Meditation doesn’t have to be hard. It is quite simple at its quintessence; calm and quiet the mind so that you may completely experience the present moment. It is an effortless state of thoughtless awareness.
It may sound like a very simple concept, however, anyone who has ever tried to meditate knows that it isn’t easy. We are constantly bombarded with thoughts which involve planning for the future and an outcome we cannot control or ruminating over the past and situations we cannot change.
In addition, we lead busier and more distracted lives than ever before. Many of us are trying to juggle family life with a full-time job, checking our email in the evening, maintaining a workout schedule, and keeping up with our social media accounts and hobbies on the side. Although these distractions represent living in the twenty-first century, every distraction makes it more difficult to focus solely on the present moment.
Here are five easy meditation tools you can use when you need help finding your way back to the present moment.
Deep cleansing breaths. Erratic breathing or short, shallow breaths into the chest send a signal to the body that you’re in danger and trigger the adrenal glands to release cortisol into the bloodstream. Raised levels of cortisol over prolonged periods of time can impair your immune system, decrease brain cells and affect your blood pressure. To reverse this action, immediately stop what you’re doing and focus on the quality of your breath. With eyes open or closed, begin taking slow, full breaths deep into your diaphragm. Hold the breath in for as long as you can and slowly exhale pushing the air out for as long as you can. Repeat this exercise until you’ve noticed the quality of your breath has improved.
Grounding. If you’re not grounded, you may experience feeling scattered, spaced-out, clumsy or forgetful. You may feel as if you’re daydreaming your day away with your head in the clouds. To bring yourself to the here and now, sit up straight in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Imagine a long cord of gold energy extending down from the base of your spine deep into the ground where it firmly attaches. Allow your scattered thoughts to melt away as you ground yourself to the here and now.
Centering. Are you preoccupied with thoughts focused on the future? Or are your thoughts falling behind you, analyzing a situation that you experienced yesterday? When you catch yourself straying to the future or to the past, call yourself back. Focus on the air temperature and how the slight breeze feels on your skin. Notice any smells or hints of fragrance from the blooming summer flowers. Do you hear any soft sounds around you, such as a ticking clock or gentle laughter in the other room? Pay attention with all five of your senses to truly experience this moment.
Gratitude. One of the most powerful ways to focus your thoughts on the present moment is to acknowledge everything that you have to be thankful for. Studies in Positive Psychology have found gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Try using a journal to list everything you’re grateful for, express yourself through a blog, or simply vocalize it to another person by saying "thank you." By cultivating a deep appreciation for yourself and others, you automatically shift your focus to the present moment by expressing gratitude for what’s happening in the here and now.
Spiritual Hello. We interact with many people throughout our day, but how many of them do we truly see and acknowledge with a spiritual hello? A spiritual hello is making eye-contact with another person to acknowledge and validate who they really are. One of the primary causes of unhappiness is social comparison. As we pass strangers on the street, many of us automatically make first impressions about others, quickly assessing and comparing others to ourselves. This is such an automatic human behavior that many of us are not even aware that we are doing it. Instead, choose to lift your gaze, make eye-contact and offer a non-judgmental "hello" to people who you pass by throughout your day. By doing so, you will exchange positive energy and validate yourself and the other as a whole and complete person in the present moment.
The more you practice incorporating meditation into your daily life, the more natural and easy it will become. Studies have shown that meditation decreases stress, improves quality of life, and can even slow the aging process.
Perhaps most important of all, meditation quiets the mind so that you may hear the infinite wisdom and guidance being transmitted to you from the Universe. The Universe is always with you, patiently waiting to guide you towards experiencing more love and joy. If you feel the Universe hasn't been communicating with you, it isn’t a matter of not being sent guidance; rather, it’s a matter of not quieting the mind so that you may hear it. Dedicate yourself to spending more time in a state of thoughtless awareness so that you may receive all that the Universe intends you to hear.
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