Have you found that you’ve been more drawn to meditation and practices that help you to slow down since the pandemic hit?
I have noticed quite a few of my students have shifted in this direction for multiple reasons, and whether you are starting your meditation voyage or have been meditating for a while, you might have some preconceived notions on what meditation is and how it “should” be done.
As we continue on the exploration of Patanjalis 8 limb path, this month we explore the 6th limb; Dharana. When directly translated, Dharana means “collection or concentration of the mind” or “a state of mental concentration”.
Together we’ll travel into this practice and remove any filters that might be layered over it, before we do you might be wondering…
Why should I meditate?
Meditation allows you to draw your attention inward, something that you may spend a lot of your days trying to avoid, and perhaps this is one of the many reasons why you don’t meditate, because, lets face it, it can be unsettling when you first begin.
We spend so many hours of the day either over stimulated or distracted by our surroundings. Constantly moving us away from our internal world. Physically we struggle in stillness, so without a doubt the majority of us who share our first meditation experience report back that it was uncomfortable.
Some may describe it as the inability to control the overwhelming loudness of their thoughts and feelings, so naturally this discomfort is avoided.
Meditation allows you to draw your attention inward. To that inner part of you that is seeking relaxation so that it can “digest” all of the events of your day. You could think of meditation as a kind of reset button.
I started meditating about 6 years ago and my journey began with The Honest Guys on YouTube. A friend sent me a link to a guided meditation and I used it to get to sleep. Without a doubt, it worked every time, and eventually it became a bit of a routine.
"I was struggling with panic attacks and high levels of anxiety that I had no clue how to manage."
Then I began experimenting with seated meditation, and I could only really manage a couple of minutes at a time before I felt the need to get up and do something. At the time, I was struggling with panic attacks and high levels of anxiety that I had no clue how to manage. The attacks would start without warning and I would freak out, struggle to breathe, and sometimes faint.
Meditation became this tool I could use to get my anxiety under control, to reduce and eventually stop my panic attacks and helped me to get to know my internal environment better so that I was able to manage my emotions and reactions from a calm and centered place, most of the time. Haha! That’s why we call it practice!
It also helped me to be a better person in all of my relationships, I am more aware of myself and how I make other people feel and this level of self-awareness has helped me to build and maintain some amazing connections.
What are the benefits of meditation?
There are so many amazing benefits to meditation, like feeling more connected to yourself, which can boost your self-esteem and help you to understand yourself a little better.
Here are a few more benefits:
It helps you to build resilience and gain new perspectives on stressful situations.
Creates growth in self-awareness. As you start to notice how and why you react to certain situations, you build on your levels of self-awareness. This is a gradual process and there are always layers being revealed.
Reduces negative emotions. Meditation allows you to become aware of negative emotions and this helps you to see the path towards these emotions, and the why behind them.
Increases imagination and creativity. As we get older we lose that sense of childlike wander and life gets a lot more serious and stressful. Meditation can help you to get some of that imagination back, helping you to see the world through your inner child’s eyes.
Increases patience and tolerance.
Helps you to focus on the present moment. This is an aspect that I struggle with a lot, I’m a very nostalgic person, and on top of that I love to plan. Meditation has helped me to reduce this sense of “always having one foot out the door”, and helped me to simply stay inside the room and marvel at all of its beauty.
It helps you build the skills you need to manage your stress. This goes for all styles of meditation, which will be covered next. Once you find one that works for you, you can keep it in your toolkit and always come back to it.
What are some of the styles of meditation?
One of the most common phrases I’ve heard is “I can’t meditate because I can’t switch off my mind”. Let me quickly bust this myth for you, no one can completely switch off their mind, and in essence, this is not the goal of meditation.
The goal is to focus your mind on 1 thing, really focus, and notice absolutely everything about it. To direct your consciousness to a specific place, object or phrase.
"No two individuals think, feel and experience the world the same way."
Just like we all have different bodies, we also have different minds, that function in their own way and have a variety of needs.
No two individuals think, feel and experience the world the same way. So there are many different styles of meditation and the idea is to find the one that works best for you.
Mindfulness meditation originates from the Buddhist teachings and the idea is to become the witness to your thoughts and bodily sensations without judgment or analysis.
This is one style of meditation that you can practice alone. You could try focusing on your breath as an anchor whilst you watch all of the inner workings of your mind and body.
Here is a guided mindfulness meditation for you to try.
Spiritual mediation is ideal for you if you are seeking spiritual growth or a deeper connection to a higher power. This type of meditation is usually associated with spiritual traditions or religion.
An example of a spiritual meditation is a contemplative prayer, or a mantra meditation.
Focused meditation involves focusing one of your senses on something specific. This could be fixing your gaze on a candle flame, listening to a sound, counting mala beads, or moon gazing.
