I can't believe I am saying this, but I have had a daily yoga and mediation practice for over a year now. The benefits I have seen have been phenomenal, but it wasn't always love from the first sit. I had to figure some stuff out in order to truly receive all of the benefits of meditation. Below I'll spill my "secrets" to a better meditation practice.
1. You can sit in a chair to meditate.
There are a lot of potentially uncomfortable meditation positions out there that people who are inflexible, or dealing with an injury, simply cannot do. So if you cannot find your “zen” while in lotus position, begin your meditation practice in a chair, sitting in bed, or even lying down. If you wish to sit with a straight back for meditation, practice for small periods every day to build up your back strength.
2. A meditation cushion makes sitting for long periods of time much easier.
If you are ready to try one of those pretzel like meditation positions, consider investing in a good meditation pillow. Here is why: if you sit cross- legged for more then 20 minutes your feet will fall asleep. A meditation cushion allows you to sit for a much longer time without going numb, and it helps your hips be in the right position to support your low back. (They should be level with your knees, not higher or lower.)
Worried that you can’t sit still for more then a few minutes? When you are first starting out, give yourself permission to move and reposition. If your feet fall asleep uncross and re-cross your legs until you can sit comfortably again.
3. Meditation isn’t something you “do” it’s something that happens.
Set up the conditions for meditation to happen versus trying to actively “do” meditation. Physical asana is a great way to set the stage for meditation to be possible. Take your yoga to the next level buy doing a meditation after asana and savasana. For example, try incorporating 3-11 minutes of alternate nostril breathing after your next savasana.
4. Still can’t stomach the idea of sitting still? There are many different types of meditation to try, including chanting and pranayama.
I started my meditation practice primarily with active meditations like chanting and pranayama with different mudras and arm movements. Eventually I started to add periods of stillness at the very end of my practice, and then I was able to "allow" a meditative state to unfold.
Want to try an active meditation? Try 3 minutes of "Ego Eradicator" And yes, this meditation will deliver results!
5. The monkey-puppy dog mind will never go away, it isn’t supposed to.
Yup, I said monkey-puppy dog mind. Ever watch a puppy go berserk with boundless energy? Or a monkey swing from tree to tree? That is what the inside of our mind can be like on a daily basis. When we sit down to meditate, it becomes much more noticeable, and we can find ourselves drowning in a sea of thoughts that feel like a puppy chasing it's tail.
The first part to allowing a meditative state to happen is understanding that the goal is not to “stop” the monkey-puppy, but to accept it fully and move below, or beyond, the level of the mind into the level of pure consciousness, where peace and stillness are more easily accessed.
6. Use a meditation “anchor” like breath, a chant, or a mantra to find calm.
Each time you find yourself swinging from tree to tree or chasing your tail in your monkey-puppy dog mind, bring yourself back to the moment with an anchor. A mantra, chant, or breath technique works to constantly remind you to come back to center. Practice your anchor without judgment of the mind activity, but with acceptance and compassion of what is. The goal is to return to center again and again, and witness what unfolds.
7. Meet yourself exactly where you are in the moment.
Part of being “successful” with meditation is practicing non-judgment and acceptance. The fastest way to block a meditative state is to judge yourself for not “doing it right” or “getting there fast enough.” Don't compare yourself to others or an ideal of what you think meditation should be, but meet yourself exactly as you are in this moment. Use a phrase like:
“I am willing to accept myself exactly as I am in this moment.”
8. Once you reach a meditative state, you’ll know it and feel it.
If you are still wondering if “you are doing it right” keep practicing. For me, when meditation happens it feels almost like the deepest of deep sleep, I loose all track of time and space and I no longer notice what is going on around me. Everyone will feel the meditative state differently, so instead of comparing yourself or judging yourself, just keep at it and you WILL find what it feels like for you.
9. A daily practice is the fastest way to progress.
Create a space that is just for meditation, and when you sit down every day on your meditation cushion, or chair, the space starts to hold the energetic vibration of your intention to meditate. It becomes easier and easier to sit to meditate each day, and soon it becomes like brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast.
Try a commitment of 3 minutes of meditation for 40 days and then track your results. Write down how you feel at the starting point, on day 20, and then on day 40. By tracking your results you may be surprised at what unfolds.
10. Start with 3 minutes and work your way up.
Even 3 minutes a day of meditation will be beneficial. Be really honest with yourself and commit to what is truly accessible for you, and work from there. If 3 minutes is all you have time for, then start with 3 minutes.
Too many times we set ourselves up for failure when we bite off more then we can chew, or digest. Like when we start a new diet and get really exuberant and motivated, but 2 days later completely fall off the wagon. Do what is “do-able” in the moment. After all, the whole purpose of meditation is to be-here-now.
Work up to longer times of meditation and receive the benefits.
3 minutes of meditation stabilizes the blood and promotes circulation.
11 minutes shifts the nerves and influences the pituitary glad (the master gland in the brain that is in charge of hormones) and the glandular system (the system important for immunity)
22 minutes balances the positive, negative and neutral mind as they begin to work together.
31 minutes affects the aura, or energy that surrounds the body, and all the internal elements of the body.
62 minutes influences the subconscious mind so that it can be shifted (scientists estimate that 95% of our behavior is based in unconscious habits.) At this level you will start to see radical shifts happen.
What secrets to meditation have you discovered? Please share what you have learned that has helped you to a better meditation practice in the comments below.