Let me start by saying that meditation is hard. Come to think of it, no-one ever said it was easy, but luckily that’s the bad news over with. Even very small meditation wins can have profound benefits for your physical and psychological health.
My journey to a happy place with meditation has taken countless twists, turns and tumbles but that doesn’t mean that yours has to. Hopefully I’ve done all the hard work for you. This is my quick guide to where I went wrong and how you can skip straight to the good stuff.
Epic Fail #1: The promise of enlightenment
I was first introduced to meditation during my Yoga Teacher Training Course in Guatemala 4 years ago.
Every morning for 3 weeks straight, I sat on the deck as the sun was coming up, closed my eyes and waited patiently for my spiritual awakening. Unsurprisingly, it never came. It turns out I was missing a couple of steps. Apparently, enlightenment is phase two (or maybe phase fifteen). First you have to learn and practice the technique of meditation, lots and lots of times. I needed more guidance.
Images by Samuel Costin
Epic Fail #2: I have ants in my yoga pants
When I returned home to Mexico as a fully-fledged yoga teacher, I was determined to fire up a daily meditation practice. I bought an annual subscription to the app Headspace and committed to meditating for 20 minutes every day. Now I can be incredibly disciplined, but that turned out to be way too long for me to stay focussed. I did however, make one important discovery. I noticed that I always had my best sessions straight after I did my hour of yoga, but I could rarely lie still until the end of the recording. I needed to set the bar a little lower.
Epic Fail #3: I’m a day-dreamer
When I first heard that the aim of meditation was to clear my mind, I was a little concerned. I like having weird and wonderful thoughts and letting my mind wander off and come up with sometimes brilliant (but more often terrible) ideas. It turns out that’s not at all the point. It isn’t thinking that meditation has beef with but stuck thinking – replaying events that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, getting mad at yourself for something you can’t possibly undo, or worrying about a future that you don’t even know is going to happen. Meditation is about letting go of unhelpful thoughts and living in the present moment, even if just for a few breaths.
Epic Fail #4: Don’t count your breath
2 years after my initial exposure to meditation, I signed up for a 4-day silent retreat deep in the Guatemalan jungle. Up to this point, I had only experimented with breath meditation. What I discovered sitting in that yoga shala for 6 hours a day, was that if I focussed on the sounds of the birds, wild animals and insects, I could stay present for much longer periods of time than if I just tried to count my breaths. I needed to choose a focal point for my meditation that was more engaging.
My Simple 5-Step How To Meditate Method
After years of taking two steps forward and four steps back, I finally found a method that granted, is unlikely to lead to enlightenment anytime soon, but that does help me wind down in the evening, get more restorative sleep, feel less anxious, boost my concentration and tune me back into my body.
This is what you do:
- Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Rest your arms by your sides, palms facing up.
- Click on the image below and I’ll guide you through a 5-minute Body Scan Meditation, methodically drawing your attention to physical sensations all the way from the soles of your feet up to the crown of your head.
- Be curious and try to notice any areas of tightness, pain or discomfort. Breathe into these areas, consciously allowing your muscles to let go of tension.
- If your mind wanders off from observing the sensations in your body, gently bring it back, over and over.
- Practice this technique for 5 minutes every day. Consistency is the key.
Please let me know if you have any questions or you’d like me to send you the audio. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Images are by Samuel Costin shot on location in Bali, Indonesia. Wearing Lilybod Piper Legging in Pink Lemonade and Onzie Chic Bra. Shop similar outfits here.
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