The Secret to Successful Meditation
Meditation has several health benefits: studies report that meditation can help reduce anxiety, alleviate symptoms of depression and also improve memory, concentration and cognitive functions. Yet, sometimes people say they don’t have enough time to meditate, or that meditation doesn’t come easy to them. With practice, mindfulness meditation can become as second nature as brushing your teeth.
Mindful meditation is a way to experience inner contentment and a sense of balance, which is our empowered state of being.
Here are a few tips to help you become better at meditating.
Just 2 Minutes A Day
Your diary may already seem full, but where could you find a few minutes to practice meditation?
Consider this as a self-care appointment to check in with yourself and not a chore or yet another obligation.
If you don’t get around to it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Accept where you are, that life can be busy and that you do the best you can.
With a regular practice, mindfulness will become something you will look forward to. It will be a welcome moment of pause when you can allow yourself to just be and live in the present moment.
The amount of time you spend meditating each day is not as important as the consistency in doing it. Start with 2 minutes in the bus every morning, that’s really impactful already.
These precious moments of connection will help uncover the source of inner joy, a strong foundation for happiness that doesn’t depend on external factors such as status, wealth or others’ approval.
When Expectations Are Limiting
Learning about the benefits of meditation is of course a good incentive to sign up for meditation classes, but it may also create some expectations.
Letting go of expectations is one of the secrets to a successful mindful meditation practice. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate because it’s all about the journey, not the end result.
Once we abandon the notion of a “quick fix”, we become better at meditating. For example, we may think we can dip in and out of meditation only to solve a specific problem and forget about it the rest of the time. This isn’t the case, as it’s actually the discipline of taking regular mindful breaks that makes a positive difference in the long run.
If you are looking for a transformative experience as well as a quick fix to improve your sleep, reduce anxiety or instantly restore your energy, other practices may be more suited to you and Sophrology could be one of them.
Letting Go of the Mind Using Your Body
If you are new to meditation you may not find letting go very easy: you may find yourself ruminating or being overwhelmed by having to stay still facing your anxiety or tension in your body.
Think about letting go as if you were a child on a slide: if you hold on to the sides and don’t let go, you won’t glide down and experience a sense of exhilaration and freedom.
When you meditate you become the observer: you notice yourself, your thoughts and what is going on around you without judgement. It’s a bit like sitting on a bench observing the passing traffic, but you don’t dwell on the make or speed of each car. Cars come and go, just like your thoughts.
The secret to letting go is to simply allow your thoughts to flow in and out of your consciousness without holding on to them or judging yourself for having them. Let thoughts be, instead of trying to control them or stop them altogether.
If this seems impossible, you are not alone! My advice as an expert in Sophrology, a modern form of meditation for people who struggle with meditation, is to start standing and initially gently move your body with eyes closed so you can concentrate on sensations arising from your body: can you feel heat? Can you feel tingling? Can you find a part in your body that is fully relaxed? Can you be present to your breath? Then sit in a comfortable chair and scan your body from head to toe and observe all sensations arising. Concentrating on your body will magically help you to let go of a busy mind and allow a first step toward your next level of awareness.
When Connecting with Ourselves is Tricky
Resistance to meditating can take many forms: being too busy, feeling lazy, or not being in the mood for it.
It does take a dose of self-love to suddenly pause everything in your day and close your eyes.
Confronting challenging or uncomfortable thoughts or realising how stressed we are can be tricky at time. Thoughts about negative past experiences may pop into your head, but they don’t need to drag you down. You can acknowledge the manifestation of these thoughts, accept them knowing they are transient and don’t define you. And allow them to wash off.
Resisting negative thoughts and emotions may only embolden them, and not fighting them is part of meditation. This can be very hard to start with but using simple visualisation exercises, relaxation and working on grounding yourself in the body will make you feel more able to become kind and compassionate with yourself.
In Sophrology I notably encourage people to look for positive sensation, create positive images or using mind focusing techniques during the meditative practice so that practice after practice something of a new state of consciousness can emerge through the meditative practice.
The Right Environment for You
A quiet space tends to be more conducive to mindful meditation but noise or activity around you should not stop you from closing your eyes and tuning into the moment.
Some people create a special meditation room, some practice on public transport. Again, start where it is possible as the simple fact that you have set your intention to connect with and close your eyes is already transformative in the long run. You can even do a walking meditation, synchronising breathing and movement, although this type of practice can be more advanced.
Some people find it hard to cope with total silence and therefore using a guided Sophrology practice or meditation app will support your steps into connecting with yourself.
Use the Power of Dynamic Relaxation
We all have our personal preferences when we meditate. You may like to sit cross-legged in silence for a whole hour or choose to stand or walk to bring yourself to a different state of awareness.
If you struggle to stay still, can’t focus easily, and don’t enjoy complete silence, you can try dynamic relaxation.
Sophrology is a simple and modern form of meditation including relaxation, breathing, visualisation and gentle movement.
You can do Sophrology exercises either standing up, lying or sitting down. You are simply guided through a sequence of techniques allowing you to learn how to let go and reach a state of a relaxed mind and body, feeling comfortable and at peace, connected to the present moment.
This could be the way to unlock your meditation practice and discover another way of working with consciousness and uncovering its endless power.
Here is a foundation exercise of Sophrology to support your practice:
The Clearing Breath Exercise
The Clearing Breath uses breathing and movement synergistically to acknowledge and let go of tension so that you can more easily meditate. Think of the body in five different sections or systems, working through each of them and use your exhalation to release unnecessary tension of mind and body.
In a standing position with your eyes closed, interlace your fingers, breathe in and raise your arms above your head. As you exhale, release your arms. With the next in-breath, position the tips of your fingers on your forehead, gently tense the muscles of the face, then exhale and relax your whole head and neck.
Breathe in and position your fingertips on your throat, gently tense the muscles, then exhale and relax your shoulders and arms.
Move your fingertips to the breastbone in the middle of the chest, gently tense the muscles, then exhale and relax the muscles in your torso.
With the next in-breath, connect your fingertips to the top of your abdomen just below the ribcage, gently tense the muscles, then exhale and relax your abdominal muscles and inner organs.
Breathe in moving your fingertips to the lower abdomen, gently tense the muscles, then exhale and relax your lower abdomen, legs and feet.
Finally, connect your fingertips with your belly button, gently tense all the muscles in your body, then exhale and relax your whole body.
Take a few moments to notice sensations and then sit down to start your usual practice.