3 Simple Suggestions to Cultivate a Life Changing Meditation Practice
Recently, I almost died. While details of this story are best left to a major motion picture, let’s just say it had to do with a small sailboat, an abandon ship, and 100 mph winds in a catastrophic hurricane situation on the dangerously rough seas. I offer you this admission not to sound fanatical. Rather, to share a case in point that it is in times like these that one realizes the true effects of their efforts towards living through life’s challenges with grace.
Throughout the weeks that have followed this hair-raising event, I have had a lot of time to consider what contributed to the fact that throughout it all, I remained focused, calm, and collected. As a Latina (and Scorpio to boot) I assure you that ‘calm’ and ‘collected’ are not two words that you would have used to describe me in my formative years. But when I think of that event (or the many other recent life challenges that a person can endure in this crazy world) I realize that concepts like fear or regret no longer habitually enter my mind. The ‘what ifs’’ and ‘if onlys’...the ‘couldas’ ‘wouldas’ and ‘shouldas’ are just no longer really there. In all of life's ups and downs, I witness myself as peaceful and calm. Even in the most chaotic of circumstances.
Why? I’ve wondered. The long term effects of meditation? Perhaps. For what is mediation other than consciously sitting and slowing down the racing thoughts of our over-stimulated minds? There is a strong body of research that is developing in support of the positive effects of meditation, but I want to speak here solely of my own experience.
Throughout the years of my own personal practice I have watched meditation slowly, yet drastically shift my perspectives on and reactions towards a great many things. I have gotten in touch with a wellspring of peace within me that constantly helps to fade out the stress and noise all around me. Meditation has helped me tune back into the simple joy, beauty, and blessing in each passing breath. It has helped me recognize, challenge, or make peace with thoughts that would otherwise remain rampant and unchecked. Meditation has helped me gain acceptance for all things as they are, including the words and actions of myself and others and all the less-than desirable situations in our world.
In meditation I get in touch with something bigger than this frail ego known as the “I”. I see the pieces of my mind in action and realize the falsity of what ‘it’ wants me to believe. I get some distance from this mind-instrument and like a third-party insurance investigator, have learned that I can calmly document, review, and debunk its claims.
So what IS meditation? Unless you’re living under a rock you’ve probably been introduced to the idea at some point. This technique, as old as man, has to do quite simply with sitting in silence, eyes closed. Sound easy? It’s not. If it were, the world would be a much more peaceful place I guarantee you.
There are many people who might want to give you suggestions for the ‘right meditation program’. There are many great ones and you can try one, or try them all. But as a basic meditator I can tell you, you don’t need to buy the newest books, attend the high priced seminars, or pay $99.95 for a monthly membership to achieve enlightenment. You just need to sit and be quiet, watch your thoughts as they come, and don’t let yourself wrongly associate with them. Start to see that mind as something separate than you. Start to see your thoughts like a slideshow, mere images flashing and floating, in and out before your very eyes.
Here's 3 Simple but Powerful Suggestions to help you start cultivating your powerful meditation practice:
1) Avoid Distractions: The point of meditation is to slow down, tune into the quiet of your own being, and reveal the thoughts (aka man-made noise) that would otherwise be a stream of unconscious experiences. Find a quiet space in a place you won’t be disturbed. Set the scene so you’ll be comfortable. For some that is in sitting cross-legged, full lotus on a meditation pillow, for others it’s simply sitting upright in a comfortable lazy boy chair.
2) Take your Time: Take at least 5-7 minutes 2x day in the beginning weeks/months but preferably longer as you build your practice. Give yourself the first few minutes to just sit and focus on your breath. You can try various breathing exercises known as “Pranayama” to slow your body and mind, essentially prompting your body to switch gears away from the stimulation of the mind and the chatter of the inner/outer world.
3) Sit it out: You may be surprised to find that sitting in silence is uncomfortable. Many people I know have said that they tried meditation and reported that either they didn’t like it or it didn’t work. Fact of the matter is that like all exercise programs, training the mind for peace is uncomfortable in the beginning. It takes practice over time to show the effects. No pain no gain as they say. If it ‘hurts’ all the better, you’ll be the ones who see the greatest amount of progress over time. Make a commitment, stick to it, and realize that it will take some time to experience the benefits I’ve described. Challenge a friend to 2/x daily mediation for 30 days, 60 days or more. Join any number of free online meditation communities like the Insight Mediation I-phone App for support
Reaping the benefits
If you make the commitment to strengthen the muscles of your meditative mind, you will in time realize 2 major things:
1) That the thoughts that used to plague you are either no longer there or carry little to no emotional weight. You therefore are happier, longer, despite whatever outside (or inside) factors threaten to disturb your peace of mind.
2) That you no longer feel like you HAVE to meditative rather you realize how much you WANT to meditate. Like all healthy habits, our bodies are naturally geared towards recognizing the good stuff. Once we get our butts into gear, our bodies start to crave that meditation as an easy and natural remedy to curing our most common ails.
It’s easy to stay peaceful when nothing threatens to steal our peace of mind. But how do we react when we come face-to-face with a challenging situation, a perceived enemy, or something by our own assessment we deem ‘completely unfair’? It is in the fire of this moment that the strength of our character proves itself and it is precisely in these challenges that show us exactly what we have left to learn.
There is no denying that our human minds are beautiful instruments. They have been the creators of a great many wondrous things. But if we look closely at the workings of this mind-instrument, there is also a great deal of proof that our minds are also the single, sole contributors to all of our emotional pain.
My personal experience and daily record is just one story in countless where the practice of meditation has helped me gain relief from the bondage of my own thoughts. But I like to think of all things as an experiment, so rather than just take my word for it, wouldn’t you much rather like to try it for yourself? Because there’s nothing quite like feeling that deep ocean of calm within you, when the outside seas are catastrophically, 100 mph hurricane-wind like rough.
For more information on how to reap the benefits from your own meditation practice, Contact: Andrea Vielma, MA LMFT at www.Alma-Vida.com
Andrea Vielma, MA LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in the unique needs of high-functioning individuals. She provides uniquely tailored and eclectically inspired transformational personal coaching or therapy services to help identify and remove personal blocks to fulfillment, happiness and joy.
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