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3 Tips for Cultivating the Meditative Mind
September 23, 2015
If you have ever sat down on a typical day in your life with the intention to meditate, and found yourself quickly frustrated or overwhelmed by the incessant busyness of your mental chatter, you are neither alone nor abnormal. Meditation practices are incredibly challenging for most westerners. Meditation is a state of being that requires us to cultivate qualities which are seemingly in direct opposition to the things we have been taught to favor: the external world over the internal, to-do list productivity, and fast results.
We all know that learning to meditate takes practice and discipline, but if you are interested in receiving the benefits of this practice, there are also many techniques you can use to buffer the challenges, and set yourself up for a more enjoyable experience, while helping you to develop new skills to balance your crazy modern existence.
Some traditions of meditation will encourage you to sit and observe that monkey mind chatter, a technique which is both valid and time-tested. I'll admit, however, that that approach has not been as helpful to my experience of meditation as others have. What I have had far more success with is in working with techniques that over time helped me to cultivate what kundalini yoga refers to as the meditative mind.
When you develop this aspect of your self, meditation as well as more harmonious thoughts and ways of being occur as a natural byproduct. Below are some of the aspects of cultivating this part of you so that you will then be able to enjoy meditation as a natural element of your being.
#1 Learn to be more present in your body
When I'm beginning a massage session or teaching a yoga class, one of the first invitations I often present to those I am working with is to allow their awareness to settle into the sensations of the body, taking a well-needed break from the thinking mind.
Learning to sense your body and be present inside of your skin will be exceedingly helpful in creating space in your mind for meditation.
The simplest way to do this is to begin by feeling all the areas where your body meets the outside world: the chair, the floor, your clothing. You can also feel the weight of your body pressing against the surface of the chair, cushion, or floor. As you feel this, breath and feel your breath as well, traveling its well-carved pathway but this time in the company of your own attention.
This can be practiced anytime, anywhere. While doing the dishes you can feel your feet pressing into the floor, feel your leg bones stacking over your ankle bones to hold you upright, feel the water and its temperature on your skin, and the weight of the plate in your hand. Truly this practice can be a meditation of its own, but learning to be in and sense your body will connect you more and more with what I like to call your
Once you feel yourself present in your skin and sensing the boundaries of your body, with time and practice you may be able to sense the area around your body: your aura or electro-magnetic field. This is not a woo-woo new age thing. The electro-magnetic field of the heart is measurable with scientific tools as far as 9 feet from the body. You may not be able to see it, but like microwaves, UVA and UVB rays, and cell phone signals, it is around you all the time. And you can learn to sense it just like you sense your fingers and toes at the end of your arms and legs.
#2 Learn the skill of Relaxation
Relaxation is a deep state of being. In this culture we spend most of our time in a state of doing, which makes relaxation the best antidote to the busy modern life. But do you really know what it is, and do you know how to get yourself into that state?
What do you do to relax yourself? Do you drink a glass of wine? Watch your favorite tv show? Read a book?
While these are all fun and easy to make a habit of, the above examples don't have the same chemical benefits of a deeply relaxed state.
When you are truly relaxed your body knows and amazing things happen: your breathing becomes rhythmic, your blood pressure and body tempertaure go down, your pulse rate slows, and all this energy you are conserving is made available to heal the things your body has had to put off til later.
Meet the parasympathetic nervous system: your body's natural curative mechanism and the only true antidote to the sympathetic fight or flight state we spend much of our time in. This innate part of you is stimulated only by deep states of relaxation. Worth a little of your time, no?
In order to enjoy this healing aspect of your being, you must become calm and enter a state of trust. Some ways to begin experiencing this state are:
-receiving massage therapy or energy work from a skilled practitioner that you trust
-restorative yoga classes
-guided yoga nidra practices
Relaxation should be a very natural part of the human being. However, our fast-paced lives have taken us very far from this innate ability. But trust me when I say that relaxation is a skill that you can learn and experience as part of your daily reality. Like anything else, with a little practice and dedication you will find relaxing becomes easier and easier to acheive. And this will only help your life.. So who says it's not productive?
#3 Find a Breath Practice
I can't think of a meditation practice I've done that doesn't mention the breath. Your breath is tremendously affected by your inner state and will always reveal to you whether you are stressed or calm. The good news about this relationship is that it works in the inverse as well: you can use your breath to address and balance your inner world, including the quality of your mind and presence and your emotional state.
In addition, there are countless breathing exercises that can directly stimulte the meditative mind. Many yoga practitioners have experienced the yogic breathing techniques, or pranayama, as the doorway to medition. I have found pranayama to be the most effective way to put my mind into the meditative state.
These days there are more and more breathing techniques available to you in the form of videos, audio programs, live classes, and private coaching. Find a CD, DVD, or teacher that works for you. If you find instructions for a breathing practice but find it hard to rememeber them while trying to do it, record your voice or someone else's voice reading the guidance for you.
The opportunities to practice opening the doorway to meditation are endless! Seek, and ye shall find the pranayama that speaks to you.
Once you have cultivated the above practices, you will likely discover that meditation is easier and in fact, a natural state of being that you can embody throughout your days. I am certainly a student of the above suggestions, and am grateful to all the teachers and practices that have helped and continue to help me cultivate my own meditative mind.
May you find and become the source of the peace that you seek.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!