It would be great if you could just ease yourself into a regular meditation practice but if you suffer from anxiety or overthinking (Christ, who doesn’t) then you may like to try one of the many tools available to enhance your meditation practice. It’s true that you don’t NEED any of these tools to meditate, the beauty of it being that it’s free and accessible to all, but the way I see it meditation should be an indulgent, enjoyable activity and here are some ways to make it so.
Aromatherapy. If you want a quick fix meditation enhancer then aromatherapy is the meditation tool for you. The first thing to remember is to choose an oil which is organic and 100% natural and choose a pure-grade carrier oil to add it to. Pure essential oils can be irritating to your skin, hence why they usually have a drop filter on the nozzle in case it all comes flooding out. Combining meditation with aromatherapy can improve your focus and there are so many different scents to choose from. If you’re looking for a relaxing vibe try lavender or rosemary, and if you want to stimulate the mind try peppermint. One of my favourite oils to meditate with is orange flower. Despite the idea that citrus is a stimulant it’s actually really relaxing.
Herbs. No, not THE herb, although this is the go-to meditation tool for many sages (there’s evidence that Jesus was a fan) and of course more famously Rastafarians. It’s all about the sage which is not only said to clear negative vibes but stimulate the mind. Another lovely herb is passionflower which is great for anxiety as it calms the mind and has a mild sedative effect.
EFT or ‘tapping’. If your emotions are in overdrive or there’s something bothering you which you just can’t shift, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is going to really help you. As you repeat your worries and tap specific points around the face and body (see pic below) repeat the words ‘but it’s OK, because I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyway.’ for a more detailed guide on how to do this, see this post HERE.
Crystals. Even if they don’t have magical powers (they totally do) crystals make lovely tools to focus your attention on whilst meditating. Amethyst or clear quartz are my go to for meditation. Simply hold the crystal in your hand or place it somewhere on your body. Even just visualising the qualities of the crystal is going to help bring something extra to your practice.
Sound. Who doesn’t love a gong bath or Tibetan singing bowl? The general idea with sound meditation is the sounds produced activate the alpha and theta brain waves which are associated with deep meditative and peaceful states. Adding sound during your meditation can help clear out your thoughts and focus them on the sounds and vibrations, making it easier for you to clear your mind.
Light. Have you ever tried gazing into a flame as a stand alone meditation practice? It’s super hypnotic. Place the candle as close to eye level as possible to avoid neck strain or slouching. It works best if the candle is about five feet away from you, and you can use different colours and scented candles depending on your mood.
Tech. I know, tech and zen are a bit of a funny mix, but there are some really helpful creations out there you can use to enhance your meditation practice. For example, The Sensate works with the vagus nerve in the chest a little like EFT to stimulate the produce of endorphins and the Muse 2 is a headband that helps monitor how you’re doing (reviews coming soon).
Mantras. One of the classic ways to enhance meditation is by repeating a mantra (ideally with a mala bead necklace) which can create a sort of hypnotic state of mind with the added benefit of clearing your thoughts and focusing on an ideal outcome. Want some tips on how to find your mantra? Click HERE
You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk or spend years with a guru to be able to benefit from meditation, and you don’t even have to go on a retreat or sit on the side of a mountain, even though you totally can. Meditation is for everyone and integrating meditation into the daily grind is a great way to start your practice. You only need five to ten minutes of meditation per day to reap the benefits so here are a few ways to get started…
Breathe. When you have a moment to spare, for example when sitting in traffic (actually, especially when sitting in traffic, aargh) relax your shoulders and begin to deepen your breath. Count the in breaths and out breaths as many times as you wish, leaving a few seconds after your out breath before you begin to breathe in. You could also add an extra couple of counts to the out breath but stop if you become light headed.
Visualise your aura. Take a few minutes while sitting on the bus, watching TV, waiting for someone or WHATEVER to visualise your aura. Start by deepening the breath and relaxing your shoulders imagining a bright, white light surrounding you. After a while you should start to see a colour. Now meditate on its protective energy.
Rotational awareness. Focus on the palm of your left hand and imagine warm water swirling around it. Now feel the water flowing up your arm and into the elbow joint. Focus on the sensations this creates and as the water moves to the next spot allow that part of your body to completely relax. Don’t forget to breathe.
Shower mindfully. Visualise all the crappy energy from the day washing away with the water. Imagine the water bright blue or green.
Triggers. Create a mindfulness trigger, for example, each time you open Instagram or do the dishes take five minutes to meditate. The idea is your brain will start to create a habit and you’ll find yourself meditating when you least expect it.
Become completely aware of your environment. What can you see, hear, smell, feel? Take a look around you and soak up your surroundings. Again, concentrate on the breath.
Focus on your hara. This is the spot two finger widths below the navel and believed to be the physical centre of the body. Meditating on this area can stabilise your energy. You’ll soon come to see it as your still point.
