Category: Meditation

Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice. This post gives detailed tips on how to start to meditate, including benefits, inspiration, what to focus on, how to sit, when to meditate and more #meditation #meditate #starttomeditate

Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice

It can be overwhelming to think about sitting down to clear your mind, but the very point of meditation is to let your mind take a break from all that thinking!  With a little preparation, I think you’ll find meditation a relaxing and important part of your day.  Here are some practical tips that may help you start to meditate.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

Benefits

Regular meditation Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice. This post gives detailed tips on how to start to meditate, including benefits, inspiration, what to focus on, how to sit, when to meditate and more #meditation #meditate #starttomeditatehelps with the immune system, lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress levels.  Your brain pattern changes with a consistent meditation practice.  After just a few weeks practicing 20 or 30 minutes a day, you can improve your cognitive functioning, self-awareness and empathy, along with other aspects of your humanity. (Source: In Search of Buddha’s Daughters: The Hidden Lives and Fearless Work of Buddhist Nuns)

 

When to Meditate

Probably the most important thing about starting your practice is finding a reliable time when you can realistically make the time to sit every day.  A sporadic schedule makes things difficult.  The easiest way to form a new habit is to tag your new task on to an existing responsibility you take on every day– like you could meditate every day before breakfast or you could meditate every night after you brush your teeth.  You will always have that original responsibility to remind you to meditate.  It takes 21-28 days to make a new habit so until meditation is one of your habits, it may help to attach it to an existing one.

 

Preparation

It’s also very important to set the stage for yourself.  You need a Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spacecomfortable clean environment that can become sacred for you.  You want a spot that’s as distraction-free as possible.  It helps if you have the time and space to make a meditation space– use a meditation cushion, candles, meaningful images, etc.  Click the image to the right to see more about creating your own yoga and meditation space.

Take a moment before you begin to set your body up for the practice as well.  Maybe take a couple of easy stretches.  Maybe bow to each direction, acknowledging the universal presence around you.  Definitely take a couple of calming breaths.  – allow yourself to slowly succumb to the mood of meditation.

You’ll definitely want a timer to start.  That way you won’t have to keep peeping through one creased eye to glance at the clock.  Start simple; I recommend 10 minutes.

 

 

Posture

It’s Don't Just Do Something Tank is a reminder of mindfulness and being present. #yogatank #yogatop #mindfulnesstank #mindfulness #meditationtanktypical to be seated on a small pillow during meditation.  If you elevate your hips above your legs it can help to keep your legs from falling asleep.  It’s ok if you want to set up next to a wall and use it to support your back.  It’s also ok if you prefer to sit in a chair.  It’s even ok if you want to lay down (though this is a potential sleep danger).  You can even stand to meditate or take a slow walking meditation.  There isn’t a right way; whatever position suits you best in the moment is the best one.  Meditation is about your mind not the shape you set your body in.  The only goal is to find a position that keeps you comfortable so you can give yourself the best possible chance at staying focused.

 

Inspiration

It’s super hard to sit down and just clear all of the thoughts out of your mind.  Many people find it easier instead of give the mind one specific thought or mood to focus on.  Here are some ideas.

  • Follow your breath- watch it go in and out of your body, feel it coming through your nose and going down into your lungs and your belly, feel each molecule coming back up through your body and exiting your nose again.  Try not to control your breath, but observe it.
  • Look for the spaces between your breath at the top of the inhale and exhale- focus on that eternal space.
  • Imagine a light at your heart center or your third eye.  Focus on watching it grow with each inhale and spread with each exhale.  Watch the light glow.
  • If you’re struggling with thoughts, let a cloud come and carry each one away in turn.  Watch the beautiful sky.
  • Also, you can attach your inhale and exhale to a phrase.
    • in (on your inhale) and out (on your exhale) that being the universal energy, everything at once
    • so hum- I am that- or that I am if you accidentally flip the phrase around
    • Thich Nhat Hanh style
      • calm/ease
      • smile/release
      • deep/slow
  • Alternatively these phrases can be attached to each bead of a mala necklace
  • Also, you can meditate on a poem, idea or feeling

My two favorite books for ideas to guide meditation are Moments of Mindfulness (right) and Meditation for the Love of It (left).  They were influential in creating my practice.

 

Challenges

All of these thoughts and suggestions are for giving you a good chance at making it work.  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, especially at first.  Expect that at some point you’re going to wonder how long it’s been, or you’ll notice something about your position is becoming uncomfortable or you’ll start to make a to-do list or you’ll remember something very important and feel compelled to go do it immediately.  It’s normal.  All of it and more.  Some days will be easier than others, even for experienced practitioners.  The key is not to be upset at yourself- to acknowledge the thought or the pain or the idea and let it pass.  You can meditate with a notebook beside you to jot ideas down if you struggle too much at letting them go.

 

 

After your Meditation

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beadsBefore you rush off to your next task, Malas: choosing one, activating it, and using your mala for meditation and manifestationtake a moment to thank yourself for the gift you’ve given yourself.  Even if it was not your most successfully quiet-minded practice, it’s still a wonderful way to honor yourself.  Also, you can dedicate your practice- choose someone you know and love, a deity, eternal oneness, someone in need, a worldwide issue, whatever you like and send the good vibes of your meditation off to that cause.

Another really beneficial thing to do after meditation is to take a moment to journal about your experience.  It helps to see how far you’ve come and solidify your experience.

However you choose to seal off your practice, re-enter this world slowly and carefully.  You may be in a dreamy state and it make take worldly awareness a moment to return to you.

 

Continuing On

When you get to a point where the timer surprises you or after a few weeks, try increasing the length of your meditation.

Look for new ideas and inspirations for your meditative focus.  Try out new positions, try meditating outside, try everything!  See what works for you and what doesn’t and remember it may be different tomorrow.

Whatever you do,

Continue offering yourself the gift of meditation.

 

Your Complete Guide for How to Start to Meditate: Practical Ideas and Encouragement for your Meditation Practice. This post gives detailed tips on how to start to meditate, including benefits, inspiration, what to focus on, how to sit, when to meditate and more #meditation #meditate #starttomeditate

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

Malas: how to use, choose and activate your mala

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #malaMalas are a string of beads used for meditation.  They help with concentration by giving you something to focus on, but they also can have a more spiritual side.  A mala can help you to manifest some sort of wish or goal or help you find a new connection with a mantra, affirmation or even your breath.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

How to Choose a Mala

If you’re in a store with the malas, try holding them towards your heart or your third eye, ideally with both hands.  See which one speaks to you- makes you feel something.  Often, you will be drawn to the gem, crystal or theme that you need most. Some people say that the mala will be drawn to you!  If you’re shopping online, often you will still be drawn to one that will resonate with you the most.  Most malas also have a description of the beads that were used and how they can benefit you.  Many were made with an intention or wish the mala can help manifest.

How to activate your Mala

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala
See our malas on Etsy

To activate your mala, whether you made it, bought it, or received it as a gift, you can do a small ceremony before wearing it.  To start, light a candle or incense or make your space safe and sacred in whatever way you usually do.  Find a comfortable seat like you would for meditation- sit up tall, and straight in a calm, mindful way.  Start by getting in touch with your breath.  Focus on it and if thoughts come, allow them to pass.  Then starting from the guru bead (the biggest one that the tassel or decoration comes from) start to run the mala through your fingers, one bead for each breath.  However, this technique can be adapted to fit your needs- find your own way.  As you do this, think of an intention you wish to lock into your mala or something you would like to manifest with the energy of your mala.  Also, you can chant “Om Hrim Namah Shivaya Om” aloud or internally.  This mantra is traditional for activating and energizing a new mala.  This phrase salutes Shiva (God of creation and destruction), brings together masculine and feminine, and opens the mind to the divine.  When you finish your ceremony, hold your mala to your heart and your third eye.  You can sit for another moment if you wish.  Now, the mala is yours, bound to you spiritually through your ceremony.  It contains the power and energy you activated it with.  The mala still carries its same spiritual powers if you wear it as a bracelet or necklace.

