As human beings, we all have the capacity to look beyond our physical reality and get in touch with our spiritual selves. The practices and lessons that our own minds can teach us, if we left them, immensely influences our daily lives in the most positive light. Meditation is a tool we can use to clear our minds, de-stress, stabilize inner peace, and lead a life with purpose. Slowing our thoughts down to calmly let them pass through is what meditation can help us achieve.
Before my experience with meditation, I was intimidated by the practice because it seemed like I had to be ridiculously spiritual or reach some type of out of this world hallucination. After practicing for three years, I can testify that meditation is not fancy. You do not need to be in LA, on top of a mountain, or in a yoga studio to meditate. I promise all you need is the presence of your mind, body, and spirit. No aromatherapy, no incense, and absolutely no expectations. Sometimes we find ourselves meditating while performing actions we enjoy doing, but to start off all you need is a quiet space.
How to Begin your Meditation Journey
Select a quiet room, separate from distractions. I appreciate dim lighting to create a relaxed setting. Sit comfortably on the floor. You may lay down, cross your legs, sit on a pillow, or relax in any position that you most likely will not have to readjust later during meditation. Cupping the hands is optional, not necessary. If you do choose to, simply turn your palms facing the ceiling and relax them.
Next, set a timer for five or ten minutes. When I began meditation, we meditated in increments of ten minutes over a period of one hour with short breaks in between sessions. Focus on your breathing, inhaling and exhaling, to begin to calm the body.
Once you feel comfortable, you are ready to meditate. So what do we think about when we close our eyes for five or ten minutes? Lead with the practice of mindfulness. The purpose is to separate your normal passing thoughts from yourself, meaning de-tach a visual representation of yourself from your thoughts. We do not need to change our thought pattern, we will simply separate them from our bodies and judgment. I personally suggest practicing with one of two very simplistic images in your mind during meditation.
Imagery Method 1:
Picture yourself sitting or standing on top of a mountain. Let any thoughts that cross your mind become the clouds drifting above you. You cannot touch these clouds and if you try to hold onto the clouds that represent your thoughts, you will fall. Observe them, do not make judgement on them.
Imagery Method 2:
Picture yourself sitting or standing next to a river. Allow your thoughts to become the movement of the water, passing you by. You may watch your thoughts drift by, but if you choose to hold onto these thoughts, you will be dragged down river. Again, do not make judgement on them.
As you practice mindfulness for longer periods of time over a course of weeks, months, and years you will find your thoughts teaching you lessons you may have not recognized within yourself before your meditation journey. Meditation may seem very boring at first, yet remaining consciously aware of your thoughts will develop over time. You may begin to experiment with additional methods of meditation, join a meditation group, visit a local temple, and maybe burn an incense or two for the aesthetic.
Here is a short list of essential life lessons I have learned, are continulously developing, and practicing from meditation. These are lessons you can also ponder during meditation to develop your understanding of reality:
Nothing is good or bad, it just is. Overthinking and labeling experiences, objects, things, thoughts, people, and anything else will lead us to unhappiness. This practice revealed to me what it truly means to have a positive mindset.
Do not attach yourself to your thoughts. The more we attach ourselves to thoughts, ideas, things, feelings, and especially people, the more we will feel frustrated. The stronger the grip, the looser the hold.
We cannot control people. We are individuals residing on Earth, people will do as they please and we cannot force anyone to act one way or another. This lesson has lead me to fully understand what influence means and how we can positively influence people rather than 'trying to control them'.
Simplify expectations of other people and situations. Again, we cannot control other people’s actions and behaviors. Humans quickly become disappointed when their expectations are not met. Most likely, others are unaware of our expectations and cannot fully meet them, causing us to become hurt, disappointed, and unhappy. Personally, I have put this practice into action by limiting my expectations, then when beautiful things happen in life, we appreciate them that much more. The expectation lesson is a tricky one, yet leads into understanding where other people’s behaviors come from rather than immediately shutting others down or rejecting them when they do not meet our expectations.
Patience, not taking things for granted, and learning how to eliminate toxic people and behaviors from my life.
Learning how to facilitate deeper conversations and lead a life with meaning.
And remember, you are not alone in your meditation experiences. Feel free to reach out with any questions, seek additional information, or resources to help guide you to your full potential! In regards to that, here are a few tips and lessons from others in my life who have adopted meditation into their lives:
“Something that helped me with meditation when I first started was taking it slow and not meditating for too long. I started with 5 mins then worked my way up. Meditating is like lifting weights. If you’ve never lifted weights before it’s probably a good idea to start light. The more you lift, the stronger you will become. Same goes for meditation!” - Eric Fajardo, Co-Founder of Leave Normal Behind
“Meditation has helped me realize what is worth focusing my energy on and what is best to let go. It is healing and relaxing, as well as gives me an energy boost!” - Erica Taras, College Student
“Meditation is a great way for college students or anyone experiencing a busy lifestyle to have a moment to themselves to relax, reflect, and de-stress from life’s happenings. It also has taught me to live a positive life.” - Kiersten Resch, College Student