I’m too stressed. I’ve got too much to do. I don’t have a minute to myself. How do you expect me to meditate?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been feeling stressed and as often happens in these situations, my routine of self-care is the first thing to go down the drain. When I most need to look after myself is when I most often neglect myself. I eat badly, I forget to exercise, I drink too much coffee in the morning to help me stay awake and too much wine in the evening to help me get to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s hard to break.
Thankfully, in the midst of my current round of stress, a well-timed e-mail from a friend reminded me about the importance of being kind to myself and it got me thinking about meditation... You see when I give myself the gift of meditation, I immediately feel so many benefits. I am calmer in myself, I feel less stressed about work and I have a lot more energy.
So today, in an attempt to rekindle my own meditation practice, I thought I’d think about what I need to do to get myself inspired. In many ways it’s about getting back to the basics of meditation.
1. Make the time – I recently read an article that recommended attaching your meditation practice to one of your daily routines. Try taking a moment before your morning shower or just before brushing your teeth at bedtime. Start with just a few minutes...we can all give ourselves the gift of a few minutes.
2. Set the scene and prepare your special place - find yourself a quiet spot on a mat, a cushion or a chair. If needed take yourself out into your garden or to the stillness of a local park. Take the time to make your space comfortable. You might like to light a candle or listen to soothing music. The most important thing to remember is that meditation is your gift to yourself.
3. Sit tall and relax – settle into your spot and sit tall. If it’s agreeable sit cross legged. Close your eyes and relax. Breathe deeply and listen to your breath as you inhale and exhale.
4. Body scan – scan over your body starting with your feet and moving upwards. I used to think about sending my breath in the direction of each body part – my toes, my feet, my calves, my thighs, my hips, my tummy, my chest, my shoulders, my arms, my hands, my fingers, my back, my neck, my face, my eyes, my jaws, my tongue, my forehead and my head. Relax your entire body as you direct your breath to each area.
5. Enjoy the stillness and allow any sounds to pass you by – once you have relaxed your body, just sit and enjoy the stillness. Be aware of your surroundings and any sounds and just let them be.
6. Breathe – turn your attention to your breath. Breathe quietly and deeply. Engage your diaphragm and fill your lungs gently. Observe how your breath flows through your body – passing through your nostrils, throat, chest and stomach.
7. Calm your mind – as you focus on your breath your mind will begin to calm and become present. If thoughts come, acknowledge them and then gently return to the calmness of your breath. Some days my thoughts are more persistent than other days, and that is OK, just focus on your breath and let your thoughts be assuaged.
8. Take your time – savour the time that you have set aside for your meditation. Start with three minutes and as you become accustomed to the benefits of meditation on your mind and body you will be able to meditate for longer. If you encounter a stressful week, return once again to your three-minute gift of meditation.
9. Ending your practice – when you are ready slowly return your conscious attention to your surroundings. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes and when you are ready open your eyes. Move slowly and take your time getting up.
10. Make the time tomorrow – think about how the meditation made you feel. Plan your meditation for tomorrow. Maybe you can meditate on the bus to work? Maybe you can meditate on a park bench as you walk your dog? Maybe you can meditate at your desk before you go home?
Meditation is so beneficial to our well-being. If you’re feeling agitated, stressed, upset, angry... give yourself a gift. Take a moment to meditate.