Getting Started with Meditation and Mindfulness
Taking the time to sit still is not something that our society is used to doing. We're always going a million miles a minute but if I'm assuming that shelter-in-place has shown that there is in fact an opportunity to sit with yourself and experience silence - even if just for a moment. You don't have to be an experienced yoga student or incredibly in touch with being alone with your thoughts to get started. There are so many benefits to meditation and mindfulness, but one of the primary ones is calming the nervous system. When we slow down and activate our parasympathetic nervous system, we begin to get out of fight or flight and begin to tell the body it is ok to relax and rest. Additionally, utilizing mindfulness in our everyday lives will help us to be more in the present and less in the future or past.
We've put together this list of ways to begin to experience meditation and mindfulness in a variety of different ways so that hopefully, you can find something that works for you and begin to build a consistent practice!
Some things to consider:
What type of meditation is right for me?
Some meditations take you into your body to help increase awareness of the self from a focused, internal sense. Some meditations focus on outward awareness (i.e. focus on sounds, feelings coming from outside the body). Visualization and mantra-based meditations are also some incredible practices. There are many types, so acknowledge where you're at, what calls to you and find a resource that suits that need and fits YOU. Perhaps try a few different styles to see what you like best.
Guided vs. Unguided Meditation.
Anyone can meditate on their own, but if you're a person who perhaps experiences high anxiety, etc., being alone and in your mind can be a scary place and you may have trouble knowing where to start. In this case, I always recommend finding a resource that works for your lifestyle. Here are some examples:
- Meditation Apps (Headspace, Calm, etc.)
- Online or (in-person) Meditation Sessions (yoga studios, YouTube, etc.)
- Instagram (a lot of specialists will offer free guided sessions!)
Mindfulness vs. Meditation - what's the diff?
Mindfulness is the idea of becoming aware - this can include practicing meditation. Mindfulness can be experienced all the time while meditation is more of a practice. More to come in a future blog on mindfulness vs. meditation. ;)
WIth that, here is a basic breakdown of some of our favorite methods to getting started:
Mindful Moving Meditation
Meditation doesn't always have to mean sitting with eyes closed. Simply being present with yourself and aware of the motions and movements you're experiencing can have a similar effect. It all forces us into the present moment and can be a simple way to slow down and calm our system. One way to do this is to simply walk. While walking slowly, begin to really put all your focus on each and every step. Pay attention to every movement, every motion. If you notice your thoughts straying away, gently note that drift and kindly bring your awareness back to the motion of walking. Start small - don't worry about going too far.
Being in Nature
One of my personal, favorite ways to meditate or practice mindfulness is to head to nature. This doesn't mean an extravagant trip to a dense forest or beach, this can be experienced in your own backyard or just outside your front door. Simply bringing your awareness to the trees, the leaves on the trees, the sounds of birds, the feel of the wind on your skin, the rustling of the wind in the trees...all of these things bring you a sense of ease and will help focus on the present moment.
When I first got started with meditation, it was absolutely necessary that I had some assistance. From yoga classes to videos to apps, I tried it all. These days, I still love Headspace. There are so many options and types of content to suit anyone. They even offer courses on getting started or addressing specific aspects of life.
Breath Awareness Meditation
One of my favorite unguided meditations is simple breath awareness. Sitting comfortably with my spine long (or lying down), I simply bring the attention to my breath and count. Inhale 1, Exhale 2, Inhale 3, Exhale 4...and so on and so on. Pay special attention to the exhale and allow it to be as long as it wants...this helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system and will help increase feelings of calm.
Outward Awareness Meditation
Another favorite unguided meditation for me is simply and outward awareness meditation. Again, sitting comfortably with my spine long (or lying down), I bring my awareness to the sounds I can hear, the feelings on my skin. Allowing myself to breathe with my own body at its own count offers present focus and calming awareness.
There are so many ways to meditate and experience mindfulness - there really isn't a wrong way. Find what's right for you, start small (even a few min a day) and be consistent. Before you know it, you'll hopefully notice that it wasn't as scary as you thought.