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Discover the Power of Meditation: Stretch Your Mind

“Meditate. Take time to inhale peace and exhale fear. Then take your meditation back to your life. Walk slowly. Stay present for yourself, more fully and completely than ever before. You too can turn your life into a walking, waking, deliberate meditation.” – Melody Beattie

To me, meditation is the practice of showing up for yourself and making time to be present in both your mind and your body. It’s the practice of having honest conversations with yourself and not having answers, but rather trusting that those answers will come. All we need to do is make the time. 

The conversations that I was having early on in my practice were about why I was feeling the way I was feeling. Why was I experiencing what I was experiencing? Why was I going through what I was going through? I was always asking “Why!” Through meditation and yoga, I stopped asking “why” and started trusting the process. 

Meditation is something that becomes a part of you and your lifestyle. I still have conversations with myself. These conversations help me grow and push myself forward. I live by the quote, “If you aren’t growing, you are dying.” 

My Meditative Journey

I found meditation through the practice of yoga. When I started practicing yoga in 2008 (I was 23 years old), I didn’t think of yoga as meditation. I looked at hot, Vinyasa (Flow) as a workout. But, as I continued to practice, the more I realized yoga is also a moving meditation. (Which is funny because Savannah Guthrie just talked about this on The TODAY Show when asked if she noticed mental benefits of yoga. Check it out at minute 4:40!)

There were times when I was uncomfortable in a pose and all I wanted to do was come out of it, but as the teacher spoke to me and encouraged me to stay committed, I realized her words weren’t only applying to my yoga practice but they also applied to my everyday life! As I continued to practice yoga, I started to evolve my meditation practice on my own. I would meditate while driving to work. I would lie down on my yoga mat for five minutes before bed and just focus on my breath. I would take long walks and meditate. I would write in my journal and that was an act of meditating for me. I discovered that meditation doesn’t have to be sitting and chanting, but rather it can be dynamic. 

Benefits of Meditation

The benefits of meditation are expansive and we’re still uncovering more. To start, meditation helps to reduce stress, manage emotions, such as anxiety, and contributes to overall positive emotional health. The act of concentrating on your breath, releasing negative thoughts, and promoting a sense of awareness has shown to increase focus, generate kindness and compassion, and even improve sleep quality. 

To be more specific, you might find yourself more forgiving of yourself if you’ve been focusing your meditations on channeling acceptance. Meditations that cultivate gratitude could have you feeling more hopeful and optimistic. You might find things that used to give you anxiety no longer do, now that you’ve started meditating about ways to manage stress. 

By learning to quiet your mind, focus on your breathing, and release negative thoughts, you’re improving your quality of life in ways that are still being discovered!

Turning Inward

Being still and with our own thoughts is so important right now. Instead of looking to outside sources for answers, look within. You have all the answers you need! Trust who you are, trust where you are right here and right now. Slow-down. We don’t need to go, go, go. We need to sit and be with ourselves. Take notes on who you are, learn about yourself, ask yourself some hard questions, and don’t expect answers.

The hustle mentality doesn’t allow room for internal growth. It creates stress and anxiety. Personally this is something, I work on every day. It’s not easy with the pressures of society to perform. But, if we learn to listen to ourselves and move from an authentic place within ourselves, we won’t care what others around us are doing. We will trust what we are doing and where we are going.

Include your family in your meditation practice. Think about how your kids are internalizing the perceived need to be on the go all the time. Let your kiddos become bored. Let them learn to think for themselves instead of looking for outside stimulation. Allow them to use their imagination. Allow them to sit and be with their own thoughts. Allow those things for yourself, as well!

Forms of Meditation

Two main forms of meditation are guided and unguided meditation. Guided meditations are led by a teacher who walks you through the session, prompting you to breathe, focus, and visualize, as well as introduces you to other meditative techniques. Unguided meditation is silent or features instrumental music only. You move through breathing, mindfulness, and other techniques on your own and at your own pace.

Meditations can be calming, where you focus on one thing, such as your breath or a phrase, and when your mind starts to wander, you gently bring your focus back to your original task. Insightful meditation cultivates a peaceful and aware state of mind. Body scanning is a technique when you focus on one part of the body at a time, such as starting at the top of the head and working your way down to the soles of your feet. Each part of the body is given the time and focus to ease tension and promote relaxation and mindfulness, eventually working your way through your entire body. 

Many of these techniques and forms of meditation are interchangeable. Your meditation practice is your own and can be rearranged and adjusted to best fit your needs.

Meditative Resources

There are so many resources out there to help improve our lives right now! A few of my go-to meditation apps are Calm, Alo Moves, and Headspace. Each one provides something a little different and allows me to practice meditation in a variety of ways, depending on what I need at the moment and on a certain day.

Remember that meditation doesn’t have to be sitting, cross-legged, chanting a specific phrase. Meditation can happen anywhere, such as your car, at your desk, doctor’s office, and for any length of time, and comes in many forms: lying down, walking, sitting, running, and swimming, just to name a few. Find a practice, a teacher, or a class that resonates with you and start there!

Making Time

I make time, at least five minutes, to meditate either first thing in the morning or before I go to bed at night. Every day is different for me, but what stays the same is how I start my meditations. I begin each meditation with yoga stretches to release stress and tension in my body and start to connect my movement with my breath. The movement helps me start to turn inward and calm my mind. 

Meditation only works if you do the work. Make the time to sit quietly, set a reminder on your phone if it helps you to schedule a block of time to practice. You don’t need to meditate for an hour every session every day to feel the effects, but make the effort to put in as much time as you can. If you can meditate for 10 minutes today, that’s great! If you can meditate for an hour and a half, great! If you have five minutes to spare, great! Be patient with yourself. Becoming open to meditation, embracing it, and practicing regularly can improve your life and stretch your mind far beyond what you thought was possible.

Yoga and meditation continue to give me the best gift I could have ever given myself and others (yes, others) and that is SELF-ACCEPTANCE. I actually have the word acceptance in Sanskrit  (yogic tongue) tattooed on my wrist. It is my constant reminder to stay true to the woman that I am. It is my constant reminder to keep putting in the work.