Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Four Meditation Practices to Quiet Your Mind

By lizlamoreux

I often hear people say things like, “I want to start a meditation practice, but I don’t have time” or “I just can’t sit still that long” and so on. But meditation doesn’t have to be sitting still for 15 minutes to an hour as you try to think about nothing without moving your body. Meditation can instead become a self-care practice you use to simply quiet your mind. But you have to try it in order to really begin to feel the positive effects on your body and soul.

Here are four meditations that are perfect for beginners and even seasoned practitioners who need to get back in touch with their beginner’s mind. You don’t have to be a yogi to try these meditations. They’re accessible for anyone and you can try any of them today.


Counting Your Breaths

When you first begin meditating, it can be difficult to quiet your mind. Well, the truth is, some days this can be difficult for someone who has been meditating for years. This is why a counting meditation is a good one to begin with or come back to from time to time.

One idea to add into your meditation toolbox is using a sound to begin your meditation. This cues your body and mind that you’re about to enter into a quiet space for yourself. You can use a small bell, tingshas (pictured here), or a singing bowl. You might also want to light a candle or even clear your space with sage.

Here’s how to practice the “counting your breaths” meditation:

Find a comfortable way to sit. Using a pillow or a meditation cushion or even a rolled up blanket to sit on is a good idea.

Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breathing. After a few moments, begin to count your breaths. One way I like to do this is to literally say internally, “Inhale one. Exhale one. Inhale two. Exhale two.” as I breathe. Count up to 10, then start over. 

Go through this cycle of 10 a few times. When you’re done, notice how you feel. And then make any movements your body needs in this moment.


Noticing Your Body

This meditation is best done when you lie down, and using a yoga mat is a great idea. This meditation is about noticing your body and inviting your body to relax. It is sometimes called a body scan meditation. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your body. Noticing how you feel. Then bring your awareness to your breathing, finding a rhythm as you inhale and exhale.

When you are ready, bring your attention back to your body, starting at your toes. Feel your toes, moving them if you’d like, and imagine completely relaxing them. Then move onto the rest of your feet: noticing, moving, relaxing. Move on to your ankles: noticing, moving, relaxing. Then move up your legs and so on. Moving all the way up your body. Breathing. Noticing. Going slow.

When you’re done, notice how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.


Exhaling into the Corners

I read about this technique years ago, and I use it on nights when I can’t stop the mind chatter and am trying to get to sleep. You can use it in the middle of the day to center yourself as well or to help you drop into a short rest. One idea is to wear an eye mask or lavender scented eye pillow while you practice this one. 

Here’s how it works:

You close your eyes and visualize the four corners of the room you’re in. Start at one corner and with your next inhale, imagine moving across the straight edge of the room with your breath. Then exhale into the next corner. Inhale and continue around the room, breathing in along the edge, then exhaling into the corner. Continue several more times. 


Candle Meditation

Bringing a candle into your meditation practice invites in ritual but also gives you something to bring your attention to.

With this meditation, you want a clear space where you can place your candle. It should be free from a lot of clutter and distractions. You will want to practice this meditation seated. It is a good idea to have the candle pretty close to eye level so that you don’t find yourself bending forward to look at it. Also, let it be at least a foot away from you so that it isn’t too bright.

When you’re ready, light your candle, and as you do, create an intention for yourself for this moment. It might be something like, “I give myself the gift of this moment.” Or “I create space inside me with each breath.” (Creating an intention is something you can add to any of the practices described here.)

After you light the candle, bring your gaze to it. Watch it as you breathe. Inhaling, being right here. Exhaling, watching the candle. You might want to imagine that you’re inhaling the light inside you and then exhaling it over you. 

Do this for 3-5 minutes the first time you try it. Letting your gaze just soften on the candle as you breathe. 
I hope you'll give meditation a try. And if you don't enjoy it the first time you try it, try again. It can take a few times to really notice how it affects you. Try shortening the time or even lengthening it. Most importantly, listen to what your body is telling you and try to let go of any self-judgement that comes up. This isn't about perfection; it's about supporting yourself through a practice that feels right for you.

Check out my  Meditation Tools collection for more ideas of props you can add to your meditation practice.

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