Not too long ago I was sharing a stressful experience with someone and they asked me if I meditate. I thought that was a pretty odd question, but then I realized I don’t always meditate in the way some people picture meditating to be experienced. Which is why I don’t really share about it because its a very personal practice for me. Sometimes, it looks calm, sometimes I am surrounded by screaming kids, and other times I just strive to make an effort to be completely present in the moment I am in no matter what it looks like. Other than at the end of my yoga practice, I could be in the grocery store, the coffee shop, the shower, at the park with the kids etc… Essentially, I don’t always set aside time, which I’m not knocking people doing, but I work better when I go into my meditation without the mindset that I have to get this done and check it off my to-do list. That induces anxiety and stress and just doesn’t serve me well.
All that leads me to my points here to challenge the way we look at meditation and mindfulness practices. One common misconception about meditation is that when we meditate it needs to be in a perfectly calm, quiet and serene space so that we can empty and clarify our thoughts. Although this may be ideal, its not always realistic. Another common misconception is that meditation is a lesser alternative to prayer, or conflicts with religious beliefs. Personally, I say they go hand-in-hand. I mean…isn’t praying just meditating while talking to God? I just don’t really separate the two, but to each their own. No matter how it gets done, meditation is is a great tool for centering our thoughts and working through all the stuff going on in our minds.
Meditation doesn’t have to look like a peaceful image and as a matter of fact, when we can stay calm in the midst of chaos, we give ourselves the practice that can potentially enhance our focus in our day to day. Think about it… when we get stressed out sometimes we start to spin out and think irrationally. So what better time to practice meditation than in a not so ideal setting. Literally working to stay present in the middle of noise, and distractions. It’s not easy, especially at first, but I encourage you to give it a try from time to time. You will be amazed at the benefits and how worries don’t immediately cause you to feel as though you’ve lost control.
I hear so often that people are afraid to practice yoga and meditation, because they fear it interferes with their religious beliefs and practices, but I just don’t get that to be quite frank. As a catholic, who practices and teaches yoga, I connect the two systems in unison. I meditate to not only just balance my emotions, feelings, thoughts, and energy, but to connect to God. Whichever way you practice, or whatever your beliefs are, meditation doesn’t have to take away from that. It should actually be seen as an opportunity to strengthen our faith while at the same time helping us gather our thoughts and become more connected to what is actually happening around us.
Meditation is just a tool to bring us into the present moment. Typically practiced for a minimum of 5 minutes, anything less than 5 minutes is okay, but to really collect and ground ourselves it is important to just take the time. The best part is it can be done anytime and anyplace. You don’t need to carve out a moment, unless you want to. Another key is to just let the mind wander. The way I look at it is organizing a file cabinet. Such as, when our files and cabinets are in disarray and we don’t know where anything is we have to organize. Same thing with our mind-body-spirit. During the meditation, when you notice your thoughts going all over the place try and bring it back to center. Sort it out. Other than that, there really aren’t any special directions. Just settle into a space breathe and listen to what your inner voice is saying.
This practice can have profound impacts on our well-being such as better focus, stress management and the breath work is a major key in allowing us to remember we can slow down. As a society on the go all the time, I would argue we need to pause and breath in order to function at an optimal level. The best part is anyone can do it and there isn’t a strict rule book. The only goal is to become completely aware and present in the moment you are in. From there… the magic happens.