We all know about the benefits of meditation, but how much of us actually do it? In this society we are rewarded for being overachieving Type A personalities and many of us are too busy to just sit there and do “nothing.” Even though I’ve been practicing yoga for years I too fall in this category. Simply put, meditating was never very high on the priority list for me.
This summer changed all of that for me. Through a bit of luck and divine intervention, I found myself in the midst of a new startup company. Although it was fun and exciting, it was also very overwhelming and I found myself dealing with the stresses of building and maintaining a business.
As a freelancer, I'd been able to support myself with a flexible schedule that allowed me to create work around my own hours. Suddenly, I was working a 9-5 pm on top of all the other gigs I did to pay the bills.
I found that I didn’t have time to continue my normal yoga practice and was starting to get stressed and stretched thin. I even took up smoking (gasp!) as a way to create 5 minute breaks during which I could go outside and have a release from it all. I knew that continuing this type of lifestyle was like a ticking time bomb for my health and I had to do something about it.
Eventually I'd had enough and made plans for a four-day getaway to Ananda Ashram in upstate New York. For those of you who've wondered about going to an ashram, I can tell you that this one was summer camp for adults. Yoga, meditation, three square meals, and a pool amid beautiful nature made this a very relaxing and restorative retreat.
Classes were optional so I got to pick and choose which ones I attended. Surprisingly enough, I found myself gravitating most towards the morning meditation classes. I found that after the earlier sessions, I was less stressed, my head felt clearer, I felt a lot happier, and I also had more energy throughout the day. Most importantly, I felt that I had more control over my own thoughts and ultimately, my life. I knew I had to take this amazing tool back with me when I returned to my hectic urban NYC living.
Below are some tips I’ve used to continue the meditation process at home:
1. Make it routine.
Every morning I set the timer for 10-15 minutes. This way I don’t have to worry about how long I am meditating.
2. Go to your happy place.
As a Colorado native, I'd been missing nature since moving to the urban jungle of New York. When I meditate, I think of the Maroon Bells and try to imagine specific details such as the smell of pine trees, the sound of the wind, and the sensation of cold mountain air on my face. Focusing on specific details of a place that you associate with happiness and peace helps facilitate the meditation process.
3. Breathe through it.
Breathing and meditation has been proven to help calm the parasympathetic nervous system. As someone who struggles with anxiety and stress, I try to focus on deep breathing when I find my thoughts wandering. Meditation is a practice on not only clearing the mind but focus on breath. I find that I am much more relaxed and rejuvenated after meditating.
4. Find a community.
Every other week, I like to go to a meditation center and meditate with others. It creates a sense of community and it’s nice to be with others working towards a similar goal.
5. Just do it!
Nike got it right. There are days when I don’t want to meditate, because I feel like I have too many emails or too much work to do. However, I find that meditation in the long run helps with productivity and helps accomplish tasks with more ease and calm.