Finding a routine, for a mindful life
Finding rituals is a vital part of leading a more mindful life. Meditation in itself is a ritual that offers a multitude of benefits including counteracting stress, boosting your energy, and reconnecting with something bigger than yourself. With all of these benefits, you would think that we would have made this a part of our regular routine, however for most people making mediation a habit can be difficult.
A good place to start is to recognise that meditation isn’t the art of sitting still. Instead, meditation is the practice of presence and finding moments or spaces to put your mind at ease. So, whilst some may enjoy sitting cross-legged in peaceful bliss, here are some alternative practices to help you find moments of pause:
1. Active flow
An activity like yogasana, Qigong; the ancient Chinese practice of energy movement, forest bathing, or swimming, can enable us to find a moving meditational state. Practicing the various poses or motions often when in silence can unlock emotions trapped in our body and bring us to a state of presence.
Whilst many breathwork techniques were founded thousands of years ago, they are as relevant and vital today as ever before. Simple practices of inhaling and exhaling for the same length of time, or holding and retaining the breath, can help you to tune in, lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones, not only for that moment but for the rest of the day.
3. Sound baths
Ever turned to your favourite song to be uplifted or alternatively to wallow? Music can have a profound effect on your mood as well as your healing. Being immersed in sound, for example from singing bowls, can help relax the mind and body, moving us into a mindful state of awareness where new thoughts, intentions, and ideas can surface.
Guided visualisations, whether it’s moving through a favourite location, holiday destination or more specifically visualising your energetic body and where you’re holding tension is a powerful tool to deal with the choices of everyday life. The latter, energy work can enable you to feel more aligned with what your mind and body need and therefore find a greater level of calm and performance.
If you have tendencies to ruminate, why not end your day with meditation, and add this to your sleep routine. Listening to a guided meditation or breathwork before you go to bed can provide separation and an easier transition from a busy life to sound sleep.
6. Traditional meditation
A common meditation misconception is that the mind will become empty, free from all thoughts that lead you to a sense of bliss and peace. Whilst minimising the mental noise we experience on a daily basis should be a goal to attain. Thinking of meditation or mindfulness as withdrawing from distraction and becoming more focused on a single thought, sensation or feeling is a good place to begin. Choosing a mantra (a word or sound that acts as a vehicle for the mind), concentrating your attention on a sensation such as the breath at your nostrils, or choosing an emotion you want to feel and expand in your life, for example, gratitude are all ways you can begin your meditation to gain ease, clarity, and creativity.
If you’re drawn to the more traditional methods, here are some helpful tips to start a meditation practice that lasts:
- Practice the same time of day, this is a great way to make meditation or anything a key part of your routine.
- Set a clearly designated space; using a candle, picture, or ornament that invokes calm.
- Use scent to get you in the mood; burning incense, placing essential oils on your pressure points, or spritz your favourite scent.
- Start with the same protocol for each meditation; this may be three deep breaths and audibly exhaling, or answering questions such as ‘How do I feel today?’ or ‘What am I grateful for today?’
- Start small; wherever you are is perfect, so try not to feel overwhelmed if 5 minutes is too much. Start small and add increments of 1 minute every week, or every month.
- Make sure you’re comfortable; sit on your bed, or use cushions, and use a shawl or blanket to stay warm. If you’re comfortable you’ll come back to the practice.
- Practice makes perfect. Patthabi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga said ‘Practice. Practice. Practice. All is coming’. When you’re cultivating a practice or ritual the key is consistency. So if you don’t come back today, make sure you come back tomorrow!
Willing to give it a go, here’s an example meditation to add to your morning routine:
- Find your comfortable seat or lay down. If you’re seated try to sit tall with your spine elongated,
- Begin by taking a long deep breath, down into your lower abdomen and exhale with an audible sigh out of your mouth.
- Repeat this breath three times, and when it feels good gently close your eyes or move your gaze down.
- Begin to bring your awareness to the tip of your nostrils and simply observe the cool air coming into the body and the warm air leaving the nostrils.
- If the mind wanders, know that is totally normal and remind yourself that thoughts are like clouds, they soon will pass by.
- When you’re settled begin to repeat the mantra (sacred word/sound) ‘So Hum’. ‘So’ on the inhale, ‘Hum’ on the exhale. If you would prefer gently repeat in your mind ‘I am’. Continue repeating the words, allowing your mind to drift, and without judgment or annoyance drift back.
- If you have a timer set or just ready to move on with your day. Gently open your eyes, pausing and slowly taking in your surroundings.
- Take a long deep inhale, and a long cathartic exhale
Lyndsey is a Yoga Teacher at COACH London and the founder of Alamelu Yoga.
If you would like to practice with greater intention, including breathwork and meditation please join us for classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, where Lyndsey teaches yoga asana.