How to use a Mala for Meditation

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

Before you begin, you can bow to each of the 4 directions to connect with the universe.  Or set an intention or devote your meditation to a God, Goddess, friend or cause.

Start by finding a comfortable seat.  Cross your legs or try to lotus position.  Also, you can sit in a chair, sit on a meditation cushion or bolster or lay down if you prefer.  It’s your meditation, so find what works for you.  Just be sure you can stay aware– you don’t want to be so comfortable that you may lose focus or fall asleep.  Hold your mala at the guru bead (the big one) between your thumb and middle or ring finger (the pointer finger is associated with the ego, which is undesirable).  As your meditation progresses, you will move the beads through your fingers one at a time.

Using the mala with your breath

You can associate the beads to your breath- inhale and exhale.  (Or try kumbhaka: add a pause in between your inhale and exhale by retaining your breath for a couple of counts. To start, try inhaling for 4 breaths, retaining for 2 and exhaling for 4).

Using your mala with a mantra

Alternatively, and perhaps more traditionally, you can use a mantra for your meditation.  In this case, you will say the mantra aloud or internally with each breath.  You can try traditional sanskrit mantras or mantras in English, like Thich Nhat Hanh’s inhale: calm/exhale: ease or inhale:present moment/exale: wonderful moment.  Also affirmative statements work as mantras, like “I am” for the root chakra.

Using your mala to manifest

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

If you would like to manifest a wish, you can ask the universe for help with each bead’s movement.

There is no limit to the mantras, breaths, and concepts you can attach to your beads for your meditation.

Sealing your practice

How to Make a Mala: knotting and making a tasselWhen you finish your meditation, bow forward to seal in your practice.  Re-enter this world slowly, taking time to bring your awareness back to your surroundings after your meditative state.

Also check out our article on how to make a mala (click the image below)

 

 

Mala necklaces: how to use choose and activate your mala. Also details on how to meditate with your mala and manifest a wish #mala

Choosing happiness; ideas, meditations and book recommendations for being happier moment to moment

Choosing Happiness as a Lifestyle

Choosing happiness; ideas, meditations and book recommendations for being happier moment to momentI’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness and choices that we make; how these things affect our demeanor, our mood, our opinion of the world, the way we interact with others and the way that they see us, and perhaps most importantly, how we see ourselves.  I think many of us can benefit from choosing happiness.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

My friend Kelly just visited and I always feel like she’s bubbling over with positivity and fun and I think she actually sees me the same.  I sometimes forget to be that person though.  Seeing her was like the seven years we’ve been apart were the blink of an eye.  We went right back to our old joyous selves, only a little older and saner.  We still broke some rules and laughed more than we talked.  My world feels brighter when she’s in it.  Certain special other people also transform me in this way.  But it got me thinking- why aren’t I always this person?  Do I wait for someone to coax it out of me?  Can’t I choose it for myself more often?

Life is a Party

I’m reading a book called Everyday Joy, about choosing to see life as the biggest, best party anyone was every invited to, which is a pretty big fantastic idea, overflowing with fun.  But shouldn’t life be like that?  Isn’t it fun?  “In each and every moment, you have the ability to choose to enjoy yourself or not.”  Always, you can opt to be happy and joyful.

Sometimes, it feels like external factors like a long line or internal factors like a headache are in control, but in reality, it’s always you.  You can let something or someone get you down or you can choose not to let the interaction ruin your day, hour, or even minute.

