Meditation, previously seen in the West as something more New Age than mainstream, has been around for thousands of years and is inherently the basis of most of the world’s faith systems. Meditation has seen a rise in popularity in recent years, especially in Western culture, as it has become increasingly connected with stress reduction and a boost in overall well-being. In a time of constant technological bombardment, reconnecting with space itself seems only wise. Add in the constant feelings of being stuck indoors and it makes sense to re-embrace the feelings long lost.
However, there is no singular way to approach meditation, even if you are just coming into it for the first time. There is no right way to meditate. As an associate professor of religious studies Elaine Yuen, Ph.D. puts it, “The purpose of meditation is to bring a sense of calmness and awareness.” (1) As someone that practices meditation myself, let’s work through some of the basic components that will allow you to find peace in a time of Zoom calls and screen staring.
What position do you find yourself most relaxed in? Are you the kind of person for whom a walk promotes your stress relief? Would you rather find yourself unmoving, cemented in place as the world moves around you?
These questions do not need to be yes or no answers. For some it can be a mix, or it might depend on your mood on any given day. As long as you get into a mediation rhythm, position can vary. For me personally, I enjoy a walk to get away from the computer, and sitting meditation before bed.
If you go with walking, where are you going to do it? Are you the kind of person for whom nature is the key to meditation, or are you someone who needs the power of a city to relax? For me here in New London, I love the Connecticut College Arboretum for some long weekend walking meditation.
If you do choose to go the unmoving route, what position are you going to remain in? For some, cross-legged meditation is preferable, but others find that it can be straining on the joints. Laying down can be a valid option, as it lessens the stress on the body as a whole.
A word of note, please do not feel guilty if in the process of meditation you happen to doze off. It happens to everyone, and perhaps it just means that your body needed just a bit more of a deep meditation.
Indoors or Outdoors
Where do you want to be when you commit to mediation? Is your home a comfortable space for you to exist and be in? Do you feel that you need to separate your mediation from your home? Do you have the ability to mediate outdoors safely?
While nature for some provides the purest connection to the earth as a whole, others find the comfort of home to allow for the mind to feel at ease. For some, it may be an accessibility issue, living in a place where outdoor access may prove difficult.
If meditating inside, I find it helpful to designate a space for it. Somewhere where your mind enters a meditative state when you enter the space. For me it’s the corner of my room, and I keep it clear so that my mind may also remain clear while within the space.
Sound or Silence
Do you find it hard to focus without something to focus on? Do you find relaxing moments in the purest of silence? What makes it possible for you to focus?
For some, absolute silence is needed for their minds to come to a point of ease. Yet for others, something has to exist in the space for their mind to be at rest. Guided meditations are wonderful, and it sounds odd but certain voices work better for some than others. As a transwoman, I find that a woman’s voice puts me in a calmer place than a man’s, for instance. Everyone is different, and for some people, simple white noise or classical music provides enough of a focal point with which to focus from, no voice needed.
The tougher the day for me, the more I find I need some sort of noise to occupy my mind. When walking, I like the sound of rain (over, of course, actually walking in the rain). For indoors, a fan running behind me will do nicely.
I am no expert, but these observations come from years of practice. Like anything, meditation just takes time. You just need to find your rhythm, and let yourself flow. There is no wrong way to do meditation, just as long as you are doing it.
One piece of advice that has helped me immensely is that when you get those intrusive thoughts that come up, do not just ignore them. Like a dam, they will build up until it makes it impossible to focus on your breathing. Instead, acknowledge its presence, saying something to yourself like “I see you, thought, but I will come back to you later.” This simple act allows for your mind to return to a sense of ease, much like this rock as it balances, creating a lovely alcove.
Remember, the key to meditating is just to do it. Let yourself find the way that works for you, and change if you feel like you need to. Let it be a place where you can just be you, and let your mind come to ease away from the world of technology that controls our every moment. Just breathe, and keep on going, whether that be for 15 minutes or an hour.
- Melero, Angela. “This Trendy Meditative Practice Is Said To Help Combat Anxiety.” The Zoe Report. Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/these-different-forms-of-meditation-take-both-fresh-traditional-approaches-on-ancient-practice-22888900.