Meditation can seem like a daunting task. Many people feel they must sit for an hour in complete stillness and silence and this simply freaks people out! I believe we can start a meditation practice slowly and with enthusiasm.
Here are my 5 simple steps to starting a meditation practice:
- Create a Sacred Space. Making a space in your home where you can go to daily creates a ritual. This makes meditation feel special. Placing items you find sacred or energetic in this space, such as: photos, mala beads, books or crystals, will make it your own. This beauty and energy will encourage you to come back again and again. I have a photo of my teacher, my sacred books, my journal, and some special rocks and a few crystals.
- Guided Meditation. I started with Shakti Gwain’s guided meditations that my mother had given me. To let you know how long ago that was, it was on audio tape! I would just lay down and allow myself to have that time to go within. Guided meditations help train the mind to stay focused on the present moment. I have my own guided meditation through the seven chakras that you may download on my website, but any guided meditation will do.
- Breathing/Pranayama. Next I suggest getting in contact with the vital life force or prana that is flowing through you. If you practice vinyasa yoga, you will be familiar with Ujjayi breath (victorious breath). However, you may use a simple inhalation (puraka) for 5 counts, a hold at the top of the inhalation for 5 counts (puraka kumbhaka), then exhalation (rechaka) for 5 counts and then hold the breath out at the bottom of the exhalation (rechaka kumbhaka) for 5 counts. Repeat this breath for 10-12 rounds. If the 5 count seems too long, you may start with a 3 count. If the 5 count seems to short, you may go to an 8 count. Find what works for you and your current lung capacity. With practice you will find you may inhale and exhale longer and deeper. This allows the practitioner to feel the essence of the breath and the depth that is available to you at any time. Prana flows within the breath but is not the breath alone.
- Chanting Mantra/Japa. One of my favorite ways to harness the monkey mind is called “Japa” or reciting mantra. If you have mala beads, learn to use them for chanting. Sit in your sacred space, hold your mala in your right hand and start at the 1st bead next to the guru bead near the tassel. Each bead represents a mantra. Chant, “Om gum ganapatayei namaha” to Ganesha to remove obstacles. Chant this 108 times as you pull the bead toward your heart. After, you will be ready to sit still, as the mind has been focused on the vibration of this sacred cleansing mantra.
- Stillness Meditation/Dhyana. The catch to this step is that meditation is not something that can be “done” or even “taught” it is an experience you will have once you learn to quiet your mind and surrender into the stillness. Each person will experience this in their own way. The only thing I can suggest here is this, the more you sit in stillness, the deeper you will go. If you meditate daily you will experience deeper levels of awareness and existence. If you meditate once a week you will not feel the same depth. Just like your physical asana practice. If you practice once a month, you body will feel much different than if you practice daily, right? So once we can become excited about mediation and make it part of our daily ritual, we will experience the profound changes it will have on inner state of being and that in turn may change the way you experience the world.
Article contributed by Jenn Chiarelli, facilitator at the