Meditation Series: Part 1 of 3
Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Find out for yourself what is true and virtuous.Buddah, Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamun
I never understood the benefits of meditation. I thought it was a “New Age” fad that millennials started to rediscover and practice to become “enlightened”. When I heard over-used phrases like “calm the mind”, “don’t let your ego take over” and “practice mindfulness” I would roll my eyes and cringe. You feel me? I thought these terms were so cliché. I also thought that people who practiced meditation were a bunch of barefoot, baggy clothes wearing hippies who wore mala beads and believed in some “energy” that guided our lives. In addition, who in their right mind actually enjoys meditating? It must be so boring and so difficult to incorporate into our busy schedules, especially in the western world where our jobs, our status, and our income dictates the decisions we make. Who could make time to meditate? I mean, we don’t even have time to make our own coffee, or to do our own groceries, or to even spend time with our families. Clearly we should NOT meditate…
As most of you know from my Instagram, about a year and a half ago I got into a car accident, which negatively impacted me both physically and mentally. Along with physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments, my doctor recommended that I do Yoga as light exercise to aid in my recovery, to help me get back into the “right” mindset and to get back into weight training. I thought, why not?
As I’m was not a fan of Yoga when I began my practice because of the slower movements (you all know I love pumping iron at the gym), but one of my friends recommended I attend a class at a beautiful Yoga studio located on a farm in a greenhouse. Since I love the outdoors, this space intrigued me, so I attended my first yoga class at Kind Yoga By Heart, and I’m so glad I did.
Kind is such a picturesque and relaxing environment to practice yoga. Ellen, the owner and one of the instructors, is such an intelligent, selfless, and strong woman who showed me that Yoga can work wonders for the mind, body, and soul. However, at the beginning of my Yoga journey, I was slightly put off by the practice because as we moved into difficult poses I heard those same phrases regarding meditation and cringed: “calm the mind”, “don”t let your ego take over”, and “be mindful“…. ugh here we go…
But then I came across a quote online shortly after I started practicing Yoga…
“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Find out for yourself what is true and virtuous.” – Buddah
… and everything started to make sense. I had to see for myself what yoga and meditation was all about and see if it worked for me to heal my mind from anxious thoughts regarding my accident, heal my body from the trauma, and heal my soul from work and well, every day stresses.
I realized that it was not a coincidence that I kept hearing these phrases over and over again; at work meetings (Yay for workplaces that offer Mental Health and Wellbeing resources!), on podcasts, and even at Yoga class. Then my fiancé started talking about meditation… ugh here we go again… Is this “the energy” or universe that’s continuing to talk to me until I start listening? Alright, alright! I give in!
My partner introduced me to the Wim Hof Method of breathing (meditation) and cold exposure. We watched a few documentaries about Wim Hof and his meditation technique and after I saw the scientific benefits of his method, I decided to give it a try.
Wim Hof admits that he is doing nothing new; meditation has been around forever, he is just the first person to bring it to science. The studies he and others have taken part in (he trains people in his method) shows evidence that his breathing technique can control our Autonomic Nervous System, which in the past was claimed to be impossible. Watch the video below to learn more about the WHM, but remember the wise words of Buddah, “Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others… Find out for yourself what is true and virtuous.”
I began doing the WHM every morning and I found that it helped reduce the inflammation I had in my neck and back because of my accident. I did not get sick all winter for the first time in years since my immune system was so strong. The WHM also helped me have more energy at the gym and allowed me to focus with ease at work. I started to finish my workouts early and to leave work early as well. I also became more in tune with my emotions, which helped me communicate more positively with those around me. I found myself becoming happier, stronger, and less anxious. WOW! Maybe there is something to the barefoot, baggy clothes, mala beads lifestyle that I cringed at in the past… as Buddah would advise, what could I learn and gain if I just “found out for [mysefl]”? So I began to experiment…
I listened to podcasts and watched videos about meditation, I attended a WHM Seminar where a bunch of us “hippies” gathered to deepen our breathing and cold exposure techniques, and I made it a goal of mine to attend meditation retreats when I felt ready to deepen my practice. Fast forward one year, I have attended two meditation retreats and I could not be more on board with this “boring fad” that is called meditation.
When I sat down to write this blog post, I started writing about my recent retreat experience at the Pa Pae Meditation Retreat Centre in Thailand, however I realized there’s more of a background story I needed to tell before I got into all the details about my retreat (which was positively transformative btw). For this reason, I have decided to do a Meditation Series so I can get all of my lived experience out there to you Nourished Ones in the hopes that you will continue to or start meditating. I truly believe meditation is the cure for ALL of life’s ailments.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
So what is meditation exactly? Let’s start with the word’s history. Meditation is a word that originated in the mid 16th century. It is a Latin term, meditat, that means “contemplated”. The original word for meditation is Ānāpānasati, a Sanskrit word dating back centuries, meaning “mindfulness of breathing”. “Sati” means mindfulness and “ānāpāna” refers to inhaling and exhaling.
Meditation is all about training your awareness. It’s about meeting yourself in the middle, between comfort and relaxation, to get a healthy sense of perspective. You are not completely trying to turn off all of your thoughts and feelings. Through meditation you learn to observe your thoughts without judgement and to let them pass through your mind without reacting to them. Through meditation you teach yourself to remain neutral and to understand your emotions in order to clear your mind.
