Can I really "stop, drop and meditate?" Who has time for that anyway? Won't my thoughts make me feel more anxious, stressed and worried? What is the point? How do I begin? Do these thoughts come to mind when you think about starting a meditation practice? Do you feel like you don't have time to add one more thing to your daily routine?
When I was first introduced to meditation, I know these were some of the many thoughts I had. I was worried I would not "do it right." How was I going to train my brain to slow down my thoughts and think of "nothing." If I'm being really honest with myself (and with you), I did not want to meditate because I thought it would be a waste of time and I would rather be doing something else than sitting in silence.
Over the years I have learned that the ones who have a meditation practice are the ones "doing it right." Research has demonstrated time and time again the many benefits of meditation. Plus there is no "wrong" way to meditate. There are so many different ways to practice meditation and it is my understanding what ever experience you have during your meditation practice is exactly the experience you are supposed to have.
But for those of us who are perfectionists, type A personalities, strivers, doers and "checkers of the list," the statement I just made seems odd and difficult to understand. What do you mean I can't do it wrong? Isn't there a better way to meditate than others? If I am going to do this, I want to do the one that is right for me. Will I get a different outcome if I meditate this way instead of that? Is it better to do it in the morning, afternoon or evening? Which style is the best for my personality and struggles? Do you catch yourself asking these questions as well? I believe these are the challenges many of us face when deciding when and how to meditate.
Throughout the past 20 years of practicing yoga, my primary focus has been on the asanas or postures. It started as an alignment-based Hatha Yoga practice. However, my focus is shifting. I now listen to my body and honor what it needs. I pay attention to the seasons, my energy, time of day and what is happening to me personally in my body and mind. I am a kinesthetic learner and moving my body helps integrate the teachings of the practice and allows me to take the seat of a teacher from an authentic place.
With our ever changing world, I am drawn to my inner world. I am curious about what is happening within and want to create a deep connection to my spiritual practice. A feeling of being home. I know my body will continue to change as I age. I want to be grounded in a holistic practice that fills my soul and reminds me of my true self. I struggle with anxiety and many people in my family struggle with a variety of mental health conditions. As I embrace and learn more about the brain, the practice of meditation continues to be a pillar of stress reduction and a practice I can do to feel calm and at peace.
In the yoga tradition, meditation is one of the eight limbs. Dhyana is the state of meditative “flow” where meditation practice becomes effortless, pleasurable, and joyful, and where the mind is calm. Meditation is part of a complete practice of yoga including pranayama and asana. Rod Stryker shares in a Yoga International article, "The two most important elements of practice are consistency and reverence, or ritual." No matter where you are in the world or what is happening in your life, we can all close our eyes, turn inward and practice.
My current meditation practice includes listening to guided meditations lead by Rod Stryker in his Sanctuary App. I find his voice to be soothing and I love the variety of meditations and yoga nidra practices I can use. He has been studying and practicing yoga for over 30 years and his teachings are rich and resonate with my soul. You can also find many wonderful meditations on the Insight Timer App. This is a free app with over 35,000 meditations. This app allows you to set a pleasant timer and practice meditation on your own. Attending a sound bath meditation is another way to practice. I currently teach a restorative yoga class with Sounds for the Soul with Deb Jennings. We practice restorative yoga postures for an hour and the last 30-minutes of the class is meditating with the sound of crystal singing bowls, gongs, and more. Please join me once a month if you live in the Greater Des Moines Area. If you do not live near me, you might want to find a sound meditation close to you. It is another beautiful way to receive the benefits of meditation.
You can now listen to a few guided meditations with me on my podcast, "Mary McCarthy Resilience & Grace." I will continue to add meditations monthly. Please subscribe to my podcast and stay connected as I share insights and yoga practices with you.
It is recommended when you start meditating, to pick one style of meditation and stay with it for 40 days. As we enter the season of Lent in the Christian Tradition, you may find this time supporting your new practice. It is a time to pause and turn inward. A time to be quiet and still listening to the messages of your heart. A time to get centered and change how you respond to stressors in your life. A time to heal.
Many blessings to you as you begin or strengthen your meditation practice.