I practice meditation daily and have for a number of years. I have a set routine: 15 minutes in the morning to focus my mind; 20 minutes in the evening to relax myself into sleep, rather like counting sheep. In truth, I think counting sheep is a form of meditation – it calms the mind watching fluffy white animals jumping over a fence, to and fro, one at a time.
Obviously, I am not a meditation expert; I cannot tell you the absolute path to mindfulness, for much like Dorothy and Toto, you must find that yourself. What I can tell you with authority is that connecting with yourself and finding your own center is the heart of meditation.
So to begin, breathe. That’s good advice for just about anything, running the gambit from belly crunches, panic attacks and a drop-in visit from your nosy neighbor. Next: Find yourself a mentor.
Actually, both of these are quite easy – breathing because you do it every day (just remember deep and easy to start and then let your body take over), and as for mentor, well there are a number of affordable apps readily available and designed in multiple ways to aid your path. Judging by the recommendations by a ton or so app users, you can see that meditation is exploding in popularity, possibly as an alternative to the ever-pounding blare of mental over-stimulation, or large triple shot non-dairy lattes. My best advice for app-seekers is to find the one that you can connect to; listen for the voice or the music that appeals; visualize the places that provide you with serenity so fully that you are on the beach and can taste the salt in the air. Scan down your body, noticing the hair tickling your neck, the clothes on your arms, the rise and fall of your stomach with each breath, the bones in your ankles. When everyday thoughts intrusively pop up, push these thoughts out of sight as if these were clouds – fluffy and white. Rather like sheep.
Personally, I use aromatherapy in my practice as I am a believer that mediation doesn’t lull the mind into an other-worldly sensation, but actually increases all senses so you feel a different state of alive. My morning ritual (beyond the fix of normal caffeine) is a blend of rosemary, lemongrass and just a hint of orange, as this combination will increase circulation and concentration with a hint of sunshine warmth. In the evening I begin my practice after a cup of tea, and scent-sate mix according to the type of day I’ve had. If it’s been harried, I concoct a combination of vetiver, clary sage and lemon which I find grounding and helps me to alleviate my overactive mind. If I feel like a sweet relax, I turn to a combination of floral and citrus scents, such as ylang-ylang and neroli with a touch of sandalwood. Again, my best advice is to follow your nose and find the aromas that best suit your mindset and your preference, keeping in balance deep, medium and light notes of scent. Oh–And breathe.
For me, meditation is a way of life, and I consider it a powerful tool that I use to center myself in times of stress and to reach beyond in times of competition. By practicing just those few minutes each day I’ve become more mentally focused, which led me to become a better equestrian, a more patient customer at Starbucks, and possibly a less irritable companion to my family and friends. That doesn’t make me an expert. It makes me a participant. And to you I say enjoy!