“I get those fleeting, beautiful moments of inner peace and stillness – and then the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day, I’m a human trying to make it through in this world” Ellen DeGeneres
If I could point to one single thing that has been my greatest guide, teacher, healer and solace in the past few years it would be developing a meditation practice. For quite some time I had read about the benefits of meditation to overall physical and mental health and would think to myself “gosh I should really learn how to do that.” Somehow it seemed like it must be really difficult. Shouldn’t I have a guru? And sitting in that lotus position for more than 3 minutes made me dead from the waist down, legs completely asleep.
But then life happened and things got pretty intense. I had struggled with minor anxiety for many years, occasionally having bouts of panic attacks, but had always been able to muscle through them without any medical intervention. When things got real and I found myself in the throws of some pretty major PTSD I decided that I would give meditation a shot. From what I had read meditation was shown to help cure all manner of ailments, like asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, insomnia, and praise the good Lord, anxiety. Time to give this a try. What did I have to lose?
I began reading about techniques and was soon adrift in a sea of terms I had never heard before. Kundalini, chakra, blue pearl, third eye, etc. It all sounded very foreign and scary to me. I almost gave up before I started, but the panic attacks had begun to rule my life, so I persevered. Happily, I found these things called Podcasts on iTunes and there were a whole bunch of free guided meditations to choose from. I found a few I liked and began what has become a daily necessity for me. Twice daily that is.
My tips for anyone wanting to start a meditation practice are pretty simple. I even wrote a list for you. Here they are.
1. Start slowly. 5 – 10 minutes every morning listen to a nice guided meditation. After you get comfortable with that you can increase the time to whatever length best suits you. I do about 1/2 hour morning and night and that seems perfect for me.
2. Sit or lay down or walk or do whatever feels best in your body. I don’t do well sitting cross legged on a cushion because I end up spending the whole time concentrating on how uncomfortable I am. So in the mornings I sit on my couch with a cushion at my back to keep my spine straight. My hands rest in my lap. In the evenings I lay in bed on my back with my hands on my hips. Both positions allow me to just forget about my body and turn inward.
3. Once you are getting the hang of things try switching it up from the guided meditation to some binaural beats, or simple meditation music. I have a couple I like on my iPhone and they are 1/2 hour each, so I don’t have to worry about setting a timer. Once you are comfortable with the process you may find that you don’t need to use anything anymore. I now prefer silence for my meditations, but sometimes I will listen to the IAM Wishes Fulfilled Meditation by Dr. Wayne Dyer and James F. Twyman. The binaural beats are subtle and the music is very soothing.
4. Follow your breath. Focusing on your intake and exhale allows you to centre yourself and not be carried along by your thoughts. Personally, I have never had my thoughts stop completely, but now when I realize I have jumped on a train of thought I just gently move my focus back to my breath and let that train carry on without me on board.
5. Be kind to yourself. It is a learning process and there is no right or wrong to it. Some days I never get past the monkey mind and other days I get a glimpse of that perfect, beautiful stillness that is always there waiting for me in the space between my thoughts. That is what makes it all worthwhile.
I began to meditate specifically to help heal from a trauma. I continue to meditate because during the silence and stillness I can finally sense that I am so much more than this human existence. I have moments when I feel the oneness of all that is and am filled with a bliss words can’t describe. Those are the magic moments. Those are the glimpse of eternity.
Meditation has taken away my panic attacks completely, and the added benefits to my health and physical, emotional and spiritual well being are endless. I have much less stress. I very rarely feel ill or get colds, flu, or bugs that are going around. My immune system feels stellar most of the time. Plus I sleep like a baby, which is something new for me, too.
If you haven’t tried meditating yet, I highly recommend you do. You never know… It may just change your whole life like it did for me.