Cultivating a Calm Mind
When the mind is steady and calm, we start to realize that this can be our true nature. In order to continue that mental state, we need to need to build a consistent practice. Meditation and yoga are building practices, in order to fully experience the benefits, they must become a regular practice. Each practice builds upon each other. The more you practice yoga, the stronger and more flexible you become. The same can be said for meditation, the more you practice, the easier it gets to calm your mind. You learn to recognize what is true in the present moment and embrace whatever you see with an open heart. We let go of thinking and become integrated with what’s happening in our body, heart and mind. Meditation and yoga are known to reduce stress, improve sleep, increase focus, build strength and flexibility. Read on to learn more about how you can enhance your well being by establishing a consistent practice.
Practice can come in many different forms. You can create mindfulness moments throughout your day by stopping and taking a few breaths. For example when you wait at a red light or get a message, use this as a signal to stop and take a few deep belly breaths. You can also place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart as physical reminders to breathe deep, even and slow. Build a gratitude practice by asking yourself each night, “What were some good things about today?” As you practice answering those questions you begin to change your neurochemistry towards positive emotions. If available, give yourself quick moments in nature throughout the day. Take a moment outside your house or office building to activate your sensory awareness, fully take in the sights, sounds and feelings. These moments of mindfulness and deep breathing will calm your nervous system and allow the body and mind of moment of peace.
When you get busy or stressed, it’s easy to cut out the soul soothing activities. Instead you should use that a signal to amp up your favorite activities such as yoga, meditation, dancing, hiking or spending time with family and friends. These activities will re-energize you and spark creativity. Yoga and meditation actually increase energy levels by releasing endorphins and increasing blood flow to the brain.
I make sure to build a schedule around my self care routines. For example I made a promise to meditate and practice yoga 4x per week. I tailor those commitments each week and find the days that work best. I may have to shuffle around my schedule quite a bit to fit it all in, but I usually manage to get everything done each week. However, life tends to throw us off balance at times. I have built the present moment awareness to feel it in my body when I’ve gone off my usual practice schedule. When my body begins to feel tight and my mind is continually racing, that’s when I know that I need to make self care a priority and ensure that’s my next action. Building a meditation habit is not easy, but once you get it set into your weekly schedule, it soon becomes second nature.
Here are some tips to build a meditation habit:
1. Know why you want to take up meditation
2. Start small, try mini meditations sessions (1-2 minutes)
3. Tie your meditation to a trigger (meditate right before breakfast)
4. Set your environment (a set meditation seat in your home)
5. Use a phone application to assist (Calm, Insight Timer)
6. Hold yourself accountable (join a monthly challenge)
7. Do it every day for 30 days (you form a habit after 30 days)
8. Track your progress (the applications usually do it for you)
Cultivating calm is similar to investing in a long-term relationship. As you develop and the relationship grows, it gets better, sweeter and more rewarding. You learn to focus on the present moment and let everything else go. Eventually, it will change the way you behave in traffic jams, interact with strangers, and care for the people you love.
This article was submitted by Tara Marini. Come meditate with Tara, Tuesdays at 6pm. Register here.
Tara currently lives in Philadelphia, PA but always enjoys escaping the hustle and bustle of the city by stepping onto her mat. Tara fell in love with yoga when she took a stress management class at Penn State in 2008 and has been an avid practitioner ever since. Her dedication and passion for yoga allows her to continually grow and enhance her practice and teaching style. She completed her 200 hour Yogahour Teacher Training at Maha Yoga in 2017. She is excited to share the wealth of yoga to the city of brother love.