Updated: Mar 31, 2021
There are many ways to meditate. Practices from all around the world offer us ways to meditate while walking, sitting, laying, standing, cooking—the list could go on—because meditation is available to us while we’re doing basically anything, all the time. The trick to meditation is presence. Giving ourselves enough time and space to become present with whatever it is that we’re doing. The easiest and most effective ways to cultivate presence are through carving out set amounts of time to practice presence on a daily or regular basis. Then through that, over time, we train our minds and bodies to have a reference point for that presence, and we bring that presence and awareness into all kinds of moments—including stressful, chaotic ones.
It might sound farfetched, since we live in a world where rushing around, multi-tasking, zoning out on Netflix, or engaging in drama is the norm; but we don’t have to live our lives that way. We really can live in a way that’s slower, more deliberate, and more actively engaged in the moment; where we’re able to see things clearly and communicate directly, and have loving compassionate relationships with one another, the earth, and ourselves along the way. And that’s what Ayurveda is all about—how we can come back into balance on all levels. Ayurveda tells us that meditation is helpful; but there isn’t one right way to do it. There are countless forms of meditation and breath-work—we can even mediate while sitting at our desks by closing our eyes for a few minutes and focusing on following the breath, or by putting down our phones and computers and looking around the room, slowly noticing each object with focused attention and without judgment.
Whenever we focus our awareness, we’re engaging in a form of meditation. It happens when we become present to any tension housed in our shoulders, neck, back, hips (or anywhere in the body) and allow ourselves to stay with the sensation rather than making a judgment about it, trying to fix it immediately, or rushing onto the next thing trying to avoid the sensation. We meditate when we become aware of our mind and the noise it creates. We meditate when we walk slowly and become present to any emotions within us, or sounds around us, or sensations in our bodies with each step; aware of the ground beneath our feet, the breath flowing through our bodies, the way our arms glide by our sides and our heart-beat changes as we walk. Whatever it is you notice, meditation asks us to focus on it. To be with what we’re noticing without judgment, and without moving away so quickly we don’t really retain what’s happening here and now.
When we’re walking, we can become present to the sensations within each part of our leg as we move slowly across the room, or the field, or the beach. We can notice how our knees feel when they bend and straighten, our ankles as they extend, or our feet as they meet the earth. We can notice how our toes feel when they grip into the soil or into the sand or onto the carpet or over the hardwood floor. We can observe our arms, and the range of motion they have as we move. We can notice the environment around us, the feel of the breeze or the smell of the woods.
If we’re cooking, we can observe the sounds, aromas, tastes, quality of light in the room, or the colors of all our produce. We can watch as steam rises, or water boils, or vegetables change shape through our cutting.
While we’re sitting, we can become aware of the breath, and the way our sitsbones feel rooted into the earth. We can notice our back, and pay attention to any sensations around our spine. We can focus on our third eye (between our eyebrows and up slightly along the forehead) and imagine the breath flowing in and out of that spot (directly into the pineal gland). We can relax our arms and shoulders, and notice what comes up for us as we ask our bodies and our minds to be still; to do nothing, to be present.
A great way to start meditation if you’ve never tried it or have a hard time is to follow these steps:
1. Get comfortable: we want the sympathetic nervous system to soften, and our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, so that we can fully relax. In order for this to happen, we need to feel safe and comfortable. So find a comfortable seated position or lay down on your bed or on the floor with blankets and pillows—wherever you need to be to feel at home.
2. Find the breath: you can close the eyes if that’s comfortable for you, but it’s not necessary. Then, you’ll start to notice each inhale and each exhale. Observe how it feels when the air flows in and out of your nose. Notice where the breath is and isn’t reaching in the body – can you feel any air moving into your belly as you inhale? Or is it all flowing up into your chest? Can you feel any breath creating space in your back or in your shoulders/neck while you breathe? Or does your body feel tight? Are you taking short breaths, or long breaths; deep breaths or shallow breaths? Just notice for a minute or two what the quality of your breathing is.
3. Then, place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your heart. As you inhale, allow the belly to fill up and expand out like a balloon, so that your belly extends into your palm. With that same inhale, let the breath carry up into the ribcage, and then all the way up into your chest. This might feel awkward at first if you’re used to breathing shallow breaths, straight up into your chest. But, this is essential for relaxing the body and helping all your energy flow properly. This practice is called Yogic Breathing or 3-Part breath.
4. Once you’ve breathed from the belly, into the ribcage, and up into the chest on your inhale, you’ll take a slow and steady exhale through the nose releasing all the air and all the tension from your body. Visualize all the tension leaving your body and melting down into the earth.
5. Repeat this for 2-10 minutes
6. When you feel relaxed and settled, allow the breath to come back into its natural rhythm and pace. You should notice that there’s more ease, depth, and strength to the breath, and that your body is more relaxed, than when you started.
7. Let the mind soften. Stay connected to the breath by noticing each inhale and exhale, and without judgment, just watch your mind. Notice the thoughts, notice the feelings, notice the sensations in the body. This is meditation. Let yourself be with whatever arises for 5-20 more minutes.
Meditation and Yoga are part of our Gut Healing Protocol. If you want more practices and support, reach out! We’d love to support you with some ancient meditation teachings and gut healing techniques.