Quieting the mind. Connecting to self. Breathing in and out. Being present. Om. Sweet meditation.
This is one of the best feelings in the world, and the reason why I am not in an insane asylum right now (although there some days I think I should take up permanent residence in the locked ward.)
There are many teachers, classes, videos, how-tos, articles, magazines and other handy materials to help you learn how to meditate, but I believe that the act of finding stillness is a very personal one. Here are a few things I have learned over time about how to make a meditation practice work for my life.
1. Many teachers will tell you to find a small amount of time every single day, preferably in the morning before the to-do lists overtake your schedule, to practice. I find that the pressure of "every single day" is the one thing that turns me off. Instead, I meditate when I can. I meditate at the end of my day most often, sitting quietly in a room in my house, but I also do it on planes, in my office, on my yoga mat, and in my bath tub surrounded by verbena scented bubbles.
2. One of my teachers, a very famous meditation guru, starts people out with a 30 minute meditation. To me, this approach is like asking a couch potato to start exercising by completing just a little marathon. I have days where I meditate for 3 minutes. I have days where I get so centered I think it's 3 minutes and really it is 45. (those days ROCK!) I don't get caught up on the time, but rather the quality of the stillness I can generate.
3. I find the easiest way for me to focus on the present moment is with sound. I listen to music when I meditate. I have three favorite songs that I use to start my meditation. I put my headphones on, I chant along with the songs, and I focus on ONLY the moment I am in. Then, when the music is over, my mind is usually right where it needs to be to focus on my breath. Music grounds me and makes me feel connected to the Divine. Music inspires me.
4. I find that if I do not have a physical outlet before I sit to meditate, settling my mind is difficult. My best meditation practices follow a yoga practice, a long walk, a dance class, or a wrestling session with my son. My body needs to get the message first that everything is going to calm the heck down for a little bit, and then my mind follows. My favorite way to get physically grounded lately is a class with my friend and teacher Sean Ward.
5. I ditch the "shoulds". You SHOULD sit this way, think this way, focus this way. The best way to meditate is to try different techniques, different styles, different approaches, and see what fits. There is much wisdom in ancient practices, but if I have to choose between full lotus position in silence and chanting with vigor in my acoustically superior bathtub, well, you can guess where I OM with the most focus.
Ultimately, I know that the benefit of my meditation practice is that I feel really good. I feel better about life. I feel my body settle down and my mind slow to a regular pace. I slay my demons. When I stray too far, I know that if I come back to my practice, I will find my way home.
How do YOU meditate? Please leave me a comment below!