Finding inner peace in the mayhem of life – tried meditation yet?
We’ve all seen those blissfully zen images of someone sitting in lotus (cross-legged) pose with their
eyes closed, as if they don’t have a care in the world. And most of us think the physical position, not
to mention the level of relaxation, seems impossible, especially in today’s always-connected world.
Fortunately, meditation is much more diverse than lotus pose and emptying your mind of all
thoughts. A quick Google search will find hundreds of ways to meditate. There is no one right way,
so it’s worth experimenting to see what works for you.
As you think about how to get started, it’s also helpful to think about what you hope to gain from
meditation. People meditate for a variety of reasons. It may be spiritual or religious, a way to
contemplate and reflect, or a way to find calm and manage stress. There are as many reasons to
meditate as there are ways. Again, there is no one right reason and it’s up to you.
Yoga offers some simple approaches that can help start your meditation journey:
- Body scan or progressive relaxation – You may have experienced something similar to a body
scan meditation at the end of a yoga class in savasana. Start, by lying down or sitting
somewhere comfortably. Close your eyes and starting with your feet, bring your focus to
that part of your body and then consciously relax that part of your body. Keep working your
way slowly through your whole body. If you find it difficult to consciously relax, try squeezing
the muscles for that part of your body first and then relaxing the muscles.
- Breath awareness – Yoga offers many forms of breathing practices, known as pranayama.
Pranayama usually involved controlling or changing the patterns of your breath. The focus in
breath awareness practices is awareness without changing anything. Start by relaxing your
belly, closing your eyes and letting your breath be natural. Over the next few minutes, just
observe your breathing. This could be noticing the inhales and exhales, or observing the rise
and fall of your chest.
- Mantra meditation – In mantra meditation, you repeat a sound, word or phrase at a
rhythmic pace. You can say the mantra out loud or silently to yourself. Sometimes people
choose sounds, words or phrases that have a special focus. You might think of a yogi reciting
‘om,’ but mantra meditation can be as simple as thinking or saying the phrase I’m OK with a
relaxed breath in between.
- Visualisation – This involves focusing on an image in your mind. For example, you could
imagine walking down a path in a forest or imagine the gentle movement of a tree blowing
in the wind. This type of meditation is often easier when listening to a recorded guided
meditation where someone describes the image as you create the picture in your mind.
- Loving kindness – Sometimes called metta meditation, this involves thinking of feelings of
love and compassion for other people broadly, and then narrowing down to people close to
you and eventually to yourself. This meditation is commonly practiced by repeating the
follow phrases and replacing all beings with the names of people and eventually I:
May all beings be free from pain and suffering
May all beings be happy
May all beings be at peace
May all beings be loved
So how do you choose?
Here are a few practical things to consider if you’re not sure where to start:
- If you find it hard to focus or set aside time, try an online or recorded guided meditation.
With guided meditation a person talks you through the steps of the meditation. The
recorded voice will keep bringing you back even if you get distracted. You’ll also know how
much time to set aside before you start. See the YogaLight classes on meditation and
mindfulness for examples.
- If you find that your mind goes to negative thoughts, try a focus that’s external to your mind
like breath awareness or the body scan, or try a style that keeps your mind focused like
- If you find that your mind goes to places of chronic pain in your body, try meditations that
focus on thoughts or images external to your body – like visualisation or loving kindness.
Take the first steps
It’s often hardest to start something. So make a plan and commit to trying it. You’ll need to set aside
some time – but it doesn’t take much. Even just 5 minutes is enough. You also need to avoid
interruptions from other people or things. This doesn’t have to be silence, but it does mean the
phone doesn’t flash with notifications and your kids aren’t asking what time dinner is.
A simple plan might look something like this Wednesday after I put the kids to sleep, I’ll take 5
minutes to try breath awareness.
Once you start trying, don’t judge yourself, do reflect on how it went. Remember, there’s no right or
wrong. Think about whether it worked and if not, is it just a matter of trying again or trying
Then keep trying – so much of meditation is in the act of trying and doing. There isn’t an endpoint –
you don’t suddenly get to enlightenment and find you don’t need meditate any more. Meditation is
like food. You have to eat every day for the nourishment, you never get to the point where you don’t
need to eat!
YogaLight has a 4-week Meditation course for complete beginners that focuses on the above practice suggestions, you can start today and discover which suits you best.