When I begin to work with beginners, I generally start them on their backs. This can be dangerous territory, as it offers a great opportunity for them to fall asleep. Yes, I have heard many snores in my classes. To lessen the likelihood of them falling asleep, I offer these three tips to choose from:
- While lying flat on your back, bend your knees. Not only does this keep a part of the body active, it places the body in more of a horizontal seated position.
- Bend your elbows, keeping the hands ‘floating’ in the air. If you fall asleep, your hand drops and wakes you up. This trick was very effective in our transformational trainings.
- Bring your minds eye to the ajna chakra or third eye. When we sleep, we drop our consciousness down into our lower chakras as sleep is a basic survival need. When consciously raising our awareness to our third eye, that energy location just between the brows, we are making the choice to remain aware and awake. I like to visualize a rising sun sitting on the horizon over the ocean. This to me symbolizes the rising of my own consciousness being awakened through my meditation and my actions.
Once we have addressed the comfort of the body, we can begin the journey.
STEP ONE: The first step is to bring awareness to the breath. The breath is a magical thing. Without it we couldn’t survive. It can be manipulated to calm our emotions, mental and even physical discomfort. Ailments within the body can be diagnosed by observing the breath. So, what exactly does “bring awareness to the breath” mean? It means pay attention to the breath. Think about it, look at it. What is it doing? How does it feel? We all can remember a time when we have been out of breath. We certainly pay attention to it then.
Stop, right now, and notice what you notice. You may hear the breath, feel the breath or feel the body moving as a direct result of the breath.
Notice each inhale. Notice each exhale.
Notice the space between.
Where do you notice each?
Have you noticed yourself holding your breath?
Has the breath changed as you have begun observing it? This is a quantum physics truth. Whenever anything is observed, its behavior changes. True for animate and inanimate objects. Side note: one of my favorite movies is Down the Rabbit Hole.
Congratulations, if you just did the little exercise above, you have begun your meditation journey! Not so hard, eh?
STEP TWO: Once we have found the breath, the second step is a bit more interesting and quite possibly more challenging. What is going to happen, is your monkey mind, that clever little thing, is going to go for a little stroll, aka wander off. You may not even notice this happening…. Until you do…..then you remind yourself that you have chosen to take this time and focus solely on the breath and then you bring your attention back to the breath.
STEP THREE: Repeat STEP TWO… ten thousand trillion times over. 😊
By choosing to do this practice, we train our mind to focus on one thing—this is concentration. Through concentration, we find meditation. The more we breathe consciously, the stiller our mind becomes, and the more peaceful and less reactive we are. These benefits alone certainly make this practice worth the time, but keep in mind this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to benefits.
It is said that the breath is the bridge between the material word and the spiritual world. By bringing attention to our breath we invite spirit into our bodies. Pranayama, the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises, is made up of two words, prana which means life fore and yama which means to restrain or control. Bringing the life force into our physical bodies consciously, allows us to begin the process of unity. Excerpt from Yoga Onboard ~ a guide for cruisers and live-aboards
A few more tips and tricks:
• Start slow. Committing to 5-10 minutes a day is a perfect place to start. If that even seems to be daunting, begin by simply bringing awareness to the breath while completing your chores or in the car, whenever you think about it. The beauty about using the breath as a focal point for your meditation practice is that it is always with you and always free. I find the breath is like a rising star… the more attention it gets, the more it craves. The more it craves, the more attention you are willing to give it. Suddenly, a year or two have gone by, you are meditating daily, and noticing the benefits. My how time flys!
• Find an app that you like. There are a ton of fabulous apps available for download on your phone, many geared specifically towards beginners. A couple of my absolute favorites are Headspace, which has shorter, baby step meditations and comes with some cool, instructional videos and CALM. Both are free to download and have enough free material to last you several months, but also have in-app purchases that enhance your experience. I have been a member of CALM for several years now, and love, love, love it! There is even calming music and sleep stories that have been added.
• Patience Grasshopper: do not expect immediate results. More often that not, I have run across people that have ‘tried’ meditation for a few times, expect immediate and earth-shaking results, are disappointed and then shrug it off as another goofy thing that doesn’t work. Meditation is not a band-aid. It is a tool that must be used properly, consistently and with patience to see the desired results. (Great time to plug my upcoming new book being released Oct 17, 2018! All about getting your desired results; the What’s? Why’s? and How’s?!)
• Find a teacher. I can only speak from my perspective on this one, as I have never gone to a meditation class myself, only studied, practiced and taught them. However, I have received positive feedback from my classes that what and how I taught meditation gave my students exactly what they needed. My meditation classes were only 20 minutes long and were meant to be geared toward the beginner as a supplement of other yoga and fitness classes offered at the resort. Especially if you learn better in a group environment, I would encourage you to seek out some meditation classes and/or groups. Be clear that they offer ‘instruction’ as well as group meditation time, and ask about time. It may not benefit you to attend a group that sits for an hour. As I write this, my mind is creating an online meditation course for you. I will get on this, and make available as soon as possible!
So there ya have it, in a nutshell a few tools to use for the beginning of your journey inward. Speaking from experience, you will have no regrets adding a meditation practice to your life. As a matter of fact, after practicing for several years, and then walking away from it for a while, for whatever reasons, I experienced some surprising and not so welcome results, that only through rekindling my practice could be alleviated. I will discuss this in Part Three.