We live in a busy world, and sometimes there’s nothing better than shutting it out.
The art of quieting your mind derived centuries ago, but its practices—and benefits—still ring true today.
“People may think that meditation is strange because you’re just sitting,” said Pamela Stokes Eggleston, a D.C.-based meditator who will soon be featured on the newly released guided meditation app, Meditation Studio by Gaiam. “Just sitting is what you need to do sometimes! We’re not human doings; we’re human beings. We need to just be sometimes.”
At the encouragement of friends, Eggleston, an avid yogi and the wife of a wounded warrior, embarked on her own meditation journey more than 15 years ago. Through her practices, she learned to foster her own parasympathetic nervous system activity—that’s your body’s ability to center itself rather than tapping into your “fight-or-flight” sympathetic nervous system—which has, in turn, helped her find balance in her daily life.
“As you go through life and have these challenges and stressors, I found that meditation took the edge off,” said Eggleston, whose meditations have a specific focus on veterans and military families.
So how can you use meditation to knock your own stress level down a notch or two? We've got you (and your mind!) covered.
1. Get comfortable
Unless you’re doing a sleep meditation, Eggleston suggest sitting in either a chair or on the floor when you’re beginning your meditation practices. “You want to feel the earth beneath you, either on your feet or with your legs,” she said. “However, you want to sit.”
2. Pay attention to your breathing
After you’re in a comfortable position, draw your attention to your breath. Take deep, controlled breaths while noticing all of your inhales and exhales. “Particularly when I work with veterans and service members, they have shallow breathing, and that correlates with a busy mind,” she said. Deep breaths, ladies!
3. Figure out where you want to channel your energy
Are you doing a heart centered-meditation or a happiness exercise? Bedtime or pain control? Whatever your meditations are, work on channeling your energy to that area.
4. Don’t worry about quieting your mind (seriously!)
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary to silent your mind completely to have a successful meditation session. Eggleston admitted that when she started, she would get frustrated because random thoughts would continue popping into her mind. However, she quickly learned to appreciate those in-between moments. “Those spaces in between noticing your thoughts are the sweet spots,” she said. “It’s those spaces before you even notice that you had a thought. That could be literally 2.5 seconds, but those spaces happen, and those spaces matter.”
5. Keep it short
We know you’re a busy woman, so don’t feel like you have to meditate for 30 minutes on your first go. Eggleston suggests keeping your meditations short and sweet—four minutes is ideal for beginners. You’d be surprised by how those short meditations can have lasting effects!
6. Don't stop!
You might not reap the long-term benefits of meditation as soon as you finish your first session, but it’s important to stick with it. Eggleston recommends working it into your daily routine, whether it’s a part of your morning routine, evening routine or yes, even your commute to work. “Sometimes we have to still ourselves and still our minds,” she said. “It’s about opening up our heart, allowing for the breath and noticing that we’re living and breathing and realizing how miraculous that is in and of itself.”
Thinking about taking up meditation, but don’t know where to start? Check out our gallery above to see the best meditation apps that our smartphones have to offer.
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