There is a practice that has assisted me a great deal throughout my journey. It has helped me with sleep difficulties and contributed to overall calm throughout my days that, I’m sure you can relate, sometimes can get too much to cope with.
It is Meditation
Please don’t think it is only for monks sitting on mountains. Today, in this world it is one of the most powerful tools I have found. And it’s honestly really simple. It helps me clear my mind of troublesome thoughts. You will find the opportunity to stop gives down time that is so valuable when every waking moment seems full of challenges. Science is now backing up this ancient practice with it being shown to increase the grey matter density in certain areas of the brain. So being quiet for a time each day literally grows your brain!
Getting Started with Meditation
There are literally hundreds of ways to meditate. I will share with you a few that are easy to start now. The first is to be practiced whenever you feel a sense of overwhelm or anger. I would ask you to stop doing whatever it is you are doing.
Perhaps turn or walk away to give yourself some space and focus on your breath. You could gradually lengthen the inhalation and exhalation. Depending on how long you have you could be focusing anywhere from 5-10 breaths. You will find clarity of thoughts and a slowing of the heart. This will help with the situation that is causing stress.
Then there is simple mindfulness and/or mantra meditation – repetition of a tone or phrase such as Om. The repetition of Om can be silent (in your head) or said out loud. The aim of a mantra is to drown out other opportunity for you to start thinking.
The second style of meditation is a Silent Meditation. It helps me with sleep and for calm throughout my days. You can choose when to practise it, in the evening before sleep or in the morning when you first awaken. Perhaps you would like to try both? I find it best not to leave my bed. I will cross my legs whilst sitting on one of my pillows to make it comfortable. If it works better for you, you may want to try sitting on a chair in your bedroom.
Closing your eyes is a good way to block out the world making being with your breath the main focus. If closing your eyes does not feel right, you could gaze at something meaningless but beautiful, like a flower or a candle flame. Do what you like with your hands. You could clasp them in your lap or rest them on your knees. If you can remember to, relax your jaw and loosen your tongue, allowing it to drop away from the roof of your mouth. I have read this will stop you ‘talking to yourself’. It’s true! Peace of mind is definitely easier for me when I relax my tongue. Try it out!
Pranayama is a type of silent meditation but to make it easier for you, I will ask you to count. 4, 4, 4, 4 – 4 slow counts inhalation, hold for 4 slow counts, exhale for 4 slow counts and again hold for 4 slow counts before inhaling again.
Eventually, the aim can be to try to find stillness with no counting, focusing on the breath: how it feels through your nostrils, the temperature of the air, the sensation as it runs over your top lip in exhale. If this is still too difficult you could always repeat the Mantra ‘Om’ when you exhale. This is helpful for a couple of reasons. It gives you something else to focus on and distracts you from your thoughts. It also lengthens the time of the exhale.
It is up to you to find how long to meditate. I encourage starting with 10 mins but you can work out your personal practice duration. You can lengthen the time at your comfort. It truly is a valuable tool. Perhaps see if you can start a daily practice from tonight or tomorrow morning.
An evening practice of mindful breathing has been shown to encourage the brain to switch effectively to sleep-mode. When I awaken during the night, before any negative thought processes begin, I sit and breathe for as long as it takes for me to gain peace so I can more effectively fall asleep again.
By far the preferred time to practice meditation is the morning as soon as you awaken because the mind has not started operating at full throttle. This means there is the chance to reach a state of quiet within with minimal effort. Meditating in the morning leaves you with a tangible sense of clarity and the effects spread out throughout your day in almost undetectable ways. Perspective will show you how circumstances have shifted.
Apps available as assistance, or guided meditations, number in the hundreds on your smart phone. Many are free such as ‘1GiantMind’ and ‘Smiling Mind’, some you pay for such as ‘Insight Timer’. There are even apps giving the appearance of a candle on your phone! No Wax!