My personal meditation journey has been bumpy. I grew up thinking meditation was just plain weird. Early in life, I met a woman who embodied the meditator stereotype to perfection. She was lovely, but I was little and found her take on meditation overwhelming. Later, when I probably needed it most, I was too deep into my own turbulent emotions to open up to meditation. For me, becoming a parent changed my perspective. Suddenly, I felt the need to become a good role model for my son. I wanted him to grow up with a way to cope with all life might throw at him. My journey toward meditation began with yoga and learning to truly breathe. Later, I ventured into Pilates (another mind/body/spirit discipline), which deepened my understanding of the importance of breath and the mind/body connection. Finally, I ventured into meditation itself and immediately panicked. I had this idea that one must meditate alone and in tranquility for a large chunk of time each day. I had a small child and was never alone; my world was never quiet. I could never meditate. Then, one day, I read an article by Deepok Chopra and the simple meditation he recommended changed everything! You CAN meditate effectively in five minutes, meditate in the midst of chaos, and come back to meditation after leaving it for any length of time! I am a firm believer in meditation. When I remember to practice (I’m still working on this, believe me!), the simplest meditation changes my present, my day, my week. My relationships are better, I am more present in my job, and my health improves. I can’t recommend it enough. This week, I’ve chosen to share with you two of my favorite meditations (both simple, short, and highly effective). I hope they bring the same peace to your life that they’ve brought to mine!
The “I Am” Meditation
This is the first meditation I ever practiced. Full credit belongs to Deepok Chopra. Although sitting in a quiet place, closing the eyes, and focusing first on your breath is a great way to begin, this can be done anywhere, anytime! I’ve practiced this in the car, while teaching, in the middle of interacting with people, etc. No one ever needs to know!
~ Begin to inhale and exhale through the nose and deep into the belly. If you have time, feel free to take five to ten deep breaths before beginning the meditation.
~ On the inhale, say to yourself, “I am.”
~ On the exhale, add something positive to this statement. (Some of my go-tos are I am peace, I am joy, I am health, I am confidence, I am love, etc.)
It’s as simple as this! You can repeat the same phrase or string a few phrases together. Continue until you feel like you’re ready to stop.
One of my favorite meditation teachers is David Harshada Wagner. He keeps it real and every meditation I’ve done with him leaves me feeling infinitely better. Downshifting is based on a Wagner practice and is another that can be done anywhere, anytime. It is ideal for shifting negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness, and more. The basic theory is that the body is better able to process and let go of negative emotions in the pelvis versus the upper body. This might sound a little wacky, but if you try it I bet you’ll be surprised!
~ Begin to become aware of your breath. Do not force a breathing style; simply breath naturally. Often, when we’re experiencing negative emotions we breath shallowly up in the chest. This may be the case when you begin. If so, don’t try to change things right away. Let the breath rest where you find it.
~ Gradually begin to shift the breath down through the body. First, begin shifting the breath down from the chest into the ribcage. Next, allow the breath to travel from the ribage to the belly and the low back. Finally, send the breath down into the low belly and the pelvis.
~ If you find your breath stuck at any point, don’t worry. Simply shift the breath as low as it will go.
~ Continue to run the breath down from the chest into the pelvis until you feel your mood shift and you can breathe primarily at the lowest point.
Meditation comes in many forms. If you try one or two meditations and they don’t work for you, continue your search. Eventually, many people happen upon an approach that works well for them. In addition, meditation takes practice. If you try either of these meditations (or any others) and you like them but you’re not sure they’re “working,” try again another day. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. It can take us awhile to truly open up and let the meditation do its job. And, honestly, meditation is a never ending journey. Wishing you much joy and success on your meditation adventure, wherever it takes you!