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Starting a Meditation Practice

Meditation can teach you how to change the relationship with the thoughts in your head and improve the neuroplasticity of your brain so you feel less stressed and more calm and focused on a regular basis. Who doesn't want to improve their own brain and experience a greater sense of well-being?! We know that the brain is malleable, flexible, it can be changed and strengthened, re-wired through regular meditation practice by strengthening the prefrontal cortex - the area of the brain that is responsible for emotional regulation, what thoughts we gravitate to and decision making. Overtime, just like we build muscle, we build new neural pathways in the brain so that feelings of greater calmness and ease become more familiar, the norm, and easier to come back to.

Starting a meditation practice doesn't have to be complicated or lengthy. It should feel like something you look forward to! Creating a sacred pause to sit, breathe and calm your mind, befriend your own mind. There are so many misconceptions of what meditation is and it is different for everyone, just like a yoga practice. Here are some tips and insights. Find what resonates with you. Be curious and kind as you explore the inner workings of yourself. And most importantly, make a committed effort to make it a daily practice. Whatever we practice regularly becomes a habit - like brushing our teeth. Think of your meditation practice as away of taking care of your spiritual hygiene

Find a comfortable seat that feels stead and grounded - a cushion, block or chair. Allow your spine to rise up like a column of light from the stability of your sit bones rooting downward. Soften your shoulders and jaw. Relax your eyes closed with an internal gaze or soften the eyes gaze at a spot out in front and slightly down at a "drishti" or gazing point. Place your hands down on your legs for grounding energy or facing up for receiving energy.

Take a slow deep breath in, enjoying the feeling of being able to breathe fully into your lungs, now let all the breath out and relax into yourself just as you are. Arriving fully into the moment.

Feel that you're here now, commit to staying present. This is your time to take care of yourself. Take a moment in gratitude that you can be here and thank yourself for showing up, sometimes that's the hardest part.

With your kind and curious attention turned inwards begin to notice the weight of your body sitting, and how your body is meeting the support underneath. You are grounded and safe in this moment. All is ok.

Enjoy this feeling of pausing, of being still.

Notice the natural movement of breath flowing seamlessly, effortlessly within your body all on it's own. Where do you feel it the most?

Perhaps in your belly - expanding and contracting.

Your chest - rising and softening.

The tip of the nose - cool as the breath moves in warm as it exits.

Becoming aware of experiencing the full inhale, the turnaround of the breath, the full exhale, and the turnaround of the breath at the bottom

Fully immersed in the feeling of breathing. While there is no need to change or manipulate the breath in any way, it can be helpful to take a few rounds of sama-vritti breathing. An even ration of breath, 4 count in, 4 count out, as a way of steadying the mind.

The breath is an anchor you can always use and come back to when the mind wanders as it will definitely do. That's ok. The mind was designed to think, thoughts will come and go. Return to the feel of the ground and the movement of your breath.

You may also be aware of sounds near and far, temperature, take in all of your experience as it is. No need to push anything away, no need to judge or label, simply come back again to your breath. Just be here now. If it's helpful you can use a mantra. Such as in as you inhale and out as you exhale. One I like to use sometimes is "I am HERE NOW". Mantras are another way of anchoring the mind.

Please don't be hard on yourself when you notice you have been lost in thought - that's a moment of awakening! Smile to yourself, that is an "aha" moment. Come back again, back to the peacefulness of this present moment. All is ok, all is well at this moment just as it is. You don't have to try so hard, just keep returning. Allow your mind to be as it is. Be the watcher to all that arises, no need to add or subtract to anything that presents itself.

If there are feelings of anxiety, fear or sadness that arise it can be very helpful and comforting to rest a hand over your heart - offer yourself compassion, remind yourself that it's ok, all beings experience sadness, loss, fear, etc. Allow your feelings to be as they are, no need to try to change anything.

As Pema Chodren says so perfectly "Feel the feeling, drop the storyline". See the clouds that obscure the light of your true nature, perhaps storm clouds sometimes, they pass, all things do. Relax back into the spaciousness of the blue sky of your mind.

Mindfulness is bringing your full, loving and kind attention to both your inner and outer worlds. You get to choose what you focus on, what you tend to. Whatever we practice and focus on grows stronger. Energy follows thought and our thoughts from our reality. Take in all that is good and positive in your world.

You might like to seal your practice with a few final thoughts of gratitude. And envision how you see yourself moving through the rest of your day. A quality you can carry with you.

The true value of practice is taking it into our everyday lives. Our relationships can be a good testing ground for mindfulness!

One last thing to remember - consistency is key, more important than duration. Try to make it a daily practice. Even just 5 min. is a good place to start.

May you meet the moments of your life with more grace, ease, equanimity, patience and presence.

May there be more peace and joy in your heart, mind and living.

Om Shanti

Without joy there is no enlightenment. Joy is the fuel, the nourishment, which helps our practice grow strong and stable. Pema Düddul, “Awakening to Joy”


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