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How to Get Centered
Maybe you've meditated before or not. Maybe you haven't thought about it at all or you have a lot. Maybe you've even "tried it“, but you’re really wondering what’s all the buzz about?
I like to tell people who are new to meditation or simply familiar with it that it's a one-size-fits-all tool and the best way to put up with yourself.
Most of us feel like we're everywhere at once, pushed and pulled by the events and people around us. To top that off, our inner voice is the same neurotic way. If we took a peek inside your mind, it would be a 5 pm traffic jam. Now imagine if your mind is a 5pm traffic jam and you’re actually sitting in a traffic jam. Recipe for disaster.
Our thoughts are either running us or we're running from our thoughts. That's not a pleasant way to feel, but you’ve lived with it so long that it seems normal.
While some people report they "thrive" on stress, adrenaline, or chaos (Type A's typically die younger), most of us are stuck feeling perpetual unmanageable stress, anxiety, and sometimes dullness and depression about our life. We don’t even know the difference between good and bad stress. Others just continue on the hamster wheel, because everyone else is running right alongside them.
The lucky ones try meditation.
People try meditation for many different reasons. Improving my health was my goal. For others it’s reducing stress and anxiety, experience less irritability, decrease pain, increase focus, and so much more.
It usyally begins with the notion of achieving inner peace. But this takes practice. Meditation can be a place of peace, calm, and clarity that you have inside yourself, but it’s best to begin with no judgement and no expectation. Just awareness of the present moment.
You can find your “center”— this can be an anchor for your mind to focus on each time your mind wanders. Your center is where peace lives inside you. When everything else is running you, you have a center to come back to; something that allows you to not let stress, worry, hurry, and anxiety get the best of you!
I really don't think any of us accomplish anything useful in anxious states of being yet so many people are determined to live this way.
Finding your center exercise (it's quick and painless, I promise):
- Sit with your eyes closed. Take a couple deep, focused breaths.
- Picture your center. What on earth am I talking about? Even though you are an adult, you can use imagination and visualization to help you reach new possibilities. Trust me on this.
- Realize that a “center“ is uninterrupted and unfazed by anyone or anything else. It's untouchable! It’s non-judgmental.
- Develop the picture now of your center as if you were in a dark room developing pictures by hand, watching them materialize from a blur to crystal clear and from a warm hue to all hues, shading, and highlights. What color is your center? Is it soft and light or rigid and strong? Is it filled with your values and principles or is it empty loving space?
- Now imagine all your scattered thoughts, worries, or concerns fluttering about, all around your center. They are never able to touch it though. Your center is protected. Imagine it protected.
You need a space away from all your thoughts and external events. This exercise is a simple aid for that. You will be surprised how you can use it over and over again so that it comes naturally to you when you're in the midst of stress.
There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind.
— Marcus Aurelius
Why Not Try Meditation?
With so many benefits and excellent science behind meditation, why not?
- Instant stress reduction
- Lowers blood pressure
- Boosts happiness and overall mental wellbeing
- Decreases pain
- Improves focus
- Get clarity about your life, relationships, and goals
- Improves breathing and cardiovascular health
- Increases self-awareness
- Slows aging process
- Improves immune health
- 20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today | Psychology Today
We can't control our external world, but we can have a say over our mind. 20 new findings demonstrate what meditation has to offer!
What to Expect When You Begin Practicing Meditation
A truckload of thoughts will greet you. No, they'll actually rush to you all at once. And then those thoughts will have thoughts of their own. Other people's thoughts about you will also show up.
It's quite overwhelming and then you'll say, "Geesh now I know what that meditation lady was talking about. I am a mess!"
Well, something like that may occur, but it is quite a different, and even uncomfortable, feeling to simply sit with yourself at first. You and your body are quite adaptable though, and when you practice meditation, your body and mind will know what to expect so your inner systems chill out rather than alert you during moments of stillness and quiet.
Meditation serves as a time for quiet and calm, but also grounding and centering, which is all very difficult feelings to describe until you actually experience it. These are not feelings we're accustomed to, but we realize they are very natural to our natural order.
There are three types of meditation that are perfect for beginners:
- Mindful Meditation: Sit comfortably while breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. This sequence has been shown to contribute to instant relaxation. You can try “box breath” if you need something to “do”. Otherwise, focus on breath, sensations in the body, or the sound of a fan in the room while observing thoughts as they come and go, but anchor yourself with one of those focus points.
- Mantra: Perhaps you'd like something more to focus on besides breath. You can develop a key phrase to use to repeat quietly or to yourself. It can be a positive affirmation (every day in every way, I am getting better and better) or a short and simple phrase that feels good to you (I am that I am), (I am calm).
- Guided Meditations: My personal favorite because sometimes I don't want to hear anything to do with me or my thoughts or my breath. Guided meditations are when someone else guides you through a meditation from breath to certain positive suggestions. It is a wonderful way to both escape and improve yourself.
There is one additional way to begin meditation if you find you are having, or have had difficulties around the idea of sitting still and meditating.
Mindful Walk: Take a walk while listening to the sounds, sights, and sensations around you: birds, cars, rustling leaves, changing seasons, the sound of your footsteos, clouds in the sky. Bees. Whatever. Be in the present moment.
- 21 Mantras for Meditation - Programming Life
Mantras for meditation and their meanings.
The Meditation Lifestyle
After months of meditating, I noticed something happening in my life.
First, I became a vegetarian simply because I was more mindful of how and what I was eating. Meditation was becoming a type of lifestyle for me, and contributing to a new healthy mindset.
I was more aware of how I was taking care of myself and my needs. Also, how I was treating others.
I developed a self-care practice along with self-awareness about my specfic needs.
- Realizing when I was worn out and needed a break, and what exactly would replenish me.
- Recognizing the difference between good and bad stress.
- Recognizing which people in my life filled me up or deplete me.
- Listening to my body about what foods were not agreeable with my system.
- Averting colds and illnesses by taking extreme care of my self at the first sign of a possible cold.
There are plenty of benefits you can hope to encounter the longer you meditate. Experimenting with other variations of meditation, and in different situations, or times of day.
For instance, I was stuck on the idea meditation was best in the morning. I discovered when I took a meditation break in the middle of my day—parked my car and relaxed somewhere—I got the best results.
When meditation becomes part of your lifestyle and not something you just do, you end up making better choices and creating better habits. Even seasoned meditators will be surprised at the continuous benefits.
What Meditation Is and What It Is Not
- For everyone . . . really
- A healthy habit
- A way to practice mindfulness and appreciate the present moment.
- Changing your brain for the better.
- Good for kids too!
- A way to relax in mind and body
- A way to improve your life
- Transforming the way your mind works
- A way of being that nourishes your mind, body, and spirit.
Meditation IS NOT:
- A religion. Some religions practice it as part of their religion, but it is not a religion.
- Medicine. It does not "cure" anything.
“Welcome to The Party”
In meditation, it’s going to happen: you’ll be faced with thoughts you don’t like. In order to practice non-judgment of these thoughts so that they don’t affect you negatively, you can repeat (like a mantra), “Welcome to the party”.
This is also a way to practice loving-kindness meditation. Welcome all of those thoughts. It may sound counterintuitive but have you ever wished a thought to go away only for it to become stronger? Bingo!
What Now? Start now!
A few tips that will help you get started the right way (Hint: there is no "right" way, but the easiest way is my intention here) is to spend more time in mindfulness throughout your day.
Try thinking about what you are doing when you are doing it, not focusing on your thoughts about it, but the actual activity. This expands your focus "muscle".
Next, spend time in nature or simply a stroll outside somewhere. Being outside helps connect us to something bigger than our puny, racing thoughts.
Take your time and practice with 2 minutes of sitting still/doing nothing. Next, try 3 minutes then move on up to 5-15 minutes.
Try meditation at different times of the day.
Notice when you zone out. This feels like daydreaming. You can experience it each time you have a few moments to yourself or even taking a leisurely drive, sitting at a coffee shop, et. cetera.
Ready for meditation? Position yourself for meditation by sitting on a cushion on the ground, on a chair with your feet on the floor, or even lying in bed.
I began with lying in bed listening to a guided meditation to start my day. When lying in bed make sure you are not always falling asleep. Otherwise, it's time to try another position or time of day.
When you meditate is completely up to you. I have done it in my parked car in the middle of my workday when I will not be interrupted. I have done it in the morning and at night. You will definitely notice what time of day is best for you. And even then, it can change as your needs change.
The single best way to begin meditating...is to begin. Some benefits will become immediately apparent while others are a "net benefit", meaning you feel them over time rather by each meditation session.
Every few days reflect on the changes in your thoughts or temperament, or any other differences you may notice. Often people don’t recognize changes because they’re not spending time reflecting on it. The changes aren’t going to pop out wearing a neon sign!
Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on February 13, 2018:
Thank you so much Sean. What a great comment! I am so passionate about this topic, and hope as many people as possible experience the benefits of meditation. Have a great week!
Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on February 12, 2018:
Dear Laura, thank you very much for this article! You have a vast audience that loves your writings, and so your influence is significant. This article may be a life changer for many people.
Keep on the great work.
May Love fill your days!
Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 20, 2018:
Yes, thank you! I wasn't sure how meditation was working in my life until I stopped it, and my anxiety came back. It's important we start anywhere and stay with it!
Savio Koman from Mumbai, India on January 17, 2018:
Well written article. You are right, meditation is something people assume they don't have time to start OR start and leave soon... Though, the truth is that the benefits of meditation are incredible!!
Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 11, 2018:
I love hearing about others’ experience with meditation. It has helped me handle my chronic illness so it’s wonderful to hear how much it’s helped you!
Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 11, 2018:
Thank for your very nice comment!
Meditation is a very important routine for me. I'm amazed with the benefits.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 11, 2018:
A very well written and explained article about meditation!
Good to mention that it is not related to any religion. But it is very effective in realising the Self. Good for peace of mind and de stressing.
Thanks for sharing this helpful article about how to begin effective meditation.
christalluna1124 from Dallas Texas on January 10, 2018:
This is a great hub. I have used meditation and mindfulness for years. Suffering from bipolar disorder, it has been a godsend for controlling what we call intrusive thoughts and anxiety. keep up the great writing.