Our bodies always tell us what’s best for us, but so often we ignore those cues.
“Society teaches us that elevated stress is part of our nature, and we should keep moving through the pain in our bodies because this is the norm,” explains Dana A. Smith, a certified yoga teacher and trainer, master life coach, and holistic health practitioner. Smith is also founder of Spiritual Essence Yoga, which is based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Meditation involves concentrating on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra for the purpose of reaching a heightened state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity, and bliss. Learning how to meditate can help you find peace while navigating complicated relationships, office drama, and other unpleasant situations. These three exercises, which can be done at home or on-the-go, can jumpstart your meditation journey.
Deep Breathing Exercise. Take a deep breath into your belly, chest, and lungs. As you exhale, count backwards from 10. Repeating this a few times should bring you to a place of stillness. “If something is really stressing me out, I’ll count backwards from 20,” adds Smith. The truth of any situation can be seen when we’re still.
Mindful Meditation. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Sit or stand and focus on how you are breathing. Chant the following out loud: “In, I’m breathing in. Out, I’m breathing out. In, I’m breathing in. Out, I’m breathing out.” If a thought enters your mind, address it by saying, “I’m thinking.” Then, return to chanting, “In, I’m breathing in. Out, I’m breathing out.”
The object of this exercise is to become aware of your thoughts and your body. “Breathing is the body’s most vital function—if you stop breathing, you’re pronounced dead—yet we pay little attention to the quality of our breath,” Smith says.
Candle Gazing Meditation. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Light a candle and look at the flame. Keep the image of the flame in your mind as you close your eyes. If your mind starts to wander, open your eyes and look at the flame again. See the flame in your mind. Whenever your mind drifts, open your eyes and gaze at the flame. The object of this exercise is to be still, and get out of your head.
“People often turn to yoga and meditation at the end of the road when it’s doctor-prescribed, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” says Smith. The good news is everyone can meditate, and developing a daily practice can promote balance in your life.
To learn more about meditation, read up on Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh; he is globally revered for his powerful teachings and best-selling writings on mindfulness and peace.