Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beginner-Beginner's Guide to Meditation

When it comes to meditation, I am nowhere near a source of authority. In fact, if there was a category that comes before beginner, you would find me residing squarely in it. However, since my whole life turned upside down at the beginning of the year, I was introduced to the idea of meditation, and moreover, I was introduced to the idea of meditation as a realistic and attainable thing to add to my life.

I'll be honest. It's hard. Your mind wanders. You have about eight million other things to worry about. You feel silly. You get interrupted. You have no clue what you're doing then you start wondering if you're doing it right. When I first meditated, I had no idea what to do. All I had were a few tips from people I knew and instructions to "make your mind blank" and to "be in the now."

Yeah, okay. Real helpful.

So here's my beginner-beginner's take on meditation: Start with the breathing. Breathe in, imagine your belly filling up with all that air, count to four, pause and hold for a hot second, then breathe out. Let the air expel out of your belly while counting to four or eight. Count 1. Repeat, and count up to twenty total breaths. By this time, your breathing should be more or less automatic. Your mind will wander and you'll start making a mental to-do list. Great! Your mind is calm enough that you can focus on organizing your day. Now, finish that thought and go back to your breathing.

Sometimes you'll see images, sometimes you'll have, like I wrote above, a mental to-do list. Sometimes you might meet someone- a person, or animal, or yourself. Do what feels right. Hold a conversation. Sometimes it's just darkness, so stare into it. Think about the positive in your life, liberate the negativity. Imagine each thought, negative or neutral, as a leaf falling out of a tree and landing in a stream just to float away from you. Release that thought.

Sometimes, particularly when driving on pilot, I get sucked into a trend of negative thoughts. I'll start acting out a scene in my head where terrible things happen, or I'll become acutely focused on a particularly dissenting theory. The next thing I know, I arrive to my destination steaming or depressed. Whomever I'm meeting doesn't deserve that. So I start a breathing meditation. While driving, I start to verbally note everything I see in my head. There's the lovely green grass. There's a beautiful pasture. There's a bright red mailbox. Sometimes, I'll invite my loved ones into my head like a friend or significant other, and we'll smile and breathe together. When you see someone you love smiling at you, you can't help but smile back, right? It works just as well even when you're just thinking about it.

If I consciously remove myself from the negativity during my drive, I arrive refreshed and renewed, and most of all happy which is a great deal better than arriving angry because of a scenario I basically made up in my head.

Another thing I find myself doing a lot recently, is a visualization I do during savasana, the Corpse pose, at the end of nearly every yoga session. I'm usually so loose, warm, and relaxed by this time that it's easy to free my mind. Deep belly breathing is automatic and I can clearly see my body in my mind's eye. When I breathe in, I imagine fresh and pure air free of negativity entering through every pore of my body. When I breathe out, I see the negativity and sadness in the form of grey smoke, pouring out of my body. With each breath, I watch the clear clean air fill up my body, forcing the smoke out until soon enough, there is no more grey smoke anymore. Now, my body is full of positivity and the negativity is expelled, allowing me to start my day over with a new attitude.

It really makes all the difference in the world. Before I started trying, visualization and clearing my mind wasn't worth my time. I wasn't open to it and moreover, I didn't think I'd be any good at it. My visualization skills sucked. I couldn't hold onto an image without having it disappear into the ether of my mind. Now, with practice, I can hold on to the image and work it to my advantage. My patience has increased and my willingness alongside it. There are days where I just can't get into it. I don't push myself. I move on and know there'll be another opportunity where I will succeed.

What are your tips and advice for meditation? Was it hard to begin? What did you do to persevere and find your way?

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