Quality Over Quantity: 4 Tips To Help You Meditate Effectively
Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves around our meditation practice, feeling frustrated we can’t “get it right” … This article gives some helpful advice on how to practice effective meditate despite our busy lives (and thoughts!)
Focus on quality over quantity. You don’t have to spend hours every day in meditation. 10 minutes of intense focus is better than an hour of frustrated fidgeting and internal battles. If you can only manage a few minutes of focus at a time, you’re still benefiting, and you’ll be more likely to come back to the practice the next day if you leave it on a positive note.
The traditional cross-legged meditation position has several advantages. For most people, using a meditation cushion is beneficial as it positions the hips higher than the knees, preventing circulation problems.
It provides a stable foundation that allows for the free flow of energy through the seven chakras in the body (chakras are energy centers; blocked chakras result in a host of physical and psychological problems).
It allows your spine to be upright yet supple. Sitting with proper posture allows for open breathing and doesn’t constrict any blood flow. Ironically, sitting upright with your spine curved naturally takes far less muscular effort than sitting hunched over or stiff as a board!
If your knees protest at sitting cross-legged, try doing it on a softer surface like a couch or bed; or, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and spine unsupported by the back of the seat. You can also meditate lying down on a yoga mat, but beware, it’s very easy to doze off in this position!
Your hands can rest on your thighs, or you may wish to use one of several “mudras” or hand positions to stimulate the flow of energy. One popular mudra involves putting your dominant hand palm up in your lap and then putting your non-dominant hand on top of it, also palm up so that the dominant hand cradles the non-dominant hand. Lightly touch the thumbs together.
Meditation is a process of self-discovery. It can, and will, teach you the inner workings of yourself, but only if you are willing to let go of timelines, agendas and hurry.
The process of self-discovery is not always easy. The discipline you need to sit silently and observe your thoughts (or silence them entirely) can be an exercise in frustration. Disempowering ways of thinking will come into your awareness, and they are uncomfortable and unpleasant. But, once these thought patterns are identified, they become easy to discard.
Therefore, set your intention to simply be an observer of whatever happens.Don’t try to control your breathing or to force yourself into immobile stillness if you’re fidgety. Observe, allow and be interested in your inner workings, many of which are manifested in physical sensations! What’s going on inside is truly fascinating!
Don’t expect anything, just be open to what will unfold. Simply observe. That’s all. Let whatever happens, happen. Don’t judge what’s happening, and don’t worry about whether you’re “doing it right.” You are meditating correctly if you are aware of what is happening within you.
Pick a point of focus. It could be a mantra, an object (physical or mental image of something), music or your breath.Having some point of focus will help you keep your mind from wandering so that gradually you develop amazing mental self-mastery.
Use this very effective technique to deal with thoughts that arise: If your mind is very busy, you might have a torrent of thoughts vying for your attention and it might seem impossible to slow the rush. Practice a “catch and release” technique where you become aware of a thought, and let it pass without becoming entangled in it.
Imagine yourself sitting at a cafe on a busy city street, watching traffic and people move by. Imagine your thoughts to be the hustle and bustle of the city. You see a taxi and watch it drive past you and out of sight; you see an interesting person and watch him walk by; you see a pigeon, a bus, a cyclist… and since you’re only observing, you don’t stop them so they can interact with you. Do the same with your thoughts. Observe without reacting to them in any way.Even if you have an unpleasant thought about your ex, just think, “I’m having a thought about my ex” and let it drift away.
To silence your thoughts entirely takes practice. You can do this through breath focus as well as a simple command, “Be still.” As you focus on the marvelous experience (the miracle!) of the breath, your mind will wander. When it does, acknowledge the thought and immediately bring your attention back to your breath with a “Be still” command.It will take time, but you’ll notice that the moments of pure silence get longer and more frequent.
The best way to get the most out of a meditation practice is to set aside time daily for it. It need not be a lengthy meditation – just 15-30 minutes of “me time” is plenty. One of the best ways to ensure you can fit it into even the busiest schedule is to wake up 30 minutes early and go meditate before you do anything else – a peaceful way to start the day.
You can take a meditation practice along with you as you go about your day. Anytime you find yourself in a stressful situation, use a countdown to get yourself into a meditative state very quickly – this will soothe you, prevent emotions from escalating, minimize the “fight or flight” response, and give you a chance to gather your thoughts so you can respond rather than react.
Over time, you’ll get to know your inner mental and emotional workings very well, and you’ll gain mastery over your thoughts, enabling you to make choices that are aligned with what you want in life.