Meditation is a practice, it’s not perfect. Like any new skill it takes practice to see results. Think of it as exercising a muscle that you’ve never used before; you’ll get frustrated, feel bored at times, and maybe not see results right away, but that’s OK! The trick to meditating is to do it consistently in order to get comfortable. Having a teacher, or an app, also helps with building the skills and resiliency to meditate.
To be honest, I was SO overwhelmed when I started exploring meditation after began with the WHM. I thought to myself, “Isn’t meditation supposed to have the opposite effect? I thought meditation was supposed to make you feel neutral, comfortable, and calm, NOT stressed!” As I continued to work through this discomfort I realized that finding the right type of meditation is important to reap all the benefits meditating has to offer.
FINDING THE RIGHT MEDITATION FOR YOU
There are so many types of meditation, well hundreds: Guided, Metta, Mindfulness, Breath Awareness, Zen, the WHM, Dynamic, Transcendental/Mantra, Religious Meditation (scripture, prayer, etc.)… it can be unbearable to figure out where to start. I suggest beginning with a teacher or an app. Some apps that I have found helpful include:
I suggest starting with an app because they are usually free or have a free trial and give you the opportunity to explore different types of meditation without you even realizing it. Most meditation apps have a calm voice speaking to you, that “guide” your practice (Guided Meditation). In addition, most apps will also encourage you to follow your breath (Breath Awareness Meditation) or invite you to recite a mantra to yourself (Transcendental) to help you focus.
I don’t practice one type of meditation. I have taken the techniques from different types of meditation practices that have worked for me (through a lot of trail and error I may add; I am still practicing, not perfecting). I incorporate breathing, visualization, and mantra into my meditation because that works for me. I invite you to watch the 20 minute documentary on Netflix called “The Mind, Explained: Mindfulness”, which briefly explains what meditation is and clears up some misconceptions about Meditation… I wish I had seen this documentary sooner.
You can a ccess the 1 minute trailer here and the full documentary on Netflix. I also encourage you to explore different apps and go to a meditation class in your community to learn techniques. Just explore, create, and practice. It’s that simple! Nature’s original teacher is experience, so all you need to do is start and then you’ll find the best meditation techniques that are right for you.
WHEN SHOULD I MEDITATE? WHERE? AND FOR HOW LONG?
I find meditating first thing in the morning works best for me, but if the afternoon, or evening works for you, then as Nike would say, Just Do It! As I said before, the key is to be consistent, so I recommend meditating at the same time each day.
I like to meditate in the outdoors. I love meditating in nature away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and that’s why for me meditating in the early morning is ideal because there’s less noise and distractions in the morning. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature allow me to focus better. When in nature we get to observe and really see a different world, filled with wonder, mystery, and sensitivity. I truly believe that nature has so much wisdom to offer, and if we listen attentively, Mother Nature is whispering her teachings to us. By watching birds fly we have learned how to fly ourselves, as we observe a snail glide slowly along a leaf we understand patience, and as we hear animals communicating with one another we too can learn how to live peacefully with those around us. I LOVE NATURE!
When I can’t get outside I opt to meditate beside a window, because the natural light makes me feel like I’m in nature, and well with the Canadian winters it’s difficult to meditate outside all year long (-30°C, ummm I don’t think so). I also try to make sure that from my window I can see a tree, a stone, a river, or basically anything that brings be back to nature. I have friends who have even created a meditation corner in a space in their house by putting a plant, a comfy pillow, and an essential oil diffuser and/or a salt lamp, in a corner of a room. So make your meditation space your own, make it inviting, and make it inspiring so you’ll actually want to meditate consistently.
Finding the time to meditate can be hard and, well, a little boring at first so I suggest starting small with 1-5 minutes and then see where it takes you. I have spoken to monks who meditate as little as an hour a day. This shows me that meditation does not have to be complicated (even for the experts) nor take an obscene amount of time. Meditation has to only be the right amount of time that works for you and the reason that you began to meditate in the first place.
If you cannot commit to a specific time to meditate each day, I invite you to meditate whenever you have a chance or a brief moment to observe your breath. I suggest starting off with the washroom… yes… on the toilet… we all have time for that, LOL… oh no I have become a hippie. I have meditated on buses, on airplanes, and in a closet on my break at work… when you make time for meditation, you will start seeing the benefits. As one of my meditation teachers taught me, “Doing essentially nothing (meditation) with little effort, will always give you something.”
As I’ve said before, meditation is a practice, an exercise of trial and error if you will. So experiment with meditating at different times during the day, with different locations, and by setting a time to determine the length of your practice.
Just like cooking or working out, meditation does not have to be complicated or take a lot of time. I believe in finding the right meditation practice that works for YOU. Design a practice that is enjoyable, motivating, and sustainable in order to help YOU nourish YOUR mind, body, and soul. Remember, if you take but one thing from this blog post, it is up all up to YOU, ” Find out for yourself what is true and virtuous.”
Let me know if you meditate. I would love to know what techniques you use in your practice and what type of meditation you do. So don’t forget to tag me and use the hashtag #intheno on Instagram. While you’re on my IG Page don’t forget to check out my “Showing Up” and my “Self-Care” Highlights to see my wellness practices.
As always, I look forward to feedback. What did you want more or less of? Do you want to know about my meditation retreat experiences? Do you want to know about the benefits of meditation? Let me know in the comments below.
Yours in health, creativity, and simplicity,
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