And 1 easy meditation practice to try
Written for GQ India, 24 April 2020 Edited by Shikha Sethi
Like yoga, eating healthy, exercising, and ensuring your brain doesn’t melt from watching too much Netflix or the news, meditating is a Good Thing. You’ve flirted with it at some point, but it’s never quite stuck. But this lockdown ain’t ending anytime soon, and maybe you want to emerge from this crisis having done one positive thing for yourself. Now that you’ve understood the science behind why you should meditate, and all the good stuff it does to your brain, here’s a handy checklist to help you get on track – and stay on it. Holistic health coach Sumitra Daswani, founder of BornFromtheEarth.com, a nada (sound) yoga expert as well as a certified Ayurvedic nutritionist breaks it down for you.
1. Pick a fixed time
Set a fixed time to meditate each day by putting it into your calendar. You’ll be more likely to remember to do it each day when you’ve carved out the time for it already. Mornings are ideal because that’s when your brain has the most willpower, and it allows you to set a calming foundation for your day.
2. Do it Daily
Your brain is a muscle. In order to build that muscle, you need consistent exercise. Train your brain to make meditation a daily habit, even if it's just for a few minutes each day. Habits are created with consistent routine. You’ll see more benefits from meditating even for a few minutes a day, than you would by doing it for an hour on the weekend.
3. Start small
Don’t overwhelm yourself with a lofty goal of meditating 30 minutes to an hour a day. Take baby steps to creating a meditation habit by starting with, say, 5 minutes and let your practice grow naturally as you crave more time. The regularity, not the length, is what’s important.
4. Practice in one place
Reserve a spot that you can come back to regularly, such as the corner of a room or one specific chair. Practicing in the same spot will build energy in this place. And keeping it clean and clutter-free will help you to come back to it easily.
5. Create a ritual to prepare yourself
Preparation for meditation can be a useful tool to get started. Try burning a candle or some incense, chanting a mantra or cleaning your meditation space. Rituals help create a safe space so you can settle in faster.
6. Set a timer
Reduce any distraction that comes with having to guess how much time has passed by using an alarm or meditation app. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised when your timer goes off and you feel like no time has passed at all. (That might be a good sign you are ready to increase your practice time).
7. Choose your focus
Meditation is a way to quiet your mind’s chatter by concentrating on one specific thing. Train your mind by concentrating either on your breath, a mantra, your body’s sensations, or a loving thought. Your mind will wander, but simply come back to whatever you have chosen with patience and non-judgment.
8. Be comfortable
Find the seated position that is most comfortable for you. The last thing you want to be focused on is the pain in your hip when you’re trying to relax. Sitting cross-legged is recommended to help keep your spine straight and the energy in your chakras flowing, but it’s not required. You can sit in a chair if you prefer, with your feet on the ground, seated slightly forward so your spine is not resting or slumping on the back-rest.
9. Support your hands
Your arms carry a lot of weight, so support your hands to prevent your shoulders and neck from bearing the strain. If you’re in a cross-legged position, rest your hands comfortably in your lap, in either “dhyana mudra” (right hand resting on left, thumb tips slightly touching) or “gyan mudra” (touch your index fingertip to the tip of your thumb, while holding your other three fingers straight, hands resting on your thighs) to allow you to open your shoulders even more, while also improving your concentration. If you’re on a chair, resting your hands upwards in a receiving position is an option. If you need to have your hands supported higher to reduce back pain, rest your hands on a cushion or blanket. “Gyan mudra” will allow you to open your shoulders even more while also improving your concentration; touch your index fingertip to the tip of your thumb while holding your other three fingers straight, hands resting on your thighs.
10. Be patient and kind to yourself
While “emptying the mind” is part of the goal, it’s common, and absolutely normal, for thoughts to keep coming up. Don’t get frustrated when this happens. Simply observe the thought, and allow it to pass, coming back to your point of concentration. The more you catch yourself thinking and gently guide your mind back to your practice, the more your consciousness will build. Strengthening consciousness with patience during our meditation practice allows us to become more conscious and present in our daily life as well.
Not sure what to focus on?
Try this simple Zazen Breath Meditation by counting each breath. Each inhalation and each exhalation is one count. Count each cycle of breath until you get to ten. When you get to ten, start over.
If you lose count, start over. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought and then consciously allow the thought to go as you begin your count again.
With patience and persistence, you will find your points of stillness. As you practice daily stillness, your mental energy will be less scattered. You’ll find yourself calmer and more conscious of your words and actions. And you’ll start to see subtle shifts in your life that eventually add up to something bigger and more meaningful.
You can also check out our list of 5 Alternative Meditations to Try, covering everything from sound baths to yoga nidra. These are available on Insta Live, and are free.
Breathing in, and out, and letting go just got a little bit easier.
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