How to make meditation work for youNov 23, 2023
Should you meditate?
If you ever felt like you should meditate and found yourself defending why you haven’t started or maintained it, you’re in great company. Meditation has found its way on the list of shoulds. Like, I should recycle, said with a tone of defeat, and maybe dismissal.
While I believe anyone can benefit from meditation, it’s not for everyone. First, you have to want it. Not want to want it. And then there’s the question of, what for?
Without some training or personal instruction, meditation can be a difficult and frustrating endeavor. It can feel impossible to carve out time for it. And then to know what to make of the experience to keep it going.
The Zen proverb:
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour
does not seem to help. I think we can only fully understand what is meant by this once we’ve experienced it, or we’d all be carving out that hour.
When you do give yourself time, and you sit and close your eyes, you might say:
Now what? Am I supposed to just sit here, try to clear my mind and stay present? How am I supposed to do that?
You try guided meditation, and it’s great but then you don’t come back to it because who has the time? It holds no candle, in terms of grabbing your attention, to what comes at you throughout the day. Not like the way scrolling your phone does.
So then what’s all this talk about meditation working for people?
Let’s get the benefits out of the way, because it’s important to know why you might even want this.
Gives you calm, the ability to relax, and delivers inner peace
Boosts your immune system, decreases pain, and accelerates healing
Gives you clarity of mind so that you can make decisions and feel good about them
Gives you an equivalence of a few seconds more time to react & respond to things that are coming at you fast. You can avoid a car accident with just a few extra seconds. It’s like that. That’s an edge we all want.
Strengthens your nervous system. Meaning, you get better at life. Not because something good happened on the outside (this too) but because great things from the inside now lead the way.
You get disciplined in your own self care and advocacy and become a lighthouse for others.
Why isn’t this happening for you?
Here are 2 things you might consider as you set your expectations about meditation:
1. Go in to meet your tantrums
Rather than trying to meditate to rescue yourself from your stress and overwhelm, do it to meet your tantrums: all the stuff that goes through your head and clogs things up in your life.
I’m not suggesting you sit with your eyes closed and mull over and get lost in your thoughts. Instead, sit and see with curiosity all the stuff that comes up without engaging with them. Notice:
What narratives come up for you as you sit there, as still as you can? What emotions? How are you reacting physically?
What judgments and conclusions come up?
Is the last thing you ate or heard distracting you?
Have fun with this. It can actually be super fun when you don’t take this too seriously. On your way to your cushion, throw your club in the trash and reach for your sense of humor.
This is how you create muscle memory to sit and let be when your monkey mind keeps on monkeying. “Let be,” btw, does not mean to become passive. It means to know when, and to not get pulled into drama. You’ll get to know yourself, meet your blind spots, and see how you operate. Your humble awareness alone begins to change your mind and actions according to your values by upgrading your internal operating system. You become less overwhelmed, more calm.
2. Think pressure cooker instead of cave
When was the last time you’ve “caved” under the covers all day and felt good about it?
Same with meditation. It’s not meant to be a hiding place. It’s meant to be a plug-in.
There are many types of meditations, and the ones that put you under a pressure cooker will challenge you to tap into your best self. So you conquer it, and it becomes a source of strength and remembering (who you are) that you plug into daily.
The meditations I practice and teach are based in Kundalini Yoga, which is dubbed the householder’s yoga for a reason. These are practices for householders: we, who have chosen to live in this material world with relationships and daily responsibilities. We decided not to become cave dwellers. For this reason, these practices are meant to tap you into your truth and prompt desire to make change and manifest. They provide clarity and a state of ‘energized-relaxed’ so that you - a spiritual being - may have this incredible human experience.
Some refer to these meditations as Medical Meditation because they work towards specific results using breath, sound, pressure points, meridians, body positions, hand, and eye focus to affect your nervous and glandular systems, detox your body, and balance both sides of the brain. They help you tap into your inner resources to work through specific mental obstacles (those tantrums) that might come up during the meditation. The more you tap into them, the greater access you have to your resources, and the more you conquer. Which increases self-trust, which makes decision-making easier, which then snowballs into a continuous upward momentum towards your desired life experiences.
What does a pressure cooker meditation look like?
The best-known Kundalini Yoga based meditation is called Kirtan Kriya. It has found its way into the western medicine, including the Alzheimer’s Foundation (Google search Alzheimers and Kirtan Kriya), because studies have shown that it boosts memory and brain function. It also helps with concentration, clears loose ends (including relationships), and changes habits.
Try the Kirtan Kriya Meditation:
Time: 12 minutes
Posture: seated with a tall spine, legs uncrossed unless you’re sitting on the floor in easy pose, chin level, hands are on knees
Mantra (sound): Sa Ta Na Ma
Eye focus: eyes are closed and gently rolled up, looking towards your third eye, or brow point.
Mudra (hand position): this is a moving mudra -
Index finger touches the thumb when you say Sa. This is the gyan mudra, and it calls on wisdom
Middle finger touches the thumb when you say Ta. This is the shuni mudra, it calls on patience
Ring finger to the thumb when you say Na. Surya mudra for increased vitality
Pinky to the thumb when you say Ma. Buddhi mudra for better communication
Putting it together:
First 2 minutes: Say the mantra out loud (voice it) while using the appropriate mudra
Next 2 minutes: Whisper it
Next 4 minutes: Do it silently
Next 2 minutes: Whisper it
Next 2 minutes: Voice it
End with a couple of minutes of silence or prayer. Then stretch the arms up, spreading the fingers wide, and actively hold that stretch for a few breath cycles.
Time modification: you can increase or decrease the times by keeping the same time ratio - 1:1:2:1:1