Ever since I was a child, I meditated. Maybe I didn’t know that I was, or even what it was, but I was doing it. Often times, we don’t acknowledge that it’s possible to meditate, mostly because we aren’t sure what it is and what it means. Really, what is “meditation”? Why do it? Here are a few ways to meditate and the reasons behind the practice:
A mantra can be a word, a statement, a prayer, or even a string of statements that can be focused upon. Personally, my mantras range from 1 word to a short statement, of which I’ve had since I was very young. They usually have calming effects when recited. Some people recite them aloud, or, if they’re like me, they’ll say them under their breath during a stressful time. I’ve known people to even use fortunes from fortune cookies as their mantras, just because it speaks to them and provides a sense of calm, one-ness, and resiliency. For example: one of my mantras that have carried on from age 4 was started to keep myself from getting car-sick:
“Don’t worry and everything will be okay”
That statement has carried me through a multitude of rough patches in my life. As soon as I tell myself that phrase, and think about the phrase and its meanings, it takes my worry away and shrinks it away, making space for possibility and potential. A mantra works best when repeated with the speed of your breath and beat of your heart. TRY IT: Write down a few words or statements that sound “calming” or “focusing” to you, and recite them to yourself when stressed. See how you feel when you recite them. Be open to changing them, modifying them to suit your situation at hand. Let them evolve to help you evolve into a better, more resilient person.
Many people listen to “mood” music. It can range from water sounds, to urban sounds, to sounds of whales. Whatever it is, the idea is that the sound will override the splotches of thought that hang around in the mind. In yoga asana practice, it’s common for the instructor to guide while putting on background music. Usually it’s music like “down-tempo”, chanting, or natural sounds (I personally like rain). When you’re stressed out, do you put on music? What kind? It can even be rock. Sometimes I sleep the best after some Alanis Morisette screaming in my ears. TRY IT: Close your eyes one day, focus on the sounds around you. What’s harsh? What’s soft? What does your mind zoom in on, shunning out all other thoughts?
Although I am probably not the first person to come up with this kind of meditation, I discovered it on my own and concluded that it, for me, is the most defining way to meditate when my mind is racing and it needs to be cleared. It started with learning that our minds work so quickly, that a glance at a title or word elicited my mind to READ it. The behavior reading is so spontaneous and strong that we forget we can stop ourselves from reading. So I took a paper, wrote in big letters “GOD”, and looked at it. Initially, my mind wanted to read it. But instead, I analyzed the letters, the shape, the curves, the straight lines, the size and color. Analyzing, rather than reading. This slowed down my train of thought and the rest is history. It’s a great way to practice meditating on inner thoughts and behaviors. TRY IT: Pick a word that has meaning to you, or elicits an automatic response in your mind. Write it down, and examine it. Don’t read it, follow the curves and lines of your writing, see the paths of the pen and where the cross points are. Eventually, you won’t even see the word.
REMEMBER: These aren’t the only ways to meditate, but these are three that have worked for me. Like any practice, its a PRACTICE. Be easy on yourself, patient with your mind. Namaste