Life is constantly changing and we have to always stay flexible in order to live each moment completely and welcome new opportunities in. At times though, everything can feel a little overwhelming and even a little bit hard to cope with. Whatever your situation is, know that you are not alone, that everybody in this world faces their own crisis. Try not to play the guilt game during your “blue” days, this will only add to that feeling. It’s important however to always remember that it is through these moments that we evolve and grow. It is often through the dark times that we can gain an insight into the brightest of lights.
Meditation is a practice known almost everywhere in the world and its benefits are endless. We hear about individuals who have transformed their life by regularly practicing meditation, bringing more peace and calm into their life. It all sounds idyllic, but what exactly is meditation? And how can it really help us heal?
WHAT IS MEDITATION
Meditation is a practice in which we allow ourselves to be present and completely in the moment. This means that we don’t have any thoughts or sensory reactions to distract us from a state of calm. By staying in the moment, we can see everything as it is and through time, we learn not only to tolerate but to also allow everything that is around and within us be. Through meditation we learn to focus our attention inward regardless of whatever is happening outside of ourselves. In a very deep meditative state, you can be on the busiest street in a city with loud noises coming from everywhere, yet remain completely still, calm and relaxed. In this state, you are acknowledging all the hustle and bustle, but not reacting to it. Although meditation induces a state of calm, it can also energize the mind; we begin to let go of any mental chatter and instead, quiet the mind, basically meaning we are giving the mind a break. Sometimes, fifteen minutes of meditation can be as effective as an 8 hour of deep sleep, feeling more alert, focused and vibrant.
Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to connect with our own self. Letting go of any thoughts and activity from the ego, we simply learn to observe our physical self from our consciousness, letting go of anything else. In this state, there is no judgement, no cognitive activity, no feeling; we just are, we exist and we experience this simply by acknowledging our breath. To begin with, this can sometimes be difficult especially if we are used to living externally and responding only to outward stimulus. By focusing on our breath, we can slowly reach a space of complete relaxation and ultimately listen to that voice within, our intuition.
HOW TO FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH
The breath is the most important survival tool we have. It's what keeps us alive and it's what keeps our life force/the prana flowing. Paying attention to it can feel strange in the beginning as it is automatic, but it's so important to start focusing on it and notice it's rhythm. Begin by lying down on a flat surface, ideally on a yoga mat, blanket or anything that provides a little bit of cushioning for your back. Have your back lying flat on the mat relaxed, your arms on the floor on either side of your body with the palms facing up; your legs are stretched forward and your feet are relaxed, letting go of any flexing or tension. The back of your legs should be resting comfortably on the floor. Close your eyes slowly and begin by focusing on your breath. Inhale deeply and slowly notice your belly move up and then exhale through the mouth, noticing your belly go down again. Continue to focus solely on your breathing and the belly movement, letting go of any other external noise or distraction. It’s important to note that it can take a few practices (sometimes more) before you find this sense of relaxation so try not to become frustrated or even force this feeling of calm, instead letting yourself flow freely with what’s coming to you from within. As you lay there, start to turn all your senses inward. Feel your heart beat, hear your breath, visualise yourself lying down on your mat. If you have any thoughts coming to your mind, let them go with the next exhale. Stay like this until you begin to feel completely relaxed, until nothing can bother you.
FINDING CLARITY AND PEACE
Meditation teaches us to be patient and gentle with our body, mind, emotional and spiritual self. We live in a fast-paced world in which we are constantly trying to push ourselves to the limits. Be kind to yourself, appreciate all parts of you and connect with yourself coming from a space of love and kindness. When you have this, whatever happens externally, you will always be your true self.
Whatever difficult situation you are facing, there is always a solution to finding your internal balance because this is our most natural state. When facing hard times, we tend to externalise everything and often we turn to our own ego for advice. But know that the ego will always try to defend you from being in an uncomfortable position and it will find every excuse possible to make you react in a way that is defensive or in denial. Meditation helps us go deeper to understand what the situation actually is. When we meditate and search for the answers within ourselves, we connect with our heart and soul. This is where the truth always is, and when we come from a place of love and forgiveness for ourselves and others, we begin to see that not everything is as bad or difficult as we perceive it to be. We learn to acknowledge just how powerful we truly are and how we can use this inner strength in every aspect of our lives. Observe why you feel the way you do and see if you can look at your situation through different lenses, through the eyes of your soul. Every experience in life happens for us to help us become braver, more patient, to learn forgiveness, to give love and compassion, to expand, to self-develop and to let go of tension and fear. Through meditation we connect with our internal self where we can find the meaning behind each experience. Then we can learn from its lessons. By being in the moment we realise that we don’t have to be in control of everything. That it’s ok to allow ourselves to live each experience as it comes and learning to surrender to it.
UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSE OF THE ISSUE
Often times, when we are under stress, or feel anxious, depressed, heartbroken and other negative mental states everything can seem a little fuzzy. We feel as though we have no control over how we feel and over our thoughts. Meditation can be the pause you need to simply observe what is causing you to feel like this. One of the reasons why most people find it hard to meditate is because they simply find it hard to sit still, notice their thoughts and feelings. In doing so, whatever the cause is will eventually come to the surface which means you will have to face it. But what will happen if you just allow your mind to be and just let the thoughts and feelings come in and out of you with each inhale and each exhale…It can feel very overwhelming to do so, but ultimately if you want to change something negative, you have to first acknowledge it. We often see fear as a big, bad obstacle stopping us to progress with our self-development. So instead we allow it to take control, welcoming the ego to join in and that’s when things can turn a little bit dark or out of control. But please know that you have a beautiful soul within you and the reason why you may not know this yet is because you haven’t allowed yourself to connect with it. Everything that you are going through is a process that takes place first in your mind, by perceiving the situation as you see it and then your emotional state comes in and starts to feel around it. When you start to meditate and just observe what is happening inside, what thoughts you have, what feelings come from these, just sit there and let them be without attaching yourself to any of them. Become an observant of the self, knowing that you are in a safe place and that whatever is going on in your mind can shift once you let it go out of your mind. Know that you have the power to let these go and shift your mindset and emotional self if you cue in with what the issue is.
WHEN TO PRACTICE MEDITATION
There is no set time for meditation, it’s simply just giving yourself enough time every day to relax and go into that space of focusing inward. Sometimes even doing this for 5 minutes can help, depending on how you are feeling and how long your body, mind and soul need to relax and sink in deeper. The recommended and most efficient times for meditation though are at sunrise and sunset, connecting with the energy of the sun and the moon and being in sync with the nature’s clock. But you can practice mindfulness and meditation at any point during your day. Sitting still for 5 minutes to quieten the mind and bringing your breathing in a balanced state could be enough. It’s a process that requires patience and time, so take it easy and don’t expect anything, but simply allow yourself to be. Sometimes, you just need to give yourself some space and quiet time to let go of any stress or negative thoughts and then proceed with your day being mindful and more relaxed.