Disconnect in Order to Reconnect
Are you someone who dreads the few minutes of shavasana at the end of a yoga class? You wish you enjoyed those quiet moments of stillness, but in reality, all you can think of is what you are going to make for dinner that night. Or perhaps you have just begun to dabble in the practice of meditation, but you can’t seem to find yourself experiencing any of these benefits that everyone raves about.
When I first began meditating, I experienced everything above, and more. I emphasized the importance of time. I would sit each morning and set a timer on my phone, under the impression that reach a certain number of minutes was crucial towards reaping the benefits. I was often rushed with morning classes for school, so I would set my timer to five minutes, a task I felt compelled to complete before I could properly begin my day. I always struggled with keeping up the practice, as I never really noticed much of a difference physiologically nor mentally; I just thought that it was the right thing to do. At the end of yoga classes, I would savor the stillness of the dark room as we all lay in silence, immersing ourselves in gratitude for the past hour of focus and dedication. I felt at a loss of words for why I experienced such a difficult time translating my love for these moments at the end of a yoga class to my own practice at home.
Over the past few months, in this time of quarantine, I have truly been able to slow down and learn what meditation means to me. The first step I implemented was eliminating the concept of time completely, removing my phone from my space during my time of meditation. I slowly but surely transformed this sort of “task” into an act that I now look forward to every day. I twisted my focus to just being, feeling, and breathing (and I actually ended up meditating for much longer than before too!). I stopped using any sort of app or timer, and rather, I minimized the distractions that I could control. I also believe that there is nothing wrong from utilizing meditation apps on your phone if that is what helps you get into a deep and focused practice; however, if you are left not noticing much of a change in your mental state, I recommend implementing breath work without the use of your phone.
The next step that I took in furthering my meditation practice was letting go of the idea that my practice needed to occur at a certain time. I was convinced that meditating shortly upon waking would be the key to a successful day; however, in reality, many of my mornings were quickly paced, which resulted in me squeezing in a few minutes to meditate that I felt I lacked in the first place. Treating this time in this manner only created more stress, when this act should have been lifting weight off of my shoulders. I realized that I needed to prioritize my meditation enough that I could devote time to it in a more relaxed attitude. If this meant waiting until late morning, or even early afternoon, that was alright. I learned that we can utilize mediation as a tool in times of stressful or anxious moments, to disconnect from the world and to reconnect with ourselves. I began benefitting much more from a substantial, relaxed practice as opposed to my previously rushed moments before class or work.
Not only did I learn the importance of time with this sort of practice, but I also realized that I did not need to be in the perfect environment to meditate. In our busy lives, it is often next-to-impossible to find a space that is absolutely quiet, from roommates and family to construction and dogs. I used to put off meditating if I could not find an extremely quiet space; however, more often than not, this resulted in me skipping my practice for the day. Yes, a very quiet space is great for diving deep into your mind; however, learning to treat noise like your thoughts that you acknowledge and then let go of can be quite beneficial as well. Mastering this tool can allow us to calm our minds even in the middle of a busy office environment. Rather than becoming frustrated by the noises around us, try to acknowledge the beauty of the sound as just a background noise with minimal weight to it. If you still find your room too distracting to sit in, immersing yourself in nature can be another great option. Sitting by the ocean, listening to the waves and the birds around you, can offer a very relaxing space and can help to deepen your practice.
If you have never tried out meditation, now is a great time to begin with the strange and stressful events that are seeming to flood our ears, our eyes, and our brains right now. Meditation can seem daunting at first, and maybe even boring; however, learning to sit with yourself is something truly beneficial and almost magical in a sense (if you’ve mediated before, you know what I mean). Many may feel intimidated by meditation, perhaps under the impression that there is a specific way to go about it; however, the beauty of this practice is that there is in fact no correct way to do so! Begin by sitting, or laying (or even walking) comfortably. Close your eyes (or keep them open), and just breathe. Notice your breath, notice how your chest rises and falls as you breathe in the air around you through your nose; notice how the energy, your blood, flows through every little part of your body, from the palms of your hands to the tips of your toes. Notice the smells and sounds around you, how grateful you are to hear the wind howl and to smell the saltiness of the ocean air. And if thoughts flow into your mind, as they will for most, that is alright! This is pretty much bound to happen, as we are all human. Just acknowledge these thoughts, and then let them go. Just be still for as long as you want, until you are satisfied with the sensations in your body. Trust me, when you open your eyes for the first time, you will be so pleased that you dedicated a few moments of your day to do this for yourself.
Another part of my practice that I find helpful is sitting down and writing directly after meditating, in a sort of “word dump” format. Thus, if a thought wanders into my head during my meditation, I know that I will be able to write about it shortly after. This gives me a sense of ease whilst letting go of the many thoughts that come to mind
As there are many unknowns, in our future, our businesses, our careers, our athletic events, our education, and much more, working on what we can control in this very moment, our health, our positivity, our kindness, and our stillness can truly help alter our lives. I hope that you are all staying healthy, happy, and safe during these times.
I wrote this piece about a few months into COVID-19, around springtime of last year. I always felt reluctant towards hitting that “publish” button, but since the start of the new year, I have truly began challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone.Whoever is reading this, know that you are so loved, important, and valuable. Remember that each day is an opportunity to grow and to create the person that you aspire to be.