Meditation 101: Meditation for Beginners

images-3.jpgHave you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start?  If so, then you are certainly not alone.

Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain.  I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not.  There is no try” (Yoda).

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In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be.  In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness.  Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.

In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments.  I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..

The Basics:

1.  A quiet time and place

If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting.  It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.

Get real:  However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it.  I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work.  The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.

2.  Posture

Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Don’t lean back.  Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose.  Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs.  Let your eyes close, or if you prefer,  keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.

Get real: 
I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair.  I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?”  Nope.  Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation.  Go with what works for you.   If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok.  Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way to meditating.
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3.  Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.

Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.

Get real:  “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started.  It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down.  You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing.  Just notice……

Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?

4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!

At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath.  Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath.  No need to judge or belittle yourself.  Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.

Get real:  I congratulated myself a lot.  I still do.  I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter.  Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”.  Interestingly enough, this works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Remember….be kind to yourself.  No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander.  You can always begin again.
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5.  End your session

After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete!  Congratulations!

Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice.  However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable.  I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly.  Find one that resonates with you.

Congratulations, you just finished meditating!

In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”.  I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!

As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

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“Jupiter Ascending”…Not really

I’m going to be honest, I’m a Trekkie. (ˈtrekē/ noun-informal: a fan of the US science fiction television program Star Trek.)

I vividly remember practicing Spock’s Vulcan salute with the famous line “Live long and prosper” until my hand hurt. Oh, and how can I forget the Vulcan Mind Meld…”my mind to your mind; my thoughts to your thoughts.”

Super cool…

So, when I received an email from Netflix saying “We just added a movie you might like”..and it has the name of a planet (aka Jupiter), I’m intrigued.

Jupiter Ascending. Catchy name.

It is a movie about a young lady named Jupiter (so, not the planet!) who helps her family clean houses. Little does she know that she actually comes from a long line of intergalactic royalty and she holds the future of Earth in her hands.  The movie is mishmash of aliens, a genetically engineered bodyguard, a youth serum trade, and bees and other out-of-this world ideas.

I’m sorry to say that I would give this movie 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Well, that’s 2 hours I will never get back but this movie did give me pause….

As I was watching the movie, I could not quite understand why Jupiter didn’t seem to relish the idea that she was SPECIAL!

I mean, you are from a long line of alien royalty, you get to go into outer space, be in a space ship….you even OWN a planet!

Wow!  Except for bad aliens trying to kill you, what’s not to be excited about?

There are some days when I wake up and think “there must be some mistake…I AM destined to do great things, right? So, how come my life seems so boring?”

It’s like when I saw a trailer of the new movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them”.  Jacob,the Muggle, sums it all up when he wistfully says  “I want to be a Wizard.”

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a wizard or own a planet?

In thinking about this some more, I think it’s not about being grateful. I wake up grateful everyday and I thank my lucky stars that I am alive, I have a roof above my head and food to eat, have a family who loves me, I live in a country which doesn’t have a bully as its leader, I could go on and on…

No.  This is not about being grateful.

This goes much deeper.

It is about feeling SPECIAL.

BEING SPECIAL.

Hmmmm…Interesting.  I’m thinking there is some deep deep insecurity buried somewhere in my psyche that I need to look at the next time I meditate.

…or maybe, I am again overthinking everything and as I learned in my mindfulness practice that this feeling shall pass…impermanence.

It was just a silly movie, after all.

At any rate… Live long and prosper.

Have a good weekend everyone!!

Debbie.

PS:  I STILL wish I was a wizard….

“Don’t push me…please.”

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Those who knew that I was on this mindfulness journey were actually afraid for me…”That’s it.  Debbie is going to be a doormat once the word gets out that she is actually nice….”

BEFORE that fateful spring day in April 2012, I was the “Yes, I can handle this” type of person.  There was nothing I couldn’t juggle:

  • a stressful career and since I just got promoted, my “proving mode” was on overdrive
  • a busy family life (swimming lessons, piano lessons, Olivia’s homework, renovating the basement, laundry, grocery shopping…you get the picture)
  • running regime (trying to break sub-2 hours in a half marathon and not throw up at the finish line),
  • learning Spanish for work (fail…although, I can order a bottle of wine and ask where the bathroom is)
  • writing a children’s book (still not finished)

While I thought I was a pretty good juggler, I admit I was not the nicest person to be around.  I was more impatient, more crabby, more mean…just “more”.

I remember telling my husband that his 102-year old grandmother will die a very bitter old woman and she deserves it. Ummm, yah. Not nice.

In the office, I had just gotten a promotion and so I was so engrossed in proving myself…if someone disagreed with me, I spent the day poring over accounting rules to prove them wrong.   “I am right and you are wrong.” Ummm, yah.  Not nice.

THEN, while on a conference call that fateful spring day in April 2012, my brain and lungs decided that juggling was no longer fun. I could not catch my breath and everyone in the office thought I was having a heart attack.  They called 911.

Not a heart attack, but an anxiety attack…equally as life changing.  It took months of doctor’s visits, hours of therapy, rigorous regime of mindfulness practice and meditation to realize that it is OK to be…imperfect, vulnerable, not be in control.

FAST FORWARD TO TODAY ….

I am more centered, more mindful, more present…just “more”.

My daughter loves that fact that I am patient, calmer, and actually listens…

Work is also more enjoyable–both for me and for my colleagues.  I try to inject humor and an all-around-positive-attitude during meetings, I try to actually listen with a “beginner’s mind” even though I may have seen the issue in the past (hey, I might learn something new), and I am more patient in explaining myself (if the other person does not get it the first time, it is OK…I can try to explain again).

So, getting back to the “doormat” issue.  I must admit that I too was worried that people would take advantage of my “niceness”….and you know what?  Yes, people have tried to take advantage.  I don’t fool myself into believing that just because I am on this mindfulness journey that everyone is also on the same journey. However, as Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“You cannot change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change the way you react to it.”

So, when someone pushes me, I generally pause, assess (the person may be having a tough day!), and say with kindness and compassion…”Don’t push me…please.”

So far, this reaction has worked for me.

However, I wonder if they had kept pushing me…I think I might have eventually taken a page from the book of one of my very passionate Latina friends…..”You keep pushing me….and I BITE YOU!!”

At that point, I would have taken away the WELCOME mat….

Oh well.

Debbie