Overcoming challenges with meditation
Posted by: The Personal Truths team
Preparing to meditate: Why?
More than just a passing trend, meditation is a lifestyle choice proven to relieve stress and anxiety, promote healthier sleep, and improve focus and awareness. Often referred to as ‘The Art of Now’, meditation can be practised for reasons from religious to medicinal, and is a powerful technique based on the present moment.
Meditative practises such as mindfulness make it possible to interrupt instinctive fight and flight reactions which conjure feelings of fear and worry, reconnecting with the senses, slowing thoughts down and concentrating on the present moment.
There are no strict rules when it comes to meditation, and something as simple as taking a few deep breaths can be effective and often necessary for improved mental wellbeing. Being mindful takes patience and practise, but can truly help with becoming more in tune internally and overcoming challenges.
Preparing to meditate: Where and when?
Practising meditation at the same time each day makes it easier to become part of the daily routine. Early morning can be a perfect time as the mind is not yet consumed with any thoughts, and can therefore be trained into a positive thought pattern from the start of the day. Equally before sleeping, mindfulness can help soothe the stimulated mind and relax the body for a healthier sleep.
Be sure to choose a peaceful and comfortable environment without distraction, which will allow for an easy and natural practise. Though guided meditation classes are becoming more popular, a private space is good for beginner meditation, helping you to become more at ease with your own presence.
Preparing to meditate: How?
A cross-legged seated position is one of the most common yoga poses, which helps the back and neck to stretch rather than slump. It aligns the body and draws energy up through the spine, providing a physical uplift. Your hands can rest in your lap or face upwards in a traditional ‘mudra’ which creates subtle spaciousness and elevation. Alternatively lay down with your arms by your sides in a popular grounding pose named ‘savasana’. Whilst stillness may feel strange and unnatural at first, try to reduce places of tension such as a clenched jaw or tight shoulders. Sink into the ground and picture each body part slowly relaxing.
Once in a comfortable posture, close your eyes and focus on breathing. You can follow your own natural breathing pattern, taking notice of its rhythm, sounds and subtleties or adopt a traditional breathing exercise such as three-part, alternate nostril or ‘ujjayi’ breath; doing so means focusing not on thoughts but senses, taking control of your own internal landscape. Regulating the length, air flow and sound of the breath helps to relax and focus.
It can be beneficial to compare the breath to rolling ocean waves; an inhale being full and forceful, pausing at its crest before crashing into an exhale which naturally slows to a stop.. If time is restricted, visualise a peaceful place in all its senses – the contrast of colours, the sounds from close to far, the temperature of the air and so on. Referring back to a nostalgic location or picturing a serene scene centres the mind in a positive and calming way.
Repeating a mantra can also have positive neurological effects on the brain, freeing the mind of background noise and calming the nervous system. It also vitally improves self-confidence for a more optimistic outlook. In Sanskrit, the word ‘mantra’ translates to mind-tool; a sound vibration used to mindfully focus thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Set an intention for the day such as “I can…” and repeat it quietly until it feels consistent and alive.
Preparing to meditate: Guided meditation
Mindful meditation does not need to be allocated, nor timed. It can be completely spontaneous and is simply about avoiding an auto-pilot mode, becoming aware of the here and now. A simple example is choosing foods which benefit you in a positive way and give you an immediate boost. Aim to eat slower during meals, listen more closely during conversations and seek out colours, sights and sounds when outside. Notice the leaves rustle, the sun on your skin, and the sound of your breath. Intention is the key.