Meditation—the ancient practice of quieting the mind—can greatly enhance our daily lives. Originating in the India/Pakistan region more than 5,000 years ago, meditation is said to bring calmness and openness to your entire being, leaving you with a strong sense of self and connection. When our lives get busy, we choose to put this practice on the back burner. However through meditation you can achieve these tangible benefits:
- Reduction of stress
- Improvement of sleep
- Improvement of concentration
- Greater feeling of happiness
- Increased feeling of confidence
- Improved ability to focus
Sounds great, right? Now, let’s take a look at the barriers that typically prevent us from getting started on this miracle practice. One of the most common phrases I hear is, “I don’t know where to begin,” and “When’s the best time to practice?” Or, “I’ve tried and my mind is so busy there is no way I can possibly keep it quiet!” and the infamous, “I have no time!”
Since all of these concerns are understandable, here are some suggestions to overcome them.
1. Personalize your practice
When you begin your meditation practice, there is no specific amount of time or time of day to do it—you should be proud you’re getting it in at all! However, I will say that I find the nicest time for me is first thing in the morning before the world really wakes, and my mind is a little less full. A night time practice is also a relaxing way to achieve great sleep, but some might say the days’ events tend to bog the mind. Others prefer a midday practice, which helps to keep a healthy mindset throughout the day. Your practice can range from one minute to one hour, whatever suits you!
2. Keep a straight spine
It has been said that sitting in an upright position, whether it be both feet on the ground, or legs crossed, is most suitable for the practice. The spine is an integral part of the mind-body connection and a spine that is erect and lengthened is said to enhance the meditation experience. If sitting upright starts off as uncomfortable for you, then I would encourage any position that allows you to be comfortable and relaxed.
3. Set intentions
The biggest barrier I have encountered is the belief that you, personally, have an inability to quiet the mind. However, there are other ways to achieve the great feelings a meditation practice can bring. For me, it is through the act of appreciation. To elaborate, on some mornings when I meditate, I make sure to set up in a spot where I can see something beautiful. Whether it is the trees in front of my window, or a pretty historic looking apartment, or I simply light a candle and work on holding my focus on its gentle movements. From here I simply just appreciate the beauty that is around me. Or if you can’t seem to get to a place of appreciation, I have found it incredibly helpful to focus on either the feeling of peace, love or happiness using imagery of past experiences where these emotions were present.
As mentioned above, even though meditation is the act of quieting the mind, the goal is to feel better, more stable and more connected. So however you go about that in your practice is up to you! Whether you are sitting up or lying down, eyes closed or open, in a quiet space or in the subway. The point is that you are doing it. So enjoy your experience and leave your expectations at the door!
Jennifer Licari has a B.S.in Health and Exercise Science from the University of Southern Maine and an AAS in Nutrition. She is a Registered Yoga Instructor (RYT), a Healthy Lifestyles and Wellness Coach (Real Balance Wellness Coach), and a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (NCSF).