People have meditated thousands of years, to master the art of inner peace and mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to be in the here and now, without judgement, experiencing your world as it is. Meditation is also a great way to help connect the mind and body, letting yourself become aware of your breath and how to use it to your advantage. When you meditate, your brain and nervous system soothe and regulate, which can help with feelings of anxiety and panic. So yes, the meditation “myth” is very true! It is scientifically proven to have beneficial effects on your emotional and physical well-being.
If you want to change your life through meditation, it’s important to start with the basics. These four tips will help you optimize the benefits of your meditative practice:
1. Don’t Meditate to Distract or Avoid: Meet your mind where it is currently at. Lean into your thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they are, and try to acknowledge whatever comes up for you. If you notice that your mind has wandered into other thoughts or distractions, simply smile and tell yourself “thank you for your opinion” and begin again without any judgment. Sometimes we place too much pressure on meditation being “just right” and “perfect” that we lose sight of the main goal- to sit with our feelings and whatever else comes up through our practice. Learning to accept discomfort allows for your growth!
2. Practice with Intent: One of the goals of meditation practice is to learn how to be mindful. Being mindful involves being aware of your actions and acting with intent. Try this out when you meditate- if you feel the need to move around (scratch an itch, shift positions, etc.) acknowledge it first, and then move forward with the action. This allows us to train the brain to be mindful and act with intention rather than impulse.
3. Use Your Breath as an Anchor: Anytime you start to feel distracted, anxious, or restless, gently remind yourself to return to your breath. Returning the focus on your breath is a great way to teach your brain and nervous system to associate your breath with safety and calm. If it helps, use a pattern of breathing that is comfortable and consistent for you, such as inhaling through your nose and exhaling through pursed lips. Diaphragmatic (belly breathing) is also a useful technique for controlled breathing practice.
4. Set Aside Expectations: There is no agenda. Often our expectations of what an experience is “supposed to be like'' takes away from its actual purpose and intent. Meditation is the same way. You don’t need to have the perfect setup with candles and dim lighting to practice – you only need yourself and an open mindset immerse yourself into an experience. A mentor of mine describes it this way: come if you will, stay if you will, leave if you will. When you go into meditation without expectations in place, you are mindfully letting your thoughts arise, stay, or leave as they will. No pressure, no agenda; just you being you!
Written by: Dr. Sundas Pasha, Psy. D.