When we are unaware of our thoughts and urges, which arise in the back of our mind mostly unnoticed, they have a power over us. We are unable to experience real change if these unbidden thoughts control us. “But when we learn to observe them, we can then release their power over us. Meditation is practice for observing those thoughts, for being more mindful of them throughout the day,” says San Francisco-based Leo Babauta, a published author and creator of popular wellness blog Zen Habits.
My tryst with meditation happened indirectly when I started hiking in the Sahyadri mountains near Maharashtra. Before that, the only thing close to meditation as a child was staring directly at the sun for hours.
Years later, I did a 10-day Vipassana meditation course at the oldest centre in Igatpuri, Nashik (It’s an ancient technique taught by Gautam Buddha himself. Vipassana means to see things as they are). Meditating 10 hours a day felt like the most natural thing in the world. I was hooked. Of course, once I went back to city life and work, the twice-a-day practise sessions trickled down to none-a-day in 6 months.
Luckily, I was also learning Sivananda yoga at the time. My Sivananda yoga teacher Shameem Akhtar (a happy, beautiful spirit and meditator in her 50s) would start and end every session with a short meditation. Visualisation and body awareness were part of it. That short session made a noticeable difference in how the day panned out. The days I didn’t have class, the mind and body felt different.
Along the way, there were two levels of Reiki that took about 40 minutes to complete a full session. The first time I practised Reiki, it was like walking on the clouds. Absolute bliss.
I believe beside the benefits of less stress and anxiety, meditation eventually puts you in touch with the inner bliss (and sometimes ecstasy) which is every human being’s right, no matter what your background, age, religion, sexual orientation or status is.
Want to be an oasis of calm?
Here five simple steps for making it a daily ritual:
1 Commit to just 2 minutes a day
Start simply if you want the habit to stick. You can do it for five minutes if you feel good about it, but all you’re committing to is two minutes each day.
All it really takes is 10 mindful minutes a day, as meditation champion Andy Puddicombe will tell you in this short TED talk.
His fast-rising mobile app Headspace eases beginners into meditation. It’s being used by top performers Jared Leto and Ryan Seacrest (my personal hero), athletes and regular people like me. I used the app for 10 day consecutive days and plan to get a subscription. My honest verdict about the app: Headspace doesn’t take itself too seriously. The programme makes meditation more relatable. There’s no mumbo jumbo, yet it has a scientific basis. Andy’s voice is immensely relaxing; it puts me at ease in a minute. The animations explaining the progressions are darn cute; something I looked forward to.
I put a pause on the Headspace meditation over the last three weeks because I am doing Shambhavi Mahamudra twice a day which incorporates meditation and “Aam” chants. I did the inner engineering course by Isha Yoga last month (more on that in later posts). I need fewer calories and have more energy since the course. Did you say: “Shambhavi, what?” I’d rather you hear what it’s about from Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev himself:
2 Pick a time and trigger
Not an exact time of day, but a general time, like morning when you wake up, or during your lunch hour. The trigger should be something that is already part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. Having a fixed time frame brings a certain sanctity to meditation.
3 Find a quiet spot
At the crack of dawn in your home is the best spot, before everyone else is awake. Others might find a spot in a local park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. It really doesn’t matter where — as long as you can sit without being bothered for a few minutes.
I’ve meditated even in crowded trains on the way back home. It’s a good distraction from the noise and chaos that local trains in Mumbai city are.
I read somewhere that Mahatma Gandhi used to sit meditatively with his eyes closed (and mind alert) when he traveled alone by train. Before his station arrived, his subconscious mind had automatically calculated the time and distance and he would get up just as his station arrived. Curious, I tried this out when I was fresh out of college. It really does work… even when trains are running slower than usual or there’s a delay. My theory is: The mind is empty of thoughts and is much more receptive to intuition and external stimuli in a meditative state.
4 Sit comfortably
Don’t fuss too much about how you sit, what you wear, what you sit on, etc. Sitting cross legged is not essential in the western world.
There are certain benefits to this practice. It grounds you to Mother earth. It forces you to keep your spine straight and your shoulders pulled back and relaxed (without back support). If you find sitting on the floor uncomfortable, try a chair or couch.
5 Focus on your breath
As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. Sit straight, keep your eyes open but looking at the ground and with a soft focus. If you want to close your eyes, that’s fine. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. If it helps, count … one breathe in, two breathe out, three breathe in, four breathe out … when you get to 10, start over. Repeat this process for the few minutes you meditate. It will become a regular habit in a matter of days.
Breathing right is an essential element of yoga, bodyweight exercises, long distance running, sprinting and swimming. Conscious, deep breathing is the simplest and most powerful thing you can do to improve the quality of how you experience every moment.
Have you always wanted to meditate but are having trouble getting started? Is there any meditative practice you want to know more about? Write back in the comments section for more advice.
Via #daily-prompt Local
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as a global phenomenon with names like David Lynch and Oprah Winfrey promoting it. Yet, it needs local support. Seems about for me to link to more WordPress blog posts on the theme local (in no particular order):
- Porcupine, the grizzly – Wind kisses
- Why this picture is so important – Danny writes
- Day 17 – Training Wheels OFF! Thoughts on Living in HK as a “Local”
- Illustrated map of Jordan – Yaansoon
- Wow factor in anthems and music
- Buy local – Another Global Eater
- A nature weekend and bird watching challenges – The house of Bailey
- The importance of fit – Self evolve