When I get busy or stressed, it seems like the first things to go from my to-do list are the things that will make my heart feel a little bit lighter, the things that will make the stress just a little bit less.
Yoga, blogging, meditation, food preparation – I sacrifice all of these things first to make room for things that are “more important” when my schedule gets tight.
So I was glad when the lovely Ashley Johns of Fierce Forward issued a meditation challenge on her blog. For two weeks, participants would meditate between five and 10 minutes a day – a really doable commitment, I thought. What is it, really, to carve out five minutes a day for my mental well-being?
Armed with a candle, my mala beads, and a mantra (Om Namah Shivaya – I bow to my true self), I set myself in my favorite spot to meditate quite eagerly the first couple of days of the challenge.
But after a few days, I found my mind wandering, and I found myself beating myself up for allowing my mind to wander.
Rather than quit, though, I did something I’ve never really considered an option when it comes to meditation: I mixed it up a little. So many people – myself included – think of meditation as some blissed-out person sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed and their spine straight for hours on end, blessedly free of the clambering monkey mind.
Well, that doesn’t always work for me. Just like I enjoy different styles of yoga, so too do I enjoy different styles of meditation, and what works on one day might not work on another.
So yes, on some days, I was the cross-legged lady staring intently at a candle flame, mala beads slipping through my fingers as I chanted in sanskrit. On other days, though, I decided to do yoga nidra, a guided meditation you do lying down. On those days, I pulled up this YouTube video on my phone, put a warm towel over my eyes, popped my headphones in my ears, and sank comfortably into a yogic sleep – completely aware, but completely relaxed.
And on other days, I allowed my sunrise salutation to be a moving meditation. (And if you don’t think it’s possible to meditate while moving, you’ve never closed your eyes and moved at an achingly slow speed through a sun salutation, focusing only on your breath and the way your limbs are moving.)
By listening to my body and my mind, I was able to stick with the meditation challenge, even meditating most days much longer than the required amount. And as a result of practicing regularly, I find it much easier to slip into relaxation, to track my breath, and to focus my mind during my day-to-day life, not just when I’m meditating.
I set out to honour my true self through my mantra and this meditation challenge, and by heeding my own inner wisdom, I succeeded both in the challenge and in my goal.