitude. You may use one of these or make up your own. An affirmation is also a good thing to focus on: “I am here, now.”
Breath awareness meditation:
There are many different ways to regulate the breath (pranayama), and focusing on it is a form of meditation. I enjoy nadi shodana, which is alternate nostril breathing. I sit the same way as above, and then ready myself for a few rounds or even minutes of this mindful practice. I begin by closing my eyes and taking a deep inhalation through the nose, and then exhale slowly. After a few rounds, I fold the tips of my index and middle finger towards the palm. I gently close the right nostril with my thumb and inhale deeply through the left nostril. Then with the ring and pinky finger, I close the left nostril and exhale slowly through the right nostril. I then inhale through the right nostril, close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale. After a few rounds of this, especially if I’ve focused on the sound of my breath or even counted breaths, I feel relaxed and ready to continue my day.
Please don’t get discouraged if you feel meditation is simply not working for you. A trick I’ve used is to do it when I’m physically tired. In fact, that is what asana yoga is for! To prepare the body to sit still while you quiet the mind during meditation. Also know that meditating doesn’t imply the absence of thoughts. You will have thoughts! My personal experience is that I am able to acknowledge the thoughts and wave them away. I also don’t get caught up in them and they cease to affect my emotions. That’s when I know I’m on the right track. The only way to do meditation wrong is not to even try!
Let me know whether you do try!