The word meditation has often been misunderstood, narrowly stereotyped, and the people who practice or promote it ridiculed. These stereotypes and misunderstandings often stem from prejudice and limited understandings of many eastern philosophies.
Not all meditation looks alike and so if crossed-legged stillness is what you picture, or the perfect serenity of the Buddha, and those ideas dissuade you from trying it out, I’m here to say that meditation can take many forms and does not need to be elaborate, complicated, or intimidating. It doesn’t even have to be spiritual in nature if you don’t want it to be. Meditation can be implemented through simple everyday actions and still provide the same benefits.
The practice of meditation is a really great way to slow down, turn inward, and check-in on yourself. It gives your body and brain a moment of focused calm that has a lot of benefits: reduced stress & anxiety, better sleep, increased sense of control, purpose, intentionality, and for many (but not all) people, spiritual exploration and connection.
Meditation has been a really helpful tool for me. When I feel anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed, I can take a second to slow down, check-in, give my mind a break, and sort of give myself a hug. It has increased my physical and emotional self-awareness, and is also a spiritual practice for me personally. But primarily, it is a positive coping mechanism for my mental health.
Meditation doesn’t require crossed legs, incense, and dark mood lighting (although these are great). While that is one version of meditation there are many others. The key to meditation is really conscious, controlled focus on one thing, sensation, experience or action.
So, if you have been wanting to try meditation but aren’t sure where to start, here are some easy ways that you can practice meditation at home:
- Light a candle: There is just something so beautiful about candlelight, it is just so enchanting. Watching the flame dance and feeling the gentle warmth is very reassuring when you’re weary from the world. Take your time lighting the candle. Select a special spot for it to sit, carefully take out the matches, watch the match strike the box, and light the wick. Simply be conscious in your gestures and how the elements react. Take a few moments to just watch the light. Candles create a lovely ambience for meditation and can help our mindset to shift enough so that we can relax and slow down, but I think even just the act of lighting the candle can be on its own a tiny meditation.
- Listen to some music: Pick out a song that makes you feel good, could be fast or slow. Put it on your headphones or stereo and either close your eyes and listen to it, or maybe move your body to the music. Just disconnect from everything else and focus in on how this song sounds and makes you feel.
- Write a mantra, affirmation or prayer: These don’t need to be fancy. They should be words that comfort you, or affirm a goal or something you would like to achieve. It could be as simple as one word like, peace. One that I use sometimes when I feel down on myself is, “I see you. I accept you. I embrace you“. When you have chosen a word or some words, you might write this word out slowly on a piece of paper, you might close your eyes and visualize drawing it, or you might simply repeat it in your mind when you feel stressed to shake off bad feelings or thoughts.
- Move your body: This can take many different forms such as yoga, dance, or stretching. Basically the idea is to move your body in a way that is comforting, relaxing, or otherwise beneficial and really tune in to each movement and sensation. A really simple version is to go for a quiet walk. Notice how your feet feel as you walk, your legs, your back, and your breathing. Practice being present to what your body is experiencing.
- Practice deep breathing: This can be as simple as laying in your bed before going to sleep and noticing your breathing. Do you breathe into your belly, or more into your chest, how slowly are you breathing, how freely etc. A simple method is breathing in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. Listen to how loudly or quietly you are breathing, or experiment with breathing through your mouth or nose.
You can see from these examples meditation doesn’t need to be daunting, you can practice it through simple tasks like these that are maybe more accessible to you and still provide the benefits of more intensive meditative practice. These are also great ways if you are just getting into meditation and want to start simple.
Our days can get so busy and fast paced and just taking one deliberate intentional minute to slow down and focus on the present moment can really change how we feel and how we experience our daily lives.
I really hope that this approach to meditation is helpful for you and brings you a sense of calm. Let me know if you try out any of these practices at home and how it goes.