"...don’t be discouraged, it can be a challenging one."
This style of meditation is ideal for improving your focus and attention, but don’t be discouraged, it can be a challenging one. If your mind wanders, simply come back to your focus without judgment.
When you think of movement meditation you might immediately think of yoga, and whilst repeated rounds of sun salutations makes for a beautiful moving meditation, you could also try walking, gardening or dancing.
Movement meditation is great for you if you want develop deeper body awareness, or you feel more connected to moving your body rather than being in stillness.
You could try this Mindful Yoga practice as a moving meditation.
Mantra meditation involves repeating the same mantra over and over. This could be a phrase, word, or sound and you could do this aloud or in your head.
You might enjoy this style of meditation if breath awareness doesn’t work for you, as some people find it easier to focus on a word, or enjoy the vibrations of the sound in their body.
This is a good practice for you if you don’t like silence and find repetition soothing.
Perhaps this Root Chakra Meditation will work for you using the Mantra “I am Safe”.
Progressive relaxation is also sometimes referred to as body scan.
In Yoga Nidra this is referred to as rotation of consciousness and you are taken on a journey around your body as a way to help you to settle into the meditation.
This style of meditation allows for tension release and promotes relaxation. This is a great one to try before going to sleep as you release the tensions of your day.
Try this Yoga Nidra for Sleep to experience progressive relaxation.
Visualisation helps to promote calmness, peace, and relaxation through positive images and scenes.
In this practice you imagine a scene or image vividly and use all 5 senses to create a picture that is calming for you. You could also use this meditation to visualize yourself in a scenario where you are succeeding at something or achieving a goal.
This type of meditation could help you to boost your confidence, reduce stress, and encourage inner peace.
This Happy Place Meditation is one that I always come back to.
So now you know some of the types of meditations that are available for you to try, but before you do, let’s bust some myths about the practice…
5 Meditation Myths Busted!
1. Meditation requires you to clear your mind
When you meditate your mind does not become and empty shell of no thoughts, rather you start to notice your internal environment. What kind of thought patterns you have and how you react to certain stimuli within your environment.
When you are practicing mindfulness meditation, for example, you notice your judgments, thoughts, feeling and associations and allow for them to all be there without the need to analyze them. This way you get to know and understand yourself a little better.
2. Meditation is the solution to the worlds problems
It seems nowadays the phrase “Have you tried meditation?” gets thrown around a lot. Whist I am a big advocate for meditation as a practice of self-awareness and possibly improvement, it will not solve all the worlds’ problems and make life more peaceful for everyone.
"...it becomes a bit more complex to point to meditation as a solution for everything."
Meditation in isolation is a phenomenal practice but when taking into account all of the aspects of the individual; life circumstances, who you are as a person, your past history and how you interact with the world, it becomes a bit more complex to point to meditation as a solution for everything.
3. You don’t have time to meditate
Meditation is a daily practice, and it’s in this daily practice that you start to cultivate that deeper connection to yourself, resilience towards stress, and begin to rejuvenate your body and mind.
It has been scientifically proven that just 10 minutes of meditation per day brings you physical and mental benefits.
You could focus on your breath, mindfully drink, or make your tea, chant, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds around you for 10 minutes every day and this is still meditation.
Remember, meditation is anything that allows to you focus on 1 thing at a time.
4. Meditation is easy
One of the things that I have noticed in my weekly yoga classes is that stillness is one of the most challenging things to achieve for a lot of us. Your mind wanders and you get uncomfortable in the silence and it’s the same for meditation.
Developing your own meditation practice is difficult. Perhaps you start like I did with a guided meditation to listen to at home. Here is one short and simple one for you to try out today.
5 Minute Energy Booster Meditation
Another great way to start is with a friend, find a meditation buddy and a great meditation teacher, and you will build up a practice in no time.
I will be running a meditation challenge on Instagram for the month of April, this will be a good opportunity for you to try out the different styles of meditation and find one that works for you. Follow me here to join the challenge.
5. Meditation is only for spiritual people
Think about the last time you marveled at nature…
Perhaps it was a beautiful sunset or that tree that blossoms outside your window. Think about that moment, when you almost felt at one with the experience, when you were completely present, even if it was only for a few seconds.
This is something that we all have within us, but it is pushed down and dulled by the hustle of daily life.
Yes meditation is practiced in many spiritual contexts, but it is something that every human being has inside of them and can be accessed at any time.
Research has shown that meditation benefits many people in a variety of ways. Patients who suffer with PTSD, ADHD, high blood pressure, and cancer, to name a few, have all seen improvements from meditation.
It can be such a powerful tool if you are willing to give it a try and find a style that works best for you.
Join me on Instagram for the April challenge where we will try out a different meditation each week and discover what works for you.
“If you want to change you have to be willing to be uncomfortable.” Unknown
Love and Light