Many of us have trouble switching off, letting go and finding time for some head-space. Meditation is a sure-fire way to help with all of the above and more!
Most importantly, meditation invites you to make time for yourself. We often need a reason to do something. Meditation helps you to disconnect, gives you a break from ruminating thoughts, allows you to switch off and let go of unhelpful patterns.
I'd been meditating long before I even realised meditation was 'a thing'
My mind is a busy one. Even as a kid I would have thoughts running through my head all the time. Sometimes good. Mostly good. Sometimes not so helpful. Soon though, I started to notice that my mind didn't wander so much when I listened to soft instrumental music. Then when I was busily performing and dancing as a teenager, I tried something to quiet my mind. To give (my mind) a break and give it a rest. A vacation from all the thoughts running through my head.
Practising my Meditation Technique
Back in 1999 I was teaching a group of students about to take their practical drama exam. Many of them were extremely nervous and anxious about the examiner coming to watch. So I decided to use my calming technique so they could feel less stressed. I got them all to lay down on the carpeted classroom floor and instructed them to close their eyes. I put on my calming music (from my stash of HMV instrumentals😜) and began to talk them through a body scan visualisation.
After about 15 minutes, most of them got up with a serene smile on their face. Some had fallen asleep, and others continued to lay still, enjoying feeling calmer and more confident. My technique had quietened their minds from all those anxious thoughts running through their heads. It worked! So I started doing this with my other classes before my students had a performance. To calm their minds and nerves, my technique reminded them that everything was going to be OK.
Fast forward a few years later when a coaching client who was training to become a meditation specialist offered to give me a session. I was so excited. She was brilliant, but I found it very hard to keep still and sit upright. My back was hurting and I kept fidgeting. By the end of the session though, I felt fantastic and incredibly calm.
I thought, “Ooooh, I like this kinda peaceful”
Because my mind is all over the gaff, I have found that I have to prep my brain and my body with a little ritual to set me up nicely for my meditation sessions. It's a helpful and vital step to get the most out of the practice. So, I want to share with you - How I do Meditation. Feel free to use this as a guide in the best way that works for you. I would love to know how it helps you switch off and feel calm. Ready, my Lovely, Let’s begin...
How I Do Meditation - A Step by Step Guide
Step 1- Getting Ready
Setting up is a key part of the meditation process. Setting up signals to our minds that we are about to transition into something else. If you struggle to stop working, down tools or switch off, this is perfect for you to make that shift. I tend to meditate in comfortable clothes when I’m at home and before I put on my makeup in the morning. It’s a way of centering myself before I start my day. It might be different for everyone but, putting makeup on signals my day has begun. I need to ‘Do Me’ before my day begins. I either have my Meditation Tool Kit at the ready in a little container or, sometimes I gather what I need for a slightly slower transition. I can feel myself calming as I gather my meditation items. This technique also works well at times in the day if I’m feeling quite tense or agitated, as it begins to lead my mind into my calm meditation preparation shift.
THE MEDITATION TOOL KIT: (Here’s mine - tailor your kit for you)
A Quiet Space to lie down
Candle & matches
Step 2 - The Ritual
Lighting the candle is a lovely part of my ritual. It makes me feel special and taken care of and that I matter. It also reminds me that I am surrounded by light and positivity. Once I’ve lit the candle, I enjoy watching the flame for a moment. I may burn some incense to have that aroma too. It depends on how I feel. I follow my intuition and go with that. I have my notebook to hand and often like to do some gratitude journaling before I start. Next I get snuggled in my blankets. I prefer to be covered while meditating; it makes me feel warm and cosy. This is a further signal that helps my body know to switch off. It is now time to relax...ooh ahh!
Step 3 - Getting Comfortable
For me, meditation is my personal time. I do it purely to make myself feel good and indulgent. Once I’ve started the audio and I’m lying down, I take a moment to notice if I’m comfortable. Are my shoