We live in a highly stressful world these days. Pressures from work and family and trying to have it all seem to rob our lives of joy. We want to do it all and have it all and we want to give it all to our children as well. Such striving for more can create stress and anxiety in our world.
Illness from stress is said to cause up to 80% of our doctor visits. Yet stress and its impact on our bodies is avoidable and preventable. We have a choice as to how we want to spend our days. Our lives do not have to be so frantic.
“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” -Dalai Lama
A gift of calm, peaceful certainty
Many of us come to a breaking point in adulthood where we realize something has to change, life isn’t working out like it should. Our health is faltering, our relationships are strained, and we feel generally unhappy.
Surely there must be more to life, surely we were not put here on this planet to struggle and toil and that’s all there is to it. Many of us stumble into a meditation practice as a way to cope with our situation and we realize there is so much more to life than just “coping”.
With meditation we can find peace and calm and joy. Yes! We can find joy!
Imagine if we had found meditation before the stresses and difficulties of life demanded we finally take action? How would our relationships have been impacted? How would our career choices have been different? How might our health be improved? Where would we be now?
Who’s to say, but surely our lives would have been altered for the better had we operated from a place of calm knowing, of inner peace and of more certainty in ourselves and the world around us.
Let’s give this gift of calm, peaceful certainty to our children as we develop and deepen our own practice. Imagine the impact on your family. Envision the impact on those with whom you interact outside of your family. The ripple effect will be amazing and we will set our children up for a life that is manageable, purposeful, enjoyable and healthy, both mentally and physically.
How to prepare yourself
“Nature is infinitely creative. It is always producing the possibility of new beginnings.” -Marianne Williamson
Starting a meditation practice does not take a great deal of planning or preparation. Lessons are not necessary to get started. You don’t need to buy any equipment or drive to a class. No special outfits are needed to meditate. You need only yourself and a quiet place to sit and you can be on your way.
Understanding the steps for a comfortable and calming meditation session will help you enjoy your time sitting quietly.
If you are brand new to meditation and mindfulness, give yourself some time to get comfortable with the practice before introducing it to your children or other family members. We are always more effective when we can teach from a place of experience.
Here’s a plan to follow if you are just starting out
1. Choose a good time.
Many people enjoy meditation first thing in the morning. It’s easier to ensure you get your time sitting quietly if you make it a priority at the top of your day. Others find their mind is too active first thing, so they choose afternoon or right before bedtime to practice. Play around with the times available to you and select the one that works best as a regular meditation time. When the time is set, make this a priority. Nothing is more important than your peace of mind, as your state of mind impact those around you.
2. Choose a regular spot.
Having a place that is used only for meditation can help set the intention for your practice. It can also help you stick with your practice, as you do this one thing in this one place each and every day. Try to find a place, either indoors or outdoors, that is quiet and free from distraction. Too much environmental noise can make it difficult to quiet the mind. This spot can be one that can accommodate the entire family if you plan on practicing together.
3. Learn to feel your breath
The breath is a natural point of focus for your mind. We all breathe without giving it a thought, so it is an easy place to put your attention, as it takes no effort. When your mind starts to wander off, you can gently bring your attention back to your breath and find your center again. In order to do this, you need to learn to feel your breath. Take a few normal breaths and identify where you feel the sensation most readily in your body. Do you feel coolness in your nostrils when the air enters your body? Do you feel the rise and fall of your chest as your lungs expand? Do you feel the sensation of movement in your belly as it rises and falls with the air? This may take some practice, but the practice is meditative as well, so enjoy the exploration of finding and feeling your breath.
4. Find a comfortable posture
Meditation should be done with an alert mind. If you feel too relaxed, you might fall asleep. If you are sitting in a position that is too rigid, you might feel pain and that will become your mental focus. Find a posture that helps you feel alert and focused, not sleepy or stiff. For most people, this is sitting on the floor on a cushion or in a chair. You can cross your legs or not. You should try to sit with your spine as erect as possible. However, there is no “right way” to sit for meditation. The position depends on you and what makes you feel most comfortable and focused. Play around with postures until you find the one that suits your body and mind most appropriately.
5. Put a gentle smile on your face
A gentle smile on your face will help you to relax all over, mind and body. Tension is a barrier to clearing the mind and relaxing the body. Even if you have nothing to smile about when you begin your practice, start with a gentle upturn at the corners of your mouth. Your face will relax, your mind will settle, and you will find that your attitude and physical posture will follow suit and relax into the practice.
6. Start small, 5 minutes is all you need to begin
Starting small will help ensure you do not get overwhelmed by trying to sit still for too long. There is no need to attempt to commit to a 20 or 30 minute meditation session to feel like you are getting the most benefit. Start small, set a timer, and do 5 minutes of quiet meditation, paying attention to your breath and gently bringing your mind back to your breath when it begins to wander. You will be surprised at how quickly that 5 minutes passes.
7. Before you get up and move on, reflect
Take a moment to think about how you felt as you were meditating before you jump up and move on to your next activity. Give your time on your meditation cushion some thought, was your mind calm or rambunctious? Were you alert or sleepy? Where did your thoughts wander to most often? You may want to have a journal by your side to jot down your reflections each time. You can review your journal periodically for motivation and inspiration.
Share your thoughts here with us.
It will make your journey to a solid meditation practice more enjoyable to read how others are doing. If you struggled, we’d love to support you on this journey. If you have tips that helped you, we’d love to learn from your experience.
Photo by Jeri Johnson