A guest blog by Lauren Jewett, 2017 YogaMotion RYS200 graduate
You can also find Lauren’s blog on her site Blue Lotus
Stressed? Overwhelmed? Overworked? Confused? Depressed? Lost? Is life handing you a general shit-storm of challenges you need to figure out how to tackle lest you find yourself in the looney bin?
In all honesty, life the last few years has been challenging, on absolutely every level. Yet, throughout it all, I can feel myself transforming on every level as well. However, growing pains are aptly named, and there has been one constant that has kept me somewhat sane throughout the life roller-coaster that is your 20’s. #millenialwoes
I know, I know. We are all being bombarded by articles nowadays that are highlighting all of the benefits of meditation, like how it can calm your nervous system. Or how it can improve your connection with your self and your envirnment. Even if the science behind it checks out, maybe it is hard to wrap your head around becoming one of those “hippie-dippie meditating folks”. (I promise, eating kale isn’t a requirement.)
Perhaps many of you have tried to meditate, and “just couldn’t do it.” You sat down on that expensive meditation cushion the woman at the store promised would guarantee enlightenment in 20 minutes or less, and found yourself staring down an endless stream of thoughts, problems, and embarrassing childhood memories (I’m looking at you, teenage Lauren in driver’s ed who shared a Montana story none of the preppy Connecticut students understood, so you were mortified in the way only a teenager can be. So grateful to be carrying around that memory for the last decade instead of something useful #jk #thehumanbrainisweird #idigress).
I have good news. Meditating isn’t only sitting still for 40+ minutes on a cushion, staring at the wall with a blank mind while someone traditionally watches over you to make sure a tiger doesn’t eat you mid-meditation. (Although, if that sounds fantastic, perhaps check out Zen meditation/zazen). Meditation like this can seem extremely challenging to beginning meditators, and if this technique doesn’t float your boat, rest assured there are multiple other ways to meditate that will get you on the right track! Listing every possible meditation technique could fill a pretty hefty book, so in the interest of time I’ll limit it to the top three that have benefited me over the last few years when I have felt spiritually stuck!
Let’s begin with one of the great tools many of us have right at our fingers: technology. Apps such as HeadSpace and Insight timer are all helping people find a bit of peace and a mindful outlook. Guided meditations are a fantastic way to give your brain a direct path while meditating, creating a narrative to focus on instead of allowing your “monkey mind” to take control. Apps and recordings are available for a wide variety of “challenges”, like “Meditations for Stress”, “Guided Meditations for Sleep”, etc., which can be somewhat helpful for those who don’t know where to start. These meditations can be listened to anywhere you can sit and listen, like in the passenger seat of a car, sitting on the subway, on your lunch break, or in bed. There is a wide range of time commitments, so there is no excuse of “not having enough time”! (Take it to the next level: Listen to a yoga nidra recording during savasana or before bed, and prepare to be taken to a whole deeper level of meditation!)
As some of you who follow Blue Lotus may know, another great meditation technique I love to use is singing bowls! Singing bowls can be found in a variety of sizes and materials, including the traditional and centuries-old style of mixed metals, and most recently porcelain and crystal! Singing bowls are said to help clear blockages in the chakras, with each note corresponding to each energy center.
In some traditional buddhist practices, singing bowls are used to signify the beginning and end of a silent practice. I love to use bowls to add ritual to both my meditation and yoga practices. However, listening to and playing the bowls themselves can be highly meditative, and can be a great change of pace for those who get uncomfortable with silent meditation. To try out listening to singing bowls, see if anyone in your area offers any singing bowl meditations, as it is getting more and more popular! Experiencing the bowls in person can induce a sensational, transformative meditation… there is really nothing like it! No local meditation groups you can join? There are many fabulous recordings of singing bowls online, on CDs, and on Spotify. (My current favorite is “Tibet: Nada Himalaya 2” by Deuter)
If you would like to play the bowls in person, that can be wonderful too! Find a bowl that makes your heart sing, and get to playing! I recommend starting with a small Tibetan bowl and going from there! Check out my blog post on how to play Tibetan bowls.
Finally, mantra meditation is one of the simplest ways to incorporate a mindful practice into your life, and I’m confident many of you may already be chanting a mantra, perhaps without even recognizing it. Mantras can be repeated anywhere, anytime. Repeat your mantra aloud or silently whenever you feel you need it, whether that is during your “official meditation time” or even when you feel you need a little boost. I bring up my mantra during especially unpleasant circumstances (like dentist visits or bumper-to-bumper traffic) and I have found my stress levels stay waaaaayyyyy lower.
So what should your mantra be? The short answer: Anything positive! For when I want to feel like a badass meditating yogini, I look for sanskrit mantra to immerse myself in the beautiful language and hopefully have the centuries of ancient wisdom grant me some of that dank guru-level enlightenment….
Okay, perhaps striving for guru-status is a bit much. However, mantra meditation is a great way to set an intention, because as we all know, “where the attention goes, the energy flows.” Tradition dictates for a mantra meditation practice, we repeat our mantra in sequences of 108 times, as many times as needed. Believe me, after 108, 216, or even 324 times, you will definitely be feeling that mantra manifesting some cool-ass shiz!
A mala, which contains 108 beads and a guru bead, is a great way to keep count. Although I am still working on having a consistent meditation practice, wearing my mala around my neck or wrist is a great visual reminder that I am only a quick meditation away from inner peace and a renewed sense of self. Click through to learn more about meditating with a mala, or how to make your own!
Remember, there is no superior way to meditate. The “best” way to meditate is the one that works the best for you at this point in your life. It may shift and change over time, and that is completely normal! If a meditation technique that you have loved for years slowly starts to feel less beneficial, try a few other techniques and see if they “click” for the time being. And remember, it is called a meditation practice, not a meditation perfect!
Now get to meditating, ya hippies. You won’t regret it.