Walk, with your feet kissing the Earth. Keep your thoughts focused on the soles of your feet. Visualise the muscles moving in your legs and the sensations this creates. You can also mentally label the actions of each foot. First bring your attention to the back foot and the sensation of lifting as you mentally note ‘Lift’. Then move that foot through space and note ‘Move’. Now place your foot on the ground and note ‘Place’. Continue walking for five to ten minutes. You can turn around during this meditation and walk back the way you came if you’re lacking in space.
Peripheral awareness. Focus your mind (but not your vision) on an object to your side or in the distance. Let your gaze fall on an imagined point on the wall in front of you (or the back of a head if you’re sitting on the bus). Begin to take your awareness to the edges of your visual field. You can even imagine you’re gazing behind you and develop a 360 degree vision. As you do, you should notice your body start to relax, that your mind becomes quieter and you may even notice tingling sensations in your hands and feet.
Sound. Become the sound! This is especially handy if you don’t like the sound you are listening to for example sitting on a plane with a crying baby or when your neighbours are drilling through the floor. Slow your breaths and visualise yourself as the sound and watch everything else melt away.
STRIKE A POSE
When you visualise meditation the first thing you’ll probably imagine is a guru sitting cross-legged in lotus pose, but unless you’re pretty flexible sitting cross-legged can be uncomfortable. When you think that the physical poses (asanas) in yoga were designed to make sitting cross-legged more comfortable it’s clear to see that for a beginner it’s probably not the best approach. As long as your meditation pose allows your hips to be higher than your knees your spine will remain elongated and your body relaxed and comfortable. Winning! Here are some popular poses…
Legs out in front. This meditation pose is best for those with knee or hip pain. Place a cushion or folded blanket on the floor and sit with your back against a wall and legs extended out in front of you. Making sure your shoulders are relaxed and your neck gently elongating upwards, rest your hands in your lap with the palms facing upwards. Now breathe.
In a chair. Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your thighs parallel to the floor. Sit up straight and reach the crown of your head towards the sky with your shoulders gently dropped and relaxed. Rest your hands on your thighs with the palms facing down.
Cross-legged. Of course, this classic meditation pose is perfection if you don’t have restricted mobility in you hips. Simply sit on the floor and cross your shins. If you’re pretty flexible try sliding one heel onto the opposite hip crease so you’re sitting in half lotus pose. If you’re super flexible then slide the other heel onto the opposite hip too in full lotus pose (yeah right). If you feel yourself slumping try sitting on the edge of a cushion or a folded blanket, or if you have one, a meditation cushion. Reach under each sitting bone and gently move the flesh back so you can feel your pelvis rooting into the ground. Slide your shoulder blades down your back and broaden your collarbone. Lengthen the back of your neck and rest your hands on the knees with the palms facing up.
Standing. This meditation pose is great if you’re waiting in a queue and want to squeeze in a few minutes of meditation. Rooting your feet firmly down into the earth, gently draw the muscles from your pelvis up towards the torso and rotate your shoulders back and down as your neck elongates up towards the sky. Relax your arms and imagine your spine as a pillar of light, gently stretching up towards the sky as you root down into the earth.
Walking. Meditation can include movement of course and focusing on your steps is a great way to bring meditation into your everyday life. Ideally try this in a clear, open space that’s 20-30 feet long. With your arms relaxed by your side, focus your gaze softly about six feet in front of you. Bring your awareness to your feet. As you take slow, careful steps, focus on the movements of each foot.
TIP – With any of these poses, when you notice your mind drifting mentally note ‘Thinking” and bring your attention back to the breath. If you find that mentally noting interferes with your ability to concentrate then try visualising the thoughts as clouds,watching them flow past as you become a witness rather than engaging in them.
The eyes may be the window to the soul but they’re also a powerful sensory organ. With visualisation meditations you switch the view from the outer world to the inner world. Most of the visualisations used in meditation focus on things in nature. Light, water, earth, mountains, etc, which are soothing and tend to effortlessly bring you into the present moment. You can also visualise parts of the body for example rotational awareness or specific energy points for example the chakras.
Once you begin to relax during visualisation you can start meditating on the qualities of the images your visualising and how they make you feel. This is where visualisation starts to be transformative. The idea is to picture something that is soothing. Nature-based visualisations can help you create a thought pattern that is more expansive and free.
Here’s a quick visualisation to try. Start in a comfortable seated position with your eyes closed and you spine elongated, shoulders relaxed. Bring your awareness to the breath. Focus on the in breaths and out breaths until you settle into a relaxed and effortless rhythm. Now, bring your attention back to your spine. Feel it lengthening up from your pelvis though the crown of your head. Allow each breath to encourage a little more space between each vertebrae.
Now, imagine your spine as a brilliant column of light, like a ray of sun passing through the window or through the leaves of a tree. We often see our bodies as dense matter so imagine the bright column of light releasing any heaviness in your spine and filling your body with light, allowing your body to become brighter and more radiant and filled with positive energy.
Sometimes when meditating we need a little help. Ivory Gloss is a new meditation box which contains everything you need to get the most out of your meditation practice. The BLUE subscription box is out on the 22nd of each month or you can shop for GOLD boxes in the online shop which come packaged in a presentation box with gold foil elephant design.
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