When we begin our nightly routine of preparing for bed, it triggers our body to begin to relax and even begin producing neurotransmitters such as melatonin, as we have trained our physical body to know that these activities will lead to sleep. The same can be done with meditation. By creating a ritual around meditation through the practice of yoga, using incense, the setting up of props, or whatever else you feel is appropriate, you can begin to train your body to ‘drop in’ and relax for your practice. This can make developing a regular meditation routine much easier and help even those who struggle greatly with the concept find real, lasting success.
By unwinding from the day or whatever activities we were previously engaged in, even for only a few minutes, can make tuning into a meditation session much easier. In addition, these tips below offered by Lauren Zavlunov are time tested methods for facilitating meditation and the expansion of awareness.
If you are just starting out, or even if you have been practicing for several years, here are some easy tips on how to enhance your meditation practice:
1. Prepare the body. Hatha yoga was designed to ready the physical body and mind for meditation. Even if I can’t spend an hour on asana beforehand, I make sure to focus on a few gentle poses before sitting for meditation. If your body is restless and uneasy, it can be an unwelcome distraction. Sometimes the body is uncomfortable, and it can be a challenge to stay centered and motionless. Be easy on yourself. If you find that your body is uncomfortable during the session, try an alternative position such as half lotus or even lying down. Leave the session until a later time in the day if you need to!
2. Create a space. Make sure to set aside a space. Some people have elaborate altars (impossible with a 22-month old in my home!), and some have a special corner of a room set aside just for their practice. Even if you only have a small space in your home, clear it of clutter and decorate it with images that inspire you. These will be the last things you see before you close your eyes to focus. Make them meaningful! If you are like me and do not have a room set aside, find a rug or cushion and use it exclusively for meditation in the same location. If you have objects that are treated with reverence and are associated with a relaxed and peaceful state, they can trigger the mind and body for stillness. So, keep them near.
3. Set your intentions. Once you are seated, take a moment to visualize. Simply taking a few deep breaths and setting your goals for the session is a wonderful start. Concentrating your thoughts into cohesive intentions really assists in helping manifest your desired results. If you can see it, you can do it!
4. Consider using a mala. Many people enjoy using a mala, or a set of 108 strung beads, to count their mantra. The feel of something physical in your hands while chanting a mantra assists in focusing the mind and is something tangible that can keep you grounded. Eventually, you may like to let go of using the mala during your meditation. Personally, I find that I like to begin with a mala, and once I finish a complete mala, I just hold it in my hands and let my mantra flow on its own.
5. Let go. Let go of what you think meditation is. Each and every time, expect something new. Better yet, expect nothing. Do not try to replicate the feeling of what happened during your last session. Expectations can cause us to get stuck in the past and to miss the truth of the moment. Each day is a different day full of new challenges. Let your meditation take you where it needs to. Don’t chase anything. Just watch what unfolds, and you may find new interesting subtleties in your practice, and in your life.
6. Be kind to yourself. I can’t say this enough! Each of us is on our own path. Have compassion for yourself as well as others. One day you may feel an incredible energy and focus, and the next day the mind is dull and uninspired. You may feel like your practice is making little headway as your mind chatters and your legs tingle from sitting. On those days, make sure to remind yourself to take extra care, to laugh, to see this new challenge as more of a reminder that you are human than a gauge of the success of your practice. Each little step is a part of your personal journey. There is no one to compare to or to become. There is just the You that is.
7. Don’t leave it on your cushion. Don’t think of your meditation practice just as something to be done for an allotted time. Take your practice with you! When you feel like you are finished with your meditation session, try not to stand up immediately or move the body. Take a moment. Slowly open your eyes. See the world anew, and fully experience the benefits of what you have just done. Enjoy the moment, and be sure to carry the feeling with you into your next task of the day.
Lauren Saraswati Zavlunov is a mother, aspiring Yogini, professional musician and owner of the online boutique Jewels of Saraswati. Lauren’s specialty is creating customized hand-knotted malas and Yoga jewelry. She works closely with her clients on each mala design to manifest their unique spiritual and aesthetic vision.