Who isn’t talking about meditation these days? People in every corner of the globe are realizing its benefits. Naturally, when any ancient practice gains wide popularity, it becomes accessible in a vacuum. Most learn bits and pieces of sacred knowledge without proper context. The meaning and purpose behind it eventually lose significance. Sometimes, the application and method turn into something so far from its roots that a danger develops of creating adverse effects. A good example of this is Ashtanga Yoga or Patanjali’s 8-Limb Path.
There is a practical and functional purpose to the progressive stages of this path-Yama (Social Code), Niyama (Personal Code), Asana (Postures), Pranayama (Breathing Exercises), Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Senses), Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation), and Samadhi (Self-Realization). Meditation comes in the latter part of our internal work towards self-realization because we first have to prepare the mind with the former stages.
Yet, how many people do you know who are putting in an equal effort with the Yamas and Niyamas, as they are in perfecting their Asana poses?
Meditation cannot be practiced in isolation to other aspects of our lives. We first need to prepare the mind. This differs from the kind of preparation associated with creating a sacred space or finding a quiet place to sit. Although creating the right physical environment is very important to our practice, it will be impossible to focus and quiet the mind if one has not done the inner work of removing resentment, anger, anxiety, and jealousy. You may be able to temporarily repress these emotions, but sooner or later they will rise, pushing you to be more authentic in your self-evaluation.
Most people fail to sustain a meditation routine because they do not devote enough of their energy and time to creating the everyday changes that will help them create a regular practice.
This includes letting go of attitudes and patterns that limit personal growth. If these are not healed you will not be able to either continue or advance in your meditations. This does not mean you should wait to meditate until you feel like you have overcome every experience that has left a negative impression on your mind or until you have worked through the first 6 stages of Patanjali’s 8-Limb Path. Rather, begin to sit and you will gradually realize what you need to work on. It will eventually lead you to the other aspects of the yogic path.
Having a regular meditation practice will help you get to the source of your feelings. It will provide you with the tools to engage with whatever is coming up for you in an honest way. This journey calls for a willingness on your part to do the deeper work alongside a meditation practice. What this requires will be different for each person. As humans, we all have different challenges that we need to work through in life. It’s called karma.
Below are some tips on how to easily get started:
- Meditate for short periods of time. Start with a daily 1-minute meditation practice. Something simple like following the inhalation and exhalation of your breath will immediately put you in a calm state. Once you get into the routine of bringing your attention inward, this will spill over into the other areas of your life. You will find yourself becoming more self-reflective and intentional with your actions.
- Be patient. Consistency is the key to change and improvement in our lives. Keep at it. At 2 weeks you may not be where you had hoped to be, but constantly check in with yourself, at 1 month, then 3 months, 6 months….5 years! I promise you that you will see some type of positive change happen. It takes a lifetime, and in most cases many lifetimes, to reach total bliss. Instead of being discouraged by that, find comfort in knowing that you are able to take your time in this process.
- Create a ritual. A simple way to prevent losing motivation for a daily practice is to find something you enjoy doing and incorporate that either alongside or into your meditations. Think of this time as self-care. Journaling, saying affirmations, lighting incense, taking a walk before you sit, chanting, are all ways to help us reflect and go deeper into ourselves. Shift your thinking about activities that help you to feel centered from being optional to mandatory. Taking care of our physical and mental health are absolutely necessary and should be followed like a medical prescription.
As we go through life accumulating experiences, we discover new lenses in which to view the past, present, and future. We are continuously analyzing and re-analyzing our circumstances. With all of that mind activity, we must create the space to find steadiness in our thoughts and peace in our lives.
Rucha is a Certified Level I and II Meditation Teacher and Certified Yoga Instructor. She serves as a Spiritual Coach, inspiring others to simplify, reflect, and make time for silence. Read Rucha’s bio to learn more about her and her company, Shanti Path.