Meditation Doesn’t Need To Be Complicated | 5 Practices To Try Out

When we think of meditation, I think we all envision a monk sitting calmly under a beautiful tree, sitting perfectly straight, possibly levitating, with his legs crossed and hands rested on his knees or in his lap. Even though this is the traditional way of a meditation practice, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness and meditation.

By definition, meditation is the action or practise of meditating. Therefore, meditation can be whatever you wish it to be.

I personally practice Transcendental Meditation (TM), where we are given a mantra specific to us and we meditate for 20 min, 2 times a day. This practice is meant to be effortless, you allow your thoughts to come and go as you repeat your mantra with your breath over and over again. The other part of this practice is you sit comfortably, if that is cross-legged and in a straight posture, great, but for myself, I will sit with my back rested against a wall or the back of a chair or couch with either my legs crossed or straight out in front of me.

This is the perfect practice for me, but for yourself, this may not work. Mindfulness is about finding what works for you and your individual needs. It’s paying attention to what gives you anxiety or upsets you through the day, but also finding out what calms you back down after those situations have passed. There is no sense in trying to force something that does not work for you, however, to know if it works or not, you need to first give it a try.

Here are 5 meditation practice methods you could give a try:

  1. Transcendental Meditation

    As I mentioned above, this is the practice I personally do every day. This is not paid advertising for TM, but my own personal experience with it and how much it has helped me through the years. This is a technique that you learn through a teacher and a course, but it is very understandable and does not take weeks or months to perfect. Once you learn it, you’re good to go and practice everyday. On their website they state, “In the TM course, you learn how to effortlessly transcend — go beyond the surface level of your awareness. This state of deep inner silence is typically unavailable from meditation apps and other techniques.” As I mentioned, you are given a mantra specific to you and you are to practice the technique 2 times a day, 20 min each time. If you want to learn more about TM, click here for their website and to find an instructor near you.

  2. Breathwork

    There is a lot of talk starting to arise all over the internet about breathwork. So what exactly is it? Breathwork is any type of breathing exercises or techniques. There are many different ways to practice this technique, all from sitting and being mindful of your ribcage rising and falling, to counting breathwork where there is a sequence of breaths in an order like 4-4-4 (inhale for 4 seconds – hold the breath for 4 seconds – slowly release for 4 seconds). This is an afordable (as you could learn this technique for free on the internet/in a book or through an instructor) and an available technique for everyone. As mentioned, one example of a breathwork technique is through a sequence of numbers. For example, 4-4-4, you want to slowly inhale your breath in paying attention to the expansion of your ribcage and through your nose for 4 seconds, then hold that breath for 4 seconds, and end by slowly releasing your breath for another 4 seconds. You can also play with these numbers as well to make it easier and more challenging by having your numbers as 3-3-3 or 10-10-10, or even 5-10-15.

    Another technique that is very effective is alternate-nostril breathing. This technique is one type of pranayama or breathing practice, also known as nadi shodhana. With this technique you want to sit comfortably, bring your right hand up to your nose and move your forefinger and middle finger out of the way. Place your thumb on your right nostril. With this nostril covered, close your eyes and exhale fully and slowly through your left nostril. Once you’ve exhaled completely, release your right nostril and put your ring finger on the left nostril. Breathe in deeply and slowly from the right side. Make sure your breath is smooth and continuous. Once you’ve inhaled completely, exhale through your right nostril. Release your ring finger and close your right nostril with your thumb again. Breathe in fully and exhale fully from your left nostril. Repeat the full process two or more times.

    As mentioned there are many types of breathwork techniques to explore and try to see which one works for you!

  3. Counting

    Another helpful practice is counting. This one ties in with breathing as while you are counting you will be paying attention to your breath. Sit comfortably, and inhale through your nose as much as you can while you count 1, then exhale. Inhale again saying 2 either outloud or to yourself, and exhale completely. Repeat this pattern until you count to 10, then start over again from 1. Try to sit doing this technique for around 5 minutes to start and slowly increase from there. The point of this exercise is to get you slowing your breath down and to pay attention to how you are breathing as well. Which brings me to my next point…

  4. Being Mindful

    Did you know being mindful of your everyday life and living in the moment can also be considered a form of meditation? When was the last time you went for a walk without headphones or a phone and payed attention to everything happening around you? This can be a form of active meditation or mindfulness. For example, go for a 10 minute walk and listen to all of the sounds around you, feel the sun or wind on your skin, pay attention to what you are seeing as you walk. Just by tuning into your senses for only 10 minutes to start, it can be a wonderful way to get a mindfulness practice in if you are not ready to try meditation just yet. You can do this with not just walking, but when you’re painting or drawing, playing a musical instrument, playing a video game, reading a book, etc.

    One more technique you could try, which ties into all types of mindfulness and meditation, is diaphragmic breathing. Laying on your back place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. You want your breath to start from your diaphragm, so the hand over your belly should move first and the next movement is your chest. Imagine as if you are blowing up a balloon from your stomach, as that balloon gets bigger there is a bit of movement into your chest and when you let that balloon go, the exhale will go from your chest back down to your stomach. Another way of thinking of it is you want to expand your ribcage from the front, side and into your back so you get the full surface area of your thoracic cavity (the area inside your ribcage where your lungs are located). This can be a bit frustrating at first, but keep at it and you will have it down in no time.

