This blog was written in collaboration with Linda Crawford, manager of Corporate Wellness, at Alberta Blue Cross®.
A meditation journey
Meditation has been practiced for centuries. In fact, the earliest records of meditation (dhyana) are found in the ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas, which date from around 1200 BCE. While there are various types and techniques, essentially meditation is a practice of focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity to train attention and awareness in order to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. People who use meditation report reductions in stress, anxiety, depression and even pain. Meditation can be a great tool for your well-being but getting there can be a journey. Below, one of our Alberta Blue Cross® wellness professionals, Linda, shares her meditation journey as well as some tips for beginning yours.
Truth be told, I have had an on and off relationship with meditation for nearly two decades. My first real experience was a 10-day meditation in silence in Thailand where I learned both the art and science of this practice. It was both one of the most intense and challenging things I have ever done, as well as the most life-changing and liberating—all at the same time. From there, I was inspired to teach what I had learned when I came back to Canada and share with those interested in learning basic techniques. Over the years, I took many courses in meditation and mindfulness and became certified to teach through Lifestyle Meditation.
I have been consistent again with my daily practice since December 2020 which for me is a daily ritual to sit, breathe and enter a deeper state of relaxation.
Is it always easy? Absolutely not. Are the results worth it? Absolutely yes.
Sometimes, the outcomes we are looking for require discipline and commitment and I was looking to cultivate a deeper sense of inner peace within myself after a very challenging year.
I want to share some tips if you are looking to get started and build a meditation practice as part of your self-care regime. Here is what it took for me to get back on track and to commit consistently over time. Trust me when I say, there is no better time to start then now—and you are worth it!
My key tips:
1. Make a commitment to practice daily, decide if you would prefer mornings, at lunch, before dinner or before bedtime. You can allow yourself to be fluid with it but stick to something every day. My suggestion is to start with 30 days as it takes at least 21 days to ingrain a new habit and make it an integrated part of your lifestyle.
2. Start small. Begin with two to five minutes each time. Make it a doable and achievable goal to start and work your way up. Perhaps adding a minute each day or a minute each week. Set yourself up for success and remember something is better than nothing when you are starting out.
3. Pick a location that is your “designated” meditation place when you are starting out—this will help train your brain and body of what to expect in that space. Choose a position that suits you and make whatever adjustments you need to feel comfortable so you can truly relax whether in a seated or lying down position.
4. Let your breathing become your new best friend. Allow your breath to be your only focus, then inhale and exhale. I recommend when starting out to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Start with long, deep and slow breaths and explore what happens with curiosity rather than criticism of not getting it right.
5. Embrace that you will have thoughts. When starting out, sometimes we expect to remain in a state of pure calm, but we contend with thoughts that come and go as it can feel challenging to clear our mind. Know that it is natural and normal, be patient and easy on yourself and when you notice a thought pop in, acknowledge it and take your next breath as you let it go. Keep repeating this.
6. Lastly, have fun and enjoy the process and the journey to learning a new ritual that truly can change your life for the better. You will feel lighter, more focused, more relaxed. I don’t know about you, but I am always open to a little more of that.
Life has been a roller-coaster ride for many of us in the last year and now more than ever, we need to fill our toolkit to keep self-care top of mind. I hope meditation becomes one of those tried and true practices you consider because it truly makes a monumental impact on one’s life when practiced consistently. I am speaking from lived experience of when I am doing it versus not. I know both ends of the spectrum and all I can say is right now the world needs more of us to come alive—and it all starts with ONE breath. You in? I know I am.