The world can easily be perceived as overwhelming, trivial and, frankly, messed up. Especially given the series of events in the last year. As a collective whole, humanity is spending more time indoors than ever. There are fewer face to face interactions amongst peers. It can be too easy to look at the cards dealt us and feel a loss. All of these emotions and feelings are directly derived from what we perceive- and yes, we can impact our own perception!
But what do we perceive when our eyes are closed?
Well, okay, mostly darkness. A void. However this darkness can be beautiful and peaceful. The world perceived with your eyes closed is not as complex as the reality we observe. For the past year I have been practicing anapana meditation, which is simply observing the breath coming in and out of your nostrils. It is mind blowing how this simple exercise can improve your mental health and perception of reality.
Stretching your mind and body
Before I do my meditation, I do a simple stretching routine. I start by laying down on my back with my arms out at roughly a 30 degree angle with my palms facing up. I then spread my legs symmetrical to my arms, aka the corpse pose. From there I stretch myself out by pulling my shoulders down from my neck and my legs away from my pelvis. I feel the weight of gravity falling on me and become relaxed. Then, I then lift one leg at a time and push through my toes, and then do the same with each arm pushing through the palm of my hand. This process brings awareness to my whole body.
This in itself is a form of meditation. (Yup, you’ve actually been meditating when you stretch!) When you stretch, simply recognize how it feels and the different sensations in your body. The corpse pose alone is a great mental practice. You can make it your own by simply stretching in whatever way feels good for you and paying attention to how your body feels as you do it!
Slowing life down
By observing the breaths we take, we almost have the ability to make it feel like time stands still. Personally, I find this incredibly beneficial as my days as super busy and I cherish the brief moments where I can make things slow down. Anapana meditation is not complicated or difficult and doesn’t require intense focus or hours of practice. Anyone can do it! However, like anything, you get better with more practice.
I sit in an easy pose, or “criss cross” with my back against a wall or chair and hold my hands together in my lap. (You can sit in any position that’s comfortable, though). I then close my eyes and just observe my breath. This is when my mind starts to slow down. Thoughts still come up but I’m able to let them pass through- just like breaths.
Often during my meditation the workload I have for the day comes to mind. I begin to think about what I have to do in the future. Something important about meditation is living in the present. So when you find yourself thinking about future events, you can simply catch it and return to the breath. Observe the sensation of air coming in and out of your nostrils and how it feels on your upper lip. When I find myself getting distracted, I take a break from the concentration on my breath, and think positive thoughts.
I normally meditate for ten minutes, however the time varies as each day is different. Frankly, any amount of time you devote to it is valuable—even if it’s just a minute!
After your meditation, observe how it feels to get up and walk. I find that after meditation, I move a bit slower and take note of my actions with more awareness. Take note of your breathing. As you get up and walk to your next activity, try and synchronize your breathing with your footsteps. The more you practice, the easier this will be. There is security and assurance in this simple meditation.
If you want to start but still feel overwhelmed at the idea, there are lots of apps out there to help guide you and hold your hand through the process! My favorites are Headspace and Calm. Download one and it will easily walk you through it.
By continuously practicing meditation, I have been able to find calmness within a pandemic that is anything but calm. I hope you are able to give it a try and find the same benefits!
(Wanna learn more about how meditation and weight loss are connected???)