Meditation has long been practiced as a means for heightened spiritual awareness. The fact is, meditation can be right for anyone in need of mental clarity and relief from everyday stress, regardless of age, gender, occupation, and personal beliefs. We’ve gathered 10 top tips that are designed to take your meditation to the next level.
- Surround yourself with water
Water equals life and has been recognized for its healing properties for centuries. Being in the presence of water, feeling the water on our skin, listening to water, and of course, drinking it, can help us feel better, cleaner, more alive and invigorated. Before beginning a meditation practice, try taking a quick shower and imagine the water purifying your body inside and out. This will help entrain your energy to match the high frequency of the water. In addition, be sure to drink a glass of water before meditating so you can stay hydrated and balanced. If you can, find a stream to sit by and listen to the sound of the water. Being near an ocean or a river is also a powerful advantage. When all else fails, a soundtrack of water can work as well.
- “You have to be comfortable in the uncomfortableness.” -A J Mclean
When practicing meditation, there are two things to keep in mind regarding comfort. First, do what you can to make sure you are physically comfortable before the session. This can include wearing soft, loose-fitting clothes that allow you to breathe easily, letting your hair down, removing unnecessary jewelry. taking off your shoes, etc. Sitting against a wall or any other kind of back support can help straighten the spine and reduce backaches. Stretching exercises before meditation can also help the muscles of your body relax. The second part to keep in mind is a little harder: Once you find your position, allow yourself to surrender to any further discomfort that may suddenly appear. Things will distract you along the way, parts of the body may tense up. While it’s ok to shift yourself occasionally to help you settle in, the secret to successful meditation is surrendering to what is. Or in other words, find ways “to be comfortable in the uncomfortableness.”
- Take cannabidiol (CBD)
While marijuana and hemp plants have been used for centuries to help mankind reach altered states of consciousness, there is now a growing interest in using cannabidiol (CBD) specifically for meditation purposes. CBD is an all-natural compound created in cannabis plants, but unlike THC, CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it will NOT get you “stoned” or “high.” Scientists are currently studying how the compound interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system in the body that helps maintain overall balance and homeostasis by controlling functions such as sleep, immune response, and mood. In the context of meditation, CBD is said to help: a) relieve stress and reduce anxiety, b) improve mental clarity and focus, c) reduce pain and discomfort. It is worth noting, however, that because CBD takes time as it interacts with the body, it should not necessarily be used to enhance a specific experience, but rather should be part of an overall holistic self-care routine.
- Pre-meditation breathing exercises
Nadis are subtle energy channels in the body that can get blocked for different reasons. The Nadi Shodhan pranayama is a breathing technique that helps clear these blocked energy channels, ultimately calming the mind. Practicing breathing exercises right before you start meditating can help relax the mind and prepare it for entering a meditative state. Doing these exercises on a regular basis can also help to keep the mind happy and peaceful while releasing accumulated stress and fatigue. Learning to breathe consciously just might take your meditation to the next level.
- Become one with nature (nudity optional)
For an enhanced meditative experience, connect with nature whenever possible. This can include walking barefoot through the woods, or finding a log or tree stump to sit on. This will help set the mood for your meditation and help you become one with the earth. You can even visualize roots coming down from your feet and into the earth, connecting with the network of trees and wildlife around you. In addition, if you can find a place with enough privacy, and are not afraid to take your meditation experience to the next level, try meditating in the nude. Yes, the nude. There is something about feeling the sun and wind against your bare skin as you meditate that you need to experience for yourself in order to fully understand.
- “Ritual is necessary for us to know anything.” -Ken Kesey
Rituals create a space for us to focus on the moment, prepare for what’s to come, and give meaning and purpose to our actions. When starting a regular meditation practice, begin each session with a custom-made ritual designed to get you relaxed, focused and in the right mood. Some people prefer to shower beforehand (see #1), or organize their meditation space, making the bed, etc. Feeling clean and seeing your space tidy before you begin meditating can help you clear your mind and focus on the moment. Setting up the right ambiance is also helpful: lighting candles, using aromatherapy, or playing relaxing music helps prepare the body (and soul) for the meditation. Workouts, walks, and other cardio exercises right before mediation can also become a useful ritual in your practice.
- Sit simply to sit!
Meditate with no goal — sit simply to sit. Do not see meditation as some kind of objective you need to achieve. This kind of goal-oriented conditioning feeds into the ego and pulls you away from the inner connectedness you are there to experience. If you are more interested in achieving some future state, or checking the task off your checklist, you leave no room for surrendering to the present moment and just being. Remember, we are human beings, not human doings. Take conscious breaths, be aware of your body, be aware of external sounds, be aware of your thoughts, but most importantly, allow yourself to just BE.
- Do not just meditate alone.
There is power in numbers. While meditating alone can be a fulfilling experience in and of itself, also try meditating with other people, animals, plants, anything else that’s living. It can change the experience on many levels, and bring more mindfulness into the picture. “The main objective of meditating in a group is to create an energy field where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” says Susan Shumsky, meditation instructor and author. “In other words, when one person meditates alone, there is a feeling of expanded awareness, deep relaxation, peace of mind, and contentment. When many people meditate together, those experiences are intensified, and effects expand to the environment. So benefits are both individual and collective.”
- Find a metaphor for your thoughts.
Thoughts can be considered the worst enemies of a meditation session. They come and go, constantly seeking our attention, often feeling like they are out of our control, and fighting them only makes it worse, since what we resist, persists. One of the best ways to help you work with your thoughts (rather than against them) is to set up a metaphor for them that works for you. For example, some people envision their thoughts as clouds, and like to watch them float across the vast open sky that is their mind. Someone more computer-inclined may want to picture their mind as a Task Manager, with each thought being an unwanted process that you can just “click” or “swipe” to shut down. Another interesting visualization by Padmasambhava to consider: “Get to a point where thoughts are like thieves coming in an empty house…there’s nothing to take.” Find the metaphor that works best for you and go with it.
- Meditation is not an activity; it’s a state of mind.
Meditation is not some task to be done and completed–it’s an ongoing state of wellness. You can (and should) incorporate meditation into other day-to-day activities. Some of the greatest meditators reach their meditative sweet spot while working on their cars, tending to their garden, even walking up a flight of stairs. The key is in relaxing, clearing the mind, and surrendering to the moment. If you can find small ways of entering a meditative state throughout the day, you will be that much closer to bringing peace and clarity into your daily existence, and enjoying all the benefits meditation has to offer.