The Realist’s Guide to Meditation

We’ve all heard of the fantastic benefits of practicing meditation, like reduced stress, pain management, better sleeps, increased energy and clarity throughout the day, balanced hormones, increased libido, an increased sense of general well-being and contentment…

But the truth is, classic mediation is really hard. I’m talking about the kind where you completely empty your head and experience not thinking – no thoughts! – for an extended period of time. In my experience I have found this nearly impossible. Especially in the fast-paced world we live in. Our minds are always racing. No one has time to relax and filter through their thoughts. Some people even unfortunately frown upon those who purposefully sit back and not think about anything. The truth is, we need this down time. We need to recharge, especially in our crazy workoholic-valued Western society.

Anyway, the most I’ve ever achieved of this “classic meditation” state is maybe 10 minutes. Then before I know it I’m thinking of Cristiano Ronaldo and how my cat would look like in a sweater. In the span of 1 second. How can people do this for an hour?? 20 minutes? Absolute insanity.

So without selling everything you have and moving to Tibet to become a monk… how can one start experiencing the amazing benefits of practicing daily meditation??

I’ve made a list of easier meditation-type techniques that aren’t super hard to incorporate into your daily routine but still give all the benefits of classic meditation:

  1. Conscious breathing. Just sit there, and breathe. Listen to your breath. Count your breaths. Listen to the sound your lungs make and how your body moves. If there is any pain, ”breathe” into that area. Take deeper and deeper breaths as you do this. Imagine you are breathing from the base of your spine and fully expand your stomach with each breath. Simple right?
  2. Body scanning. Lie there, and consciously feel every part of your body individually. Start with your toes. Wiggle them. Focus completely on just your toes. Stretch them out, then relax them. Now move your attention to your feet, then your ankles, your lower legs, thighs… etc. This is actually a great one to help you physically relax and can help you fall asleep.
  3. Mindfulness. You essentially sit or lie there, and let your mind wander. But instead of becoming emotionally involved, watch your thoughts as they come and go. Imagine you are on the shore of a river, and your thoughts are on a boat, coming towards you. You see the boat coming… and then the boat passes you, sailing away until you can’t see it anymore. No judgement, fear, happiness, anger, etc is felt towards the boat. Another way you could do this is to imagine yourself floating above your body, just watching yourself meditate. Cheering from the sidelines. This took a while for me to wrap my head around, but once I could do it easily, it was a great stress reliever and it made me handle tough situations rationally and logically. I could analyze my emotions without getting wrapped up in them.
  4. Focus on a single image. Or a symbol, or something that means something positive to you. You don’t even have to close your eyes – you can focus on a solid object like a lit candle or the smoke from a burning incense stick.
  5. Mantras. These are basically words you say over and over again to help you focus in meditation. Or you can sing them. Google some. Popular ones are the Buddhist “om mani padme hum” (the jewel is in the lotus) or the Hindu “hare Krishna, hare rama” (to the energy of God). If you’re not into the fancy ones, or religious ones, you can create your own, like “love, live, laugh, learn” (cheesy but you get the idea). Repeat it as often as you can. It’s like creating your own tag line. Your own words to live by.
  6. Music. This one can get pretty cool, and it opens you up to listening to different types. Focus on the sound, each note, each chorus. How does it make you feel? Let it sweep you up or bring you down. Just be conscious about it. Appreciate it. Don’t judge it. Let it flow.
  7. Gratitude. Just sit there and make a mental or physical list of everything you love in your life. Everything you’re grateful for. This is one of the most powerful techniques and instantly raises you up to that perfect level for meditating. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
  8. Guided meditation. So you sit there, close your eyes and listen to someone talk. This is my favourite technique. I can easily visualize imagery, so this is really powerful and effective for me. It also gives me a bit more leeway for my mind to wander, because I can create my own “scenery”, but I’m still focusing. YouTube has a massive pile of these things. Some are really good, but some are terrible. It doesn’t matter which ones you choose, it just has to do something for you. A typical guided meditation takes you through gardens, down beaches or any relaxing sounding environment. It’s really peaceful and lets you “get away” without actually leaving.
  9. Paint something. Read a book. Go for a walk. Pick up the guitar. Don’t think about the past or future. Be in the “now”. These are all meditations in themselves. Just be conscious and focus on what’s in front of you. Use all five senses. Send loving thoughts to everything and everyone you come across. These are the not-so-obvious methods that turn into the completely obvious methods once you start doing them, if that makes sense.

Stuff to help in the process: light a candle or incense. Sit outside – nature is better for this. Breathe. Make sure you’re in a place where you won’t be suddenly interrupted. Lock the door. Use earplugs or headphones. Wear loose clothing. Don’t be hungry. Make sure you use the washroom before. Whatever will make you the most relaxed and comfortable. And don’t be discouraged if you can’t get it right away, or if your mind wanders. This will happen. Focus on rewarding yourself for getting back on track when you slip up.

Remember there is no right or wrong way to do this! It’s whatever you make of it. Just let whatever happens happen. Let it flow.

And most of all… enjoy!! 🙂

Happy meditating!

Love & Light,

-Madelyn

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