Meditation isn’t just for Monks

Though most of us have an idea of what meditation is, not all of us know how much meditation can help us in our daily lives. I know that can seem like a great idea at first, but when you find yourself sitting on a floor in silence by yourself, feeling silly, trying to clear your mind and feeling like a failure when you can’t escape your own thoughts…meditation can become frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be!

Meditation has brought more balance, clarity and peace to my life. I meditate every morning and most evenings, for about 15 minutes each time. Not only does meditation leave me feeling grounded and centered, but it sets the tone for the rest of my day. I use meditation for different things, depending on how I’m feeling or what I’m going through.

Why Meditate? 

1. To Be Present 

Meditation can be a great tool to simply be. So much of the time we are always doing: planning the future, thinking about the past, running around trying to get things done. We’re rarely fully preset. However, with meditation you allow yourself to just be: no expectations, no tasks, no requirements. Just to simply be. Be here now is a great mantra to use during meditation or in life in general. To be here now, in this moment, noticing life and what it is to be alive. This is what my twice daily meditation sessions usually consist of, unless I have other things I’d like to address.

2. To Feel Your Feelings

When I discovered using meditation as a means to feel my feelings, my life radically changed. If you are ever feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry, conflicted or anything else really, you can sit in meditation and just allow yourself to feel. So often if we feel a feeling, the first thing we do is brush it off, we say to ourselves “whatever, I’m over it”, even if we’re not. But feelings are meant to be felt. And if you don’t give them the proper attention they’ll sneak up on you at unexpected times, or show themselves in your attitude or in your relationships. Once you allow yourself to feel a feeling, you can end your meditation by saying “I am willing to let this go now”. Though this ma sound silly to some, it works so well and saves you a lot of negativity, arguments and anxiety during your day.

3. To Manifest

Mediation is an amazing way to manifest more of what you want into your life. I believe that I have a relationship with Life, and so mediation and prayer are media through which I communicate what I want. If I want to let go of a feeling, I open my palms, breath deeply and say I am willing to let this go. And just like that, Life will wash it away. If I want to accomplish certain goals, I sit in meditation and visualize myself accomplishing that goal. This way I’ve taken the time to lovingly and calmly put forth what it is I want, so Life knows and can help me out with the technicalities.

4. To Seek Answers

If I am ever feeling unsure or need a question answered, I sit in meditation. I start my practice with my hands together and set the intention to “be open”. I then place my hands on my knees with upward facing palms and silently ask Life my question. I then breath deeply and focus on my breath for as long as I need. When I emerge from my meditation, I always have the answer I need. It is important to note that answers and intuition speak to you in feelings – not words. Aka I don’t here a loud voice say, “quit your job” or “yes you should go to that party this weekend”. Rather, it’s just a feeling that guides me to my resolution.

How to Meditate

Now that you know all of the great things meditation is good for, here’s how to start:

To begin meditation, all you need to do is sit in stillness. You can be in a chair or sitting criss cross on the floor. Sit with a straight spine, tucked in chin, and your hands placed gently on your knees or lap. Then all you have to do is breath deeply in through your nose, and out through your nose – that’s it! If this is too uncomfortable, you may choose to use a guided meditation. Some of my favorites are by Denise Lin available on Spotify or Youtube. Another great option is the app called HeadSpace.

Myth: Meditation means not thinking anything 

Meditation does not mean that you sit there breathing without a single thought! Thoughts are a part of the process and it’s important not to get angry at yourself for having them. When a thought comes up, just notice it and say “I acknowledge this, but I don’t need to focus on it right now”, and gently come back to the breath. If the thought comes up again do the same thing, over ad over again – it gets easier with time. Try to focus on how your inhale fills your belly, and the way your belly deflates when you exhale. Sometimes if I’m having trouble focusing, I’ll count my breath – in for 5 and out for 5 – using my heartbeat to keep track. This helps me feel really grounded and in my body.

So if any of this sounds like something you’d benefit from, give it a try! Because if there’s one thing I know it’s that meditation is too amazing to be reserved for monks!

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Surviving Sophomore Year: What I learned

As my sophomore year of college comes to a close, I can’t help but feel a sense of “I made it out alive” relief. Looking back, the lessons I’m taking away have nothing to do with academics or what I learned in class. Rather, this year taught me more about who I am, what I want and why following your own path is ay okay.

Starting off in August, I was full with energy and ready with my plan of attack. Freshman year had given me a sense of college life and by the end of the summer I was ready to return to campus with a vision in mind of all I wanted to accomplish: work, intern, bump my 3.9 to a 4.0, join this club, be on that team, spend more time with friends, go here, do that, etc. And the awful thing is I managed to magically fit it all in to my semester.

Needless to say, come October I was burnt. I was interning during the week and working on weekends, while juggling class, assignments, school clubs and a dwindling social life. Skimping on sleep and pumping by body full of caffeine, I felt like a half-ass version of myself who was half-assing her way through everything. Beyond feeling hectic, exhausted and stressed out, I felt angry with myself for packing my schedule so tightly. I hit a wall and after a disastrous attempt at midterms, threw my arms up in the air, and to my own surprise thought, If this is what success is, you can keep it.

This realization was a big deal for me –  I was always someone with a chihuahua like intensity, always eager, hyper and nipping at the ankles of my next goal. But after living like a miserable zombie for three months, I had had enough and decided living life on high speed isn’t worth it. You see, packing my schedule made me hate life. I was always either too exhausted or too preoccupied with the overwhelming amount of work I had to do to enjoy the opportunities that were in front of me. And the worst part is none of these things – which had all been in the plan – brought me any happiness.

My realization was solidified when I saw this sentence in a book I was reading at the time: “You are not your achievements, you’re reputation or your possessions”.

When those words sunk in, I felt completely liberated. If my worth wasn’t measured in things, accolades, grades or the opinions of others, I was free to live life according to my own intuition. And that’s what I did.

For the spring semester I decided to things because I genuinely loved them and not because I thought I should be doing them. I quit the job I hated, took a less prestigious internship that was more aligned with my interests, quit the leadership position I loathed, tried new things, and most importantly put my sanity over my to-do list. This meant sometimes choosing sleep over finishing all of my assignments and then not getting mad at myself for it. I had to remind myself there are only so many hours in a day, and as long as I’m trying my best, losing hours of sleep is simply pointless and unfair.

I learned if my own inner state is off balance, everything else will be off too. If I’m walking around miserable and exhausted everyday, wanting to hit fast forward on my life – there’s absolutely no point.  I’d rater be a full functioning version of myself with a lower GPA, than a zombie with all A’s.

Lesson learned: our relationship with ourself sets the tone of our life, and treating ourselves with love, respect and kindness has to come first. Lesson completely learned…and one I will carry with me for the rest of my life.