  5. Listening To a Recording

    This is another popular choice and for good reason. There are so many different apps you can download like Headspace or Calm, but they all have one thing in common, it’s an easy and affordable way to try out mindfullness and meditation. They typically have recordings on them that either take you through a story, help you be mindful of how you are feeling from head to toe, they will take you through a breathing technique or help you with counting a sequence. Most apps will have a free trial, but some eventually have you paying for the app as a one time fee or monthly fee. With technology as it is these days, almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet they can use to access these types of apps. They are a great place to start, but if you wanted to try something else or this type of meditation does not work for you, trying one of the other techniques mentioned above can be just what you are looking for!

You do not need fancy crystals or rocks, weighted blankets, or a cusion specifically for meditation to sit on. To try out meditation and build yourself a consistent practice that works best for you, all you need is yourself and somewhere to comfortably sit. Give one of the techniques mentioned above a try and let me know on here or on my Instagram which one works best for you!

Much love

LEW xo

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When Was The Last Time You Stopped?

When was the last time you truly stopped and started living in the moment? I’m not talking about the things we do on a regular basis to make us “stop”. Things that do not count as a true stop are: going to bed and sleeping, a 15 min break in the day, eating, watching TV, reading or finally taking a breath once you get your kids to their soccer game. It also does not count if you plan a jam packed vacation with something planned every single day, I have been there and done that, I can tell you that is not a break it is an adventure. Usually you need a vacation from your vacation in this instance.

What I’m talking about is having a day where you had nothing planned at all, you wake up and just do the things that come to your mind that day. Nothing to do with work or scheduled appointments, where you literally had absolutely nothing to do that day. To be honest with you, I do not remember the last time I had a day like this even during the times right now with living through isolation and not working, somehow I have found a way to still be working on something. Blogs, YouTube channel, videos, Instagram posts, recipes, gardening, you name it, I have found it to keep myself busy.

Staying busy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it helps to keep us structured and in a routine, but when you are only keeping yourself busy, this can take a toll on your body.

It is always very difficult to just stop; stop doing and start being. Stopping allows you to take in the true beauty of life, without feeling like you need to produce something or tend to someone else’s needs. Stopping may allow you to see the little things in life that everyone passes by everyday but never takes any notice to it because we are all just so busy. Things like that mural on the wall of the coffee shop you go to everyday, the different bark on a tree trunk that you walk by everyday, or noticing just how tired you have been the last few months while being too busy to notice it.

In the Western world, we value our work more than we cherish the time spent with a loved one. If you think about it, it’s really quite sad. All we do is work, work, work and then work some more. We are all guilty of exactly this, we make productivity our priority of everyday, this then does not leave much room for living in the now because we try to fit in as much as we can into one 24 hour day. What happens when we do not finish everything on the list for that day? 

We scrutinize and bully ourselves into thinking that we did not accomplish anything that day, when in reality, we did. You think to yourself: I got ready and went to work, got only 90 of the 100 projects I set out for myself today done and had a busy day running around. When maybe we are looking at this all wrong, what would happen if we started celebrating the small victories of each day? Instead, think to yourself: I woke up today, brushed my teeth (or at least I hope you did), went for a 15 minute walk or walked/biked to work instead of driving, I went the whole day not thinking one negative thought, I stretched for 5 minutes, and finally sat down to meditate today. Why don’t we ever feel happy for the little things in each day?

It’s a bit ironic that we work to enjoy the simple things in life and yet here we are working our buns off and never taking a break. To live a full and peaceful life, we need to stop and look inside ourselves and remember exactly what it is that lights the fire within us. This is the big part of having a mindfulness practice everyday, it allows you to have that 15 or 20 minutes in the day to truly stop what you are doing and observe your breath or just how busy your mind is with all of the thoughts running through it. If you do not have 15-20 minutes, try 5 minutes to start.

So I’m going to ask you to stop and consider the last time you truly stopped what you were doing to just be in the moment. If taking a staycation is not an option for you right now, here are some things you can do to live in the moment each day – no technology aloud. 

  1. Take a day off and go to a park or museum.
  2. Make a one day self care plan, think of it as a spa day at home. It can include naps, mediations, pedicures, reading, calming music and walks.
  3. Go on a silent retreat – I personally have not been on one of these but my brother has and absolutely loved it.
  4. Get into nature – move and breathe in it, then be still with it. Listen to the different noises, see the scenery and smell scents it has to offer. Like wind running though the leaves, water falling off a cliff or down a stream, the strong and beautiful scent of that massive lilac bush next to you or the stunning view of a sunrise or sunset.
  5. Take 3 hours and do something creative like draw, paint or play an instrument.
  6. If you cannot take a full day or a few hours, not a problem, start by doing something just for 5 minutes a day. I can almost guarantee if you do this, you will see and feel the benefits of it and that 5 minutes will turn into 15-20 minutes. Do things like a meditation practice, breath work, sit in silence while you concentrate on one object like a lit candle, draw or colour, play an instrument, or writing in your journal.

If you feel like you do not have time for any of the above, then you my friend are the exact person that needs to make this a priority. If you make something a priority in your day, I can guarantee you it will get done. What is stopping you from giving this a try? The fear of missing out on something or the opportunity to “get something done?” You may learn something about yourself if you give this a try, so set aside some time every week to stop doing and start being.