You can observe rather than absorb the negativity.  It’s a choice.  It may take some practice not to let the moment crawl back into your mind later if you choose to ignore it now.  But what good does it really do to revisit the negative and unpleasant?  Why not choose to move on to this moment?  And enjoy it?

Meditation and Presence

One of Thich Nhat Hanh‘s famous meditations is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.”  Inhale the world exactly as it is right now and exhale your appreciation back out into it.  Simple.  Beautiful.

You can practice this same concept in your waking life as well- appreciating and showing gratitude for the beautiful and joyous in the world.

I’ve heard time and again that people are happiest when they are present in the moment– not doing one thing and thinking of another.

Yin AND Yang, ALWAYS

The other influential book I’m reading now is *The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga.  I’m still on the introduction about Yin and Yang.  Yin is dark, passive, slow, female, night.  Yang is light, active, fast, male, day.  These descriptions seem so concrete and easy to identify.  However, every moment is relative- like the shadow of the sun moves slowly as the Earth rotates, changing what is dark and what is light.

Although yin and yang are opposites, they always contain a bit of each other.  Even in a fast-paced vinyasa class, you may still find a yin-style slowness and calm in your breath or mind.  Even in a sad or difficult moment, you can find some small joy if you look.  Even in a happy moment, there may be some small pain or hardship.  It’s all a matter of perspective and choosing to place your dao- your balance, your center- on the happy side.

See your joy

Personally, I know I need more practice- more mental awareness of choosing to be happy, rather than continuing with my norm.  I want to honor the joy in myself and allow it to come out more.  In an effort to start to train my mind to find the happiness, I want to give it a head start for where we (my mind and I) can likely find joy and embrace it.  Starting with where it comes easily may help me remember to look when it’s harder.

  • laughing with my kindergarten students- they are hilarious!  I love them (even when they’re naughty)
  • talking or joking with my man
  • exploring this magical world, like different temples in town (even with the stares I get)
  • dancing and singing, especially to mantras
  • girl time with friends
  • giving in to certain impulses- grabbing a chocolate or smiling at a stranger
  • feeling the wind rush by on my motorbike
  • watching the sunset and/or the birds (even when it’s smoggy)
  • asking questions (even when it’s hard)- I enjoy digging a bit deeper sometimes
  • savoring each bite or sip
  • waiting and watching the world do what it does wherever I may be (even in line when I’m starting to get impatient)


You can try this too

For a meditation, start with thinking about something that makes you happy.  Think of the details of that thing, person or situation.  Feel it fully.  Then go deep into the happiness it brings you, dwell on it.  Be so intensely taken by the happiness that you become it.  Let go of the impetus that brought you to this happiness and just be happy, be happiness.

Choosing happiness in each and every moment may be a difficult undertaking at first, but with practice and awareness, it can be done.  This world can be so beautiful and joyous if we choose it.

Moments of Mindfulness; great book recommendation for meditations Thich Nhat Hanh

Moments of Mindfulness: Must-Have Meditation Book by Thich Nhat Hanh

I have a couple of books by Thich Nhat Hanh, but Moments of Mindfulness is my favorite.  It’s a set of 52 meditations, with the idea of having a new meditation to contemplate each week for a year.  Letting the words resonate within you for a full week leaves lots of room for insight and new understanding of the words and how they may apply to your life.  I’m going to share one of my favorite meditations from this book here

A flower
does not have to
do anything
to be of service,
it only has to be a flower.
That is enough.
A human being,
a true human being,
is enough
to make the whole world
rejoice

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]

 

The book also starts with a beautiful introduction on mindfulness; the true meaning and value of mindfulness, different ways to apply mindfulness to different aspects of your life, and miracles of mindfulness.  One of my favorite parts of the introduction is a breathing exercise.  I like to use parts of it in the warm-up for my yoga class, reminding yogis to relax and focus on their breathe and being present.

The book also has a nice spacious layout with soothing circular art accompanying each meditation.  It’s a nice size to hold too.

It’s a lovely little book!