Hit the Pillow: Tips for Starting a Meditation Practice

If you feel stressed in the mornings, if you're groggy and low on energy, this 10 minute routine will revitalise you and transform the way you feel.
Photo: Little Green Dot

Tuesday I dished out some info on why to meditate. Why I do it. Why you should consider doing it. Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge, where do you begin? Today I will recount my own personal experiences with meditation.

Let’s me begin with the intention. When I go to yoga classes, the teacher often leads class with a prompt: what is your intention for this practice? Same with meditation. Before I hit my pillow I will ask: what is my intention with this practice? It can be to let go. Or for love. Or compassion. Or connection. The list is ongoing and we’ll get more into it. For me it is about creating a peaceful state. For bringing awareness to my body, mind, and soul. It is not about not thinking. I think while I meditate. It happens, thoughts will pop up. For me it is about being aware of my thoughts. I detach from them. I watch them. I have learned that I don’t always have to give power to what I am thinking. I am better at catching myself take something personally for instance or making an assumption or going along with something. Then I will ask myself: is that what I really believe. Or if someone says something to me: do I want to take offense to that? I am in charge of what thoughts I give power to: negative or positive. If I dwell on something I am giving it energy. Where do I want to put my energy?

Om Shanti - is a mantra and mystical Sanskrit sound of Hindu originWhere do you begin then? Begin with a space. Find a quiet peaceful place away from distraction. Relax. Find a position that is comfortable to you. I like to sit with my legs crossed, hands in my lap, head up, eyes closed. Sometimes I will place my hands in a pray position at my chest. Breathe. It always go back to your breath. Focus on it. Inhale in the nose. Exhale. Pay attention to how your diaphragm moves. How your belly fills with each inhalation. How it sinks in with each exhalation. You can simple count your breath if you want. Sometimes I will have a thought with each breath. In: I am being taken care of. Out: Everything I need is already on its way. Usually I think this when I am trying to create abundance or achieve a goal. If you get distracted during your practice, go back to your breath or a mantra. What is a mantra you ask? Often I will think of a mantra in my mind or say it aloud. I’ve done some guided meditations (Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 day challenges are my favorite). They lead you into the practice, give you a mantra to focus on. Om for instance is the universal sound. They will play music as you settle into your meditation, repeating om as you breathe and sink in. Grab a hold of that bigger cosmic picture and allow yourself to let go. My best practice ever was at a zen meditation group while I was in Colorado Springs. We sat for 25 minutes. Sank into a quiet silence for 25 minutes. Walked and took another 25 minutes. When I stood up, I felt as if I had showered. Fresh. Light. Clean. Radiant. Light-filled. Last week while I was at the market, my dear friend Dr. Tank sent me: Om Shanti an invocation for peace. Find a mantra. Put it in your head. When your brain starts to wander, go back to your breath and mantra.

Create an atmosphere. I like to create a space for peace. Let me tell you about my space and some options you can explore (although what I have explained above is my favorite way to zen out).

  • Incense can be so relaxing. Jazmine, Sandalwood and Nag Champa...I light some incense. You can find incense for whatever you want to focus on. For me, though, I like to invoke all my senses when I am meditating.
  • Grab a candle. The light can be a great focal point for you during your practice.
  • Sound. My dear, amazing boyfriend got me a singing bowl when I was sick earlier this year. I often use it at the end of my practice to incorporate sound. I focus on the sound, listening completely until it dies out. This too gets me into the habit of fully listening. Sound is also used as a therapy. Each chakra (the seven energy centers of the body) for instance, is associated with a different sound vibration and frequency. Cool stuff, they will use sound in healing practicing. While I sat at Java with my friends this morning, Zack told me about cymatics. Check out this video, so awesome!
  • Stones or Crystals. My mom is pretty freaking amazing. Earlier this year she gifted me some chakra stones. So maybe we should discuss these chakras. Each one has a given position in the body and is associated with different organs. They also have representative colors, scents, stones and more. Therefore, I have 7 stones, one for each chakra. I like to lie down at the end of a yoga session and place a stone on it’s associated chakra. Then I will go through each chakra. There are also guided meditations for each chakra. If one chakra is out of balance, focus on it. Stones and crystals have different energies and powers. Pick them based on what you are wanting to attract. Rose quartz for instance is great for attracting love. Just do a little research and see what speaks to you. Amp up your intentions with crystals.
  • Walk it Out. I like to sit and get my peace on, but I also do a lot of walking meditation. Go to a labyrinth. Go the woods. Focus on your feet. Focus on your senses.
  • Malas or meditation stacks. My rad cousin Jacki has a movement called Rock Your Bliss. With it, she has worked with the company Tiny Devotions to create mala necklaces. I was pretty stocked to get a stack of 3 meditation bracelets for Christmas. My singing bowl also came with a mala necklace. What is the deal? Mala beads generally consist of 108 beads. This is a very important number. There are 108 energy lines. We also have 108 energy points (marmas). Half are in the masculine form (shiva) and half in the feminine (shakti). If you want to meditate with the mala, place it in your right hand so the first bead is between your thumb and ring finger. Keep a mantra in mind as you push the beads one at a time all the way around the necklace. "May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being, may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life."  —  Apache Blessing.  Perfect.
  • Mudras: Mudras are hand holds you can do. Yet another way to set an intention for your practice. Mudra Notes: Self-Realization (Shunya  So'Ham) Mudras: SimpleDailyUse
  • Miralces Now. I am a huge Gabby Bernstein fan and I have her Miracles Now sitting in my meditation station. I like to turn at random to a page in the book. The great thing is that she also has some meditations in there. Subscribe to her now. Check out her videos. She has some great Kundalini practices.

As you can see there are vast ways to meditate, but explore. EXPLORE WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU. Lie down. Sit down. Walk. But most importantly make time. Make it a priority. I go back to Gabby. Don’t have time to meditate? Then you have time to feel like shit. Make time to take care of yourself because that is when you are best that you are truly able to help and serve others. Do it and stay committed. As I mentioned I like to do mine in the morning. That Louise Hay, how you live your morning is how you live your day and how you live your day is how you live your life. Create a space for peace. Make time for it. Let go.

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