Meditation 101 & 30-Day Challenge

In pretty much all of my blogs thus far, I have referenced the importance of meditation.

And so, I thought I’d share with you some truth about my personal experience with meditation, as well as explore different meditation styles, the benefits of a regular practice, and helpful tips for beginners.

As there is literally so much to discuss when it comes to meditation, I’ll only be scratching the surface – at best – in this introductory post. However, it is my intention to publish more content about meditation in the very near future (be sure to read on for more!)

So, what is meditation?

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There are plenty of varying definitions online, but most seem to infer that meditation is a means of transforming the mind. However, different styles of meditation and meditative techniques will inspire different benefits and experiences. For example, certain techniques may help to cultivate concentration and memory, while others focus on inspiring feelings of love and compassion. There are many potential ways to meditate and I highly encourage you to explore as many of them as possible!

Until, y’know… meditation simply becomes the way, and every moment has the potential to become a moment of mindfulness. That’s the end goal, if there… was one. However, with meditation, it is KEY to let go of any expectations. Nothing is guaranteed. There are no ‘nirvana or money back’ agreements here. It is about the journey, not the destination.

The practice of meditating is believed to have originated over thousands of years old. The ancient, OG practitioners would sit in a seated position, such as lotus pose (above), for hours on end in deep, meditative trance-like states. This style of meditation is definitely not easy and takes years of discipline and patience to achieve. Not only does the mind have to be accurately trained, but just imagine how much conditioning the body must prepare for in order to sit in one position for any great length. This is why a regular yoga practice is a great compliment to a regular meditation practice, but.. don’t worry, you’ll get there!

If you have trouble sitting still for long periods of time, or have experienced an injury that may prevent you from sitting comfortably, don’t rule meditation out just yet. Not everyone will enjoy the same styles of meditation or experience the same benefits, but luckily there are numerous different styles to choose from! You can make it work for you. You just have to make the time for it.

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As I mentioned before, there are many different styles of meditation. If one style doesn’t work for you, then please, try another! Much like finding a favourite hairstylist or workout or dessert, you’ve just gotta keep trying.

Here are a few of my personal favourites:

  • Artful, Creative Meditation
    • As I have been in touch with my creative side since childhood, I’ve always found drawing, colouring, doodling, and painting to be incredibly soothing and meditative practices.
    • Though this approach is certainly not for everyone, don’t let the fear not being talented or skillful prevent you from exploring your creative side. You may have an inner artist waiting to break free! I’d like to think that knitting, wood-working, crocheting, cooking, baking, and photography can also be very meditative.
    • Anything that involves some degree of creation and imagination.
    • Set a timer, if you wish, for 20-60 minutes, allowing yourself freedom to create.
    • The goal is to not stress so much about the creating, but instead go with the flow and let the rest manifest.
  • Classic, Seated Meditation (Mindfulness)
    • I humbly admit that this was definitely NOT my favourite form of meditation when I first began, and still isn’t, but I have learned to appreciate and at times even crave the seated style.
    • Find a seated position that is best suited for you; use props if available! I personally love to prop myself up on blocks or a comfy, supportive pillow or bolster in a modified Hero pose (above).
    • If seated positions aren’t available to you, trying lying down and support your head and/or under your knees with a blanket, pillow, or bolster.
    • Set a timer for your practice. Beginners aim for 5-10 minutes to start.
    • Rest hands in lap.
    • Connect with the breath and the body. Root into the ground. Sit tall, with the crown towards the sky.
    • Observe the body, the heart, and the mind through out the practice. Don’t force thoughts out; observe them, give them that attention they’re looking for, and let them pass by. Don’t force emotions away, either; acknowledge them, seek to understand where they are coming from and why.
    • Focus on the breath to help maintain concentration. Continue to bring awareness to the body, the breath, the mind, and the heart.
  • Gardening
    • I think this one just speaks for itself. Time spent outside in the sunshine, bare foot, digging in the dirt, is always time well spent.
  • Guided Meditation
    • I found guided meditations definitely helped me in the beginning of my meditation practice. As I got used to certain guided practices, it became so much easier to lead myself through my own meditative experience. YouTube has an infinite source (so it seems) of guided meditation videos to choose from! I look forward to sharing many of my personal favourites with you.
  • Loving Kindness Meditation
    • This one is definitely a favourite of students in my yoga classes! Complete these steps in order, repeating steps as many times as necessary before moving onto the next step.
    • These do not have to be performed all in one meditation. For beginners, start with step one. Repeat a few times before adding step two. Repeat together a few times before adding step three, and so on.
    • The idea here is that loved ones, strangers, and enemies all have the potential to change, at any given time. So, why limit your love to only your friends and family? Why not cultivate a wider range of love and kindness, by simply meditating?
      1. Imagine your loved ones and people that you truly care about. Let that love fill your heart. Feel the love overflowing within you. Send that love to those people in your mind.
      2. Imagine yourself, exactly as you are. Not a younger version. Not a thinner, prettier, faster, stronger, smarter, richer, or any other version. Just as you are, right now. Offer yourself that same, overflowing love. Appreciate yourself. Love yourself, unconditionally.
      3. Imagine people who are neutral to you. This could be someone you know but don’t interact with much at all, like a coworker or past acquaintance. This could be a vague population of people, like a nation, a community, or a group. Send these people that same, overflowing love. Offer them the same love.
      4. At first, you may be very resistant to this step ▬ so be realistic. Start as small as possible. With regular practice of the above three steps, in time, this step will become easier. The aim is to offer our love to even those who have not done the same. Imagine someone who has wronged you. Maybe this person is someone you consider an enemy, or maybe you two just don’t see eye to eye. Send them your love.
        • Going back to what I said in my earlier blog, about being kind because we’re all in the same suffering boat… well, practicing through meditation will make it way easier in real life. Think about how this could improve your relationships with coworkers, bosses, annoying family members, stupid silly people, and more!
  • Laughter
    • Memes, funny videos, one-liners, jokes, stand-up comedy; whatever it is, if it makes you laugh, then it’s a form of relief. Laughter is definitely a form of medicine, and just ten minutes of laughter a day can greatly improve well-being. Even if it’s not technically a meditation style, it’s good for the soul (and the core).
  • Observational Meditation
    • To admire nature, a mandala, a flame, or a crystal is to practice observational meditation. This technique aims to quiet the mind and bring stillness to the body, while maintaining focus on a particular image or object.
  • Walking Meditation
    • My favourite of all styles! I enjoy going for slow, mindful strolls on beautiful days. While the city setting tends to give me a bit of anxiety, visiting nearby parks and trails helps to create a more positive setting.
    • I like to pop in earbuds and listen to a soothing playlist or, better yet, opt to listen to the sounds of everything around me. The choice is yours! Birds, cars, the breeze, laughter, rushing water – whatever it is, just notice it.
    • Be intensely present within the environment around you. Notice what is happening.

As you can see, there are many different approaches to meditation – and those are just the few that I have personally tried. There are so many more to explore!

Now, why does any of this really matter?

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There are numerous benefits of meditation that have, as of recently, been supported and endorsed by scientific research. Though many people still question the effectiveness of meditation, I truly suggest you do the research and try the practice for yourself.

Here’s what science has to say about meditation…

  • Psychology Today’s 20 Reasons to Start Meditating is a very informative read. Regular meditation boosts the immunity and sense of self-control, improves focus and attention span, decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression, not to completely changes the structure of your brainjust to name a few.
  • The innovate app, Headspace, provides users helpful, guided meditations, including 10, free introductory meditations upon signing up (after, fees do apply). The creators of the app work with research scientists to study the beneficial effects of meditation and other mindfulness, acceptance-based activities, in general. The results are astonishing! Their studies suggests that meditation improves sleep patterns, relieves stress, improves relationships, reduces anxiety, and sharpens concentration. 
  • The Scientific Benefits of Meditation, as posted on Science of People, sources many studies on the subject. The article supported the long-term benefits of a regular meditation practice, such as increased creativity, improved sense of well-being and connectedness with others, as well as improved memory and decision-making skills, not to mention several others.
  • Forbes has posted a couple articles on the subject: here and here. Their research suggested that meditation could reduce bias (against age, race, sex, etc.), treat anxiety and depression, improve body image and satisfaction, change brain volume (increase in grey matter), help in overcoming addiction, as well as improve attention and reduce distraction.
  • Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist out of Harvard, has been recently studying the effects of meditation and mindfulness training (through yoga, tai chi, qi gong, etc.) on the structure of the brain, finding an increased amount of grey matter in specific regions of the brain.

With the research to support, and new studies being released more frequently than ever, there’s really no reason not to make room for even a brief meditation practice before work in the morning, or before bed at night…. is there?

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by Gemma Correll

My best advice for anyone looking to begin a meditation practice is to simply make the time. Start with five minutes a day, simply observing what’s happening in the body, the mind, and the heart. This practice alone will greatly improve your self-awareness and relationship with yourself. You don’t have to spend hours a day, legs bound, mumbling mantras over and over. Even a few minutes of daily mindfulness is powerfully transformative for the mind.

My second best piece of advice is DO NOT GIVE UP. Try different styles until you find something that resonates with you. Reflect on your hobbies and interests; notice what activities bring you feelings of peace and calm. Start there. Create a new style of meditation if need be. Bend the rules a little if it means more mindfulness in your life. You have my permission.

*Also, let me know what you come up with!

Lastly, I advise anyone interested in starting a regular meditation practice to JOIN ME in a free, 30-day meditation challenge beginning Saturday, July 1, 2017. I will be making a daily post at the beginning of every day  with either a link to a guided meditation or instructions on a specific meditation technique/style. These meditations will not take anymore than 5-30 minutes of your day. They can be performed at any time, in the morning, afternoon, or in the evening. My only request is that, if you plan to participate, please comment below.

Also: be sure to follow for future Meditation Challenge posts! They will be starting very soon!

I’m really looking forward to sharing more about meditation, not to mention learning more about meditation and mindfulness as a whole over the next upcoming month.

Can’t wait to bring more focus, clarity, and ease into my summer.. and yours!

Will you be taking part in the 30-day meditation challenge with me? Will you be inviting anyone to join you in the Month of Mindfulness?

Let me know!

Melanie x

3 thoughts on “Meditation 101 & 30-Day Challenge

  1. I am so there. This is a great read!

    Like

    1. Woohoo! Can’t wait 🙂

      Like

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