What does it mean to meditate? Mediation can be different for everyone. For some, it means going on a walk. For others, it may be sitting in a dark and quiet room while repeating a mantra over and over again. Although mediation can come in different forms, there is a central technique that is used in EVERY mediation practice. That common denominator is the focusing on the breath. I’m not going to write about all the benefits to your mental health as well as physical health that comes from a consistent mediation routine since articles like that are everywhere and I’m pretty sure if you clicked on this, you have some sort of idea what the benefits are. Instead, I want to walk you through why you should mediate on a daily or weekly basis, my experiences with mediation, and the techniques that worked and not worked on me.
Why should you mediate? Easy, it’s proven to help your mental health, but I won’t go into the specifics of that since they should be obvious to everyone. So, scratch all of that science proven stuff and remember this instead. You will feel better after you mediate. When your head is clogged and your stressful, meditate. When work is getting too much, and you feel you don’t have enough time in the day, meditate. When your mind starts running about a girl you like, meditate. When you start spiraling out of control with images in your head about bad scenarios that haven’t even happened yet, mediate. When you heart is racing, meditate. When you have trouble falling asleep, mediate. When you’re feeling sluggish in the morning, mediate. Do I really need to go on??? Life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. You can scale this rollercoaster to fit a decade, or you can scale it throughout a day or week. Just like the stock market, you’ll see you have ups and downs every day that make up the bigger picture of ups and downs throughout a year. Mediation helps with leveling out those downs. It brings you back to neutral. The lower the down, the better you’ll feel after you meditate. Your head will be clearer for those tough decisions. Your focus will be better for those long work days, allowing you to prioritize better and finishing your tasks. Your big troublesome life decisions will seem less of a big deal.
My experience with meditation, like many people, has been nothing but beneficial. There’s been times where I go a long time without taking that moment to myself. During those times, I feel like a drained battery. Mediation allows me to recharge my battery and ready myself for the day/week/month. I challenged myself and a close friend to meditate for 30 straight days and let me tell you…I learned so much about what mediation does for me, how to get the most out of mediation, and improved on each session. It really does take practice. After doing this 30 day challenge, I’ve noticed that I can go a week without meditating, then deciding to hop back into it no problem. Once you know the tricks, you can use them at any moment no matter how long it’s been since your last session. And you can only figure these tricks out if you take the time to learn what techniques work best for you. I’ve utilized mediation at the beginning of the days, middle of days, and end of days. It’s important to know that the meditation techniques used in the morning to wake up are slightly different than the techniques you should use at the end of the day to wind down. After lots of trial and error, I found my body and mind respond best to mid-day and end of day meditation. Here is the mediation routine I like to do that puts me in a great mindset.
- Mantra Repetition – For the first 8-10 minutes or so, I repeat my own mantra I came up with. Often times, a mantra is a meaningless sound, but I like to repeat a specific two-word phrase that puts myself at ease. I do this while taking very deep breathes in and out of my nose. A lot of practices will advise you to breath in through your nose and out to your mouth which I have no problem with, I just like using my nose for both. I also find it very useful to focus and follow your breath as it travels through the nose, down the esophagus, into the lungs, and back out through the nose. This helps me keep my concentration on my breath. It also lets me focus on the energy it provides as it moves throughout my body.
- Concentrated Body Relaxation – After mantra repetition, I like to focus on individual parts of my body for about 5 minutes or so. To do this, I start at the bottom of my body and work my way up. So, I’ll first focus on my toes. I feel my toes. Feel anything that’s touching them. Feel the weight of them. If I’m laying down, I’ll focus on sinking into the bed. If I’m sitting up, I’ll focus on the weight of them on the floor. Focus on relaxing them. Then I’ll move up to my feet doing the same thing. Then I’ll move up to my ankles, then calves, then knees and so on until I go all the way up to my shoulders. At this point I’ll do the same thing going down my arms to my fingertips. Then I’ll do the same thing with my neck and head.
- Body Scans – Once I cover the entirety of my body with the concentrated body relaxation technique, I’ll do body scans for the next 5 minutes or so. I’ll take a deep breath, then I’ll start at the top of my head and feel a wave of energy down to the tips of my toes. This will only add to the feeling of relaxation that you’ll be feeling.
- Emptiness – For the last minute or so, I’ll stop thinking about everything and instead I’ll let my mind wonder free. Where ever my mind goes I let it go. If it just wants to be empty in darkness, I let it there. I purposely don’t fight any thought that pops in my head.
- Visualization – Actually this is technically the last part. For the last minute, I’ll do two things. For the first 20 seconds, I’ll picture someone I love/like smiling and laughing. For the next 20 seconds, I’ll picture someone I dislike or have a problem with smiling and laughing. For the last 20 seconds, I’ll just breathe and picture myself smiling. I’ll feel my lips start to curl up and when I open my eyes, I am usually smiling.
There you have it. That’s my routine and what I do to keep my mind and spirit in check. This makes me feel super relaxed and energized at the same time. All my worries seem so small after doing this and I feel more confident in myself. Any other problems that were on my mind at the time, seem to become very do-able. Remember don’t try to focus on keeping an empty mind. Let your mind wonder and relax it. Don’t force there to be nothingness. Because even if you force it, there will always be something. Instead, realize when it does drift off and bring your focus back to your breathe, energy, and body. Look at it as if you are on a park bench and you were watching the cars go past. The cars in this scenario are your thoughts. Whenever you see a thought come into your mind, notice it, then let it go as if it were passing by. The deeper you get into the session, the easier it will be to do this. If you have any other tips, drop them in the comments below. Hope this helps.