WHAT IS MEDITATION

• It’s a tool of self-transformation. It stills and quiets the mind, leading us to a place of peace, tranquility, and wisdom.

• It’s not a religious act. People from every cultural and religious background can benefit from it.

• It’s a movement away from a perception of your external universe to a perception of your internal universe.

• It’s an effortless focusing of the mind.

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering the quiet that is already there—buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. – Deepak Chopra53

Meditation is the last limb of the eight limbs of yoga. The first two limbs, Yama, and Niyama, mentally help us prepare for our meditation practices. The yogic conducts help us live a life in harmony with nature and others. This equilibrium offers a satisfying sense and ease so that we can sit with ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. The Asana helps us prepare our bodies physically to sit comfortably and undisturbed for long periods of time. Breathing practices also help us meditate. Our breathing is directly linked to our minds. When we’re agitated or nervous, our breathing becomes shallow and tense. When we’re relaxed and comfortable, the breath naturally becomes slower and deeper. Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama are all building blocks developing our meditation practices. They all make the journey of meditation effortless and enjoyable.

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Knowing that meditation is good for you is one thing; sitting down every day to do it is another. Many years of meditation experience helped me develop useful practices which will make easing into meditations easier. The very first of them is the right time for the meditation. We’re often wondering when is a good time to sit in quietness and turn inward. Although it may greatly vary due to our individual schedules, there are a few timelines I can suggest for you. One of them is when we wake up. Optimally, this time would be close to sunrise. We don’t even have to get out of bed. We can scoop ourselves to the board of the bed to keep our spine long. Gently close our eyes and either dwell on our dreams from the night or set an intention for the day. It’s said that the easiest time to meditate is right after we awaken from sleep. The thoughts aren’t traveling as fast yet. We can turn this window into a useful meditation practice. The next time frame would be early afternoon. Instead of reaching for a coffee, a short 10- to 15-minute alpha break will help refocus our minds and power us through the afternoon. There have been times when I greatly enjoyed meditating in the afternoon. It gave me tremendous energy and I had to push my bedtime from 10 to 11 or midnight, as I wasn’t sleepy. Some people meditate at night. I wouldn’t recommend that beginners try practicing meditation at this time. It’s very easy to slip into the unconscious or sleeping state. When we are learning how to meditate, the effortless control of the mind should be practiced while we’re awake. Now, when sleep is extremely precious for our rejuvenation, it won’t teach us to effortlessly control our minds. Once you learn how to meditate, it’ll become very easy to find time to turn inward and lose yourself, even if it’s for a few moments. Meditation gets easier when you regularly practice at the same time of the day. The mind will get used to the new habit and automatically be able to tune into the meditation. We would like to think of two or three minutes of meditation practice at the beginning. Baron Baptiste has a great program called 40 Days of Personal Revolution, which advise you to start by practicing five minutes daily for the first week, then adding five minutes weekly until you reach 30 minutes. I find 30 minutes to be very long for my individual practices. I do great for 15 to 20 minutes on my own, but for anything more than that I do well in groups.

The way we sit will influence the quality of our meditation as well. I often see students forcing themselves into challenging yoga positions only because that’s what they see in the media. Meditation can be practiced not only sitting on the floor but also sitting on a chair. Until our spines are long and tall, we can be on the ground or sit on a chair. The key is to be able to relax our physical bodies. At Jivamukti Yoga, we start our practice by chanting mantras, and the teacher always shares some of her insights. One time, a particular teacher had a lengthy insight to share. While I was in my easy sitting position, my legs started to fall asleep. I couldn’t focus on what she was saying. I was only thinking, ‘How am I going to come out of this position?’ That is the exact reason we want to find a comfortable sitting position. If it’s not chairs, then bolsters, blankets, and props. Let’s make any adjustment we may need.

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