6 Tips to Meditate More Effectively
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Unable to quiet the "monkey mind"? Don't worry, you’re not alone. Many people find meditation difficult because of the many thoughts that rush through their minds as soon as they attempt to slow down and quiet the mind.
This is known amongst Buddhist and meditation practitioners as having a "monkey mind", referring to the way monkeys tend to jump around from tree to tree constantly.
Luckily, there are a few techniques that you can practice to tame your monkey mind. Here are six tips to get you started on your journey to meditation:
When we meditate, we often find our minds filled with an endless to-do list of projects and chores that we have put off. These unfinished duties make it difficult for our mind to comprehend sitting and doing nothing when there is work to be done.
By avoiding procrastination and completing each task on our list in a timely and efficient manner, we remove this battle within so that our minds can focus on relaxation and open cognitive stillness.
Focus on your less dominant senses
One way to minimize or stop the voices in your head while meditating is to focus on your less dominant senses.
Let your conscious mind be guided by senses such as your breathing, touch, and smell. Avoid using your eyes and hearing for a while. These senses often interrupt our ability to focus; whereas our senses of touch, taste, and smell trigger an internal response.
Let your mind drift in acknowledgment of any breeze that may be brushing over your skin, or fragrance that may be permeating the air.
Here are a few basic sense stimulator ideas that you can do just before attempting to meditate:
- Indulgence – Place a piece of chocolate or Peppermint in your mouth and close your eyes. Allow yourself to focus on the flavors that your mouth is experiencing as you work to clear your mind of all other interruptions.
- Aromatics – Before you meditate, light a candle, incense, or simply brew a fragrant cup of tea and place it nearby so that you can smell the item and focus on the many layers that comprise its scent. Make sure the scent you use is not irritant to your senses, or it will only become an interference.
- Essence – Choose a location that is warm, yet provides a gentle breeze in which to perform your meditation. Doing so will heighten your skin's response sending sensations to the brain. Allow your body and mind to communicate with one another on each of these sensory stimulations. Comfort is vital here – don't choose a place where you might develop a chill or become overheated, as those will interfere with your ability to absorb your surroundings.
As your cognitive mind focuses on these under-used senses, let it gradually transition between them, noticing your body's responses to each sensory interaction. By doing so, you will become more in tune with your body as a whole and your connection to the outside world as a physical being.
Incorporate physical activity
If you find it difficult to sit in one place, due to physical constraints, because as soon as you sit down you just can’t stand still, or you start to feel sleepy, try adding a form of physical activity to your meditation routine.
This does not mean that you should only meditate while working out, although many long-distance runners use meditation as they run to harness their inner strength and breathing controls. What this means is either before, during, or after your meditation session, you can do some light stretching, such as yoga, or gentle walking.
These activities not only loosen the joints and relax the muscles, but they also improve circulation and blood flow feeding the body and brain with vital nutrients. Here are a couple of ideas to try:
- Yoga – You can perform a gentle Sun Salutation just before you meditate. This will release negative energy from the body and absorb universal positive energy, creating a peaceful starting point from which your meditation session can begin.
- Walking – Meditate while you take a long walk. You can also do it on a treadmill. To minimize external interference, use a headset to flood your hearing with peaceful sounds, either of nature or musical. Of course, if you’re in the great outdoors and all you hear is the soothing sound of nature, this won’t be necessary. Focus on your breath and the sensations in your body. The idea is to keep your pulse rate down and your breathing at a slow, steady pace while walking at a gingerly pace. You may be surprised at just how far you can walk this way.
Exercise is a complete body experience. When combined with meditation, it increases its benefits for both your body and mind.
Create an appropriate environment
In order to allow your mind and body to sink into a meditative state, you must first feel safe in your surroundings.
Create a space within your home that is dedicated to meditation. This space should be someplace where you feel both comfortable and safe. It should be looked at as your safe haven retreat. Avoid introducing negative or highly energetic items or interactions into this space, such as TV, work equipment, computer, phone, noise, arguments, or etc.
These types of items take away from the positive energy that you hope to generate in this space in order to meditate to your fullest. Instead, they add static and negative energy that will battle for your attention as you attempt to calm your mind.
Get back to nature
Meditation is something that can be done anywhere and the best experience comes when communing with nature. Find a place such as an empty beach, secluded stream, quiet forest, or mountain top to spread out a comfortable blanket or yoga mat, and let your body reconnect with nature through your senses.
Let the sound of the water or wind through the trees guide your mind to that peaceful inner being with which you want to reconnect. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face and limbs as your mind cleanses itself, bringing you back to your center.
» READ MORE: 5 Great Reasons to Meditate in the Forest
Meditation needs to be performed without multiple interruptions, such as children competing for your attention, solicitors knocking at the front door, or neighbors being loud outside. Choose a location where you can completely isolate yourself from these interruptions so that you can focus entirely on yourself and within.
Meditation is a way to provide our psyche and body with your complete attention. With everyday life always pulling us in one direction or another, it is often difficult to focus solely on ourselves. Isolating yourself to meditate provides you with the ability to give yourself the undivided attention that your inner you craves.
Make some time just for yourself! Go on a weekend meditation retreat any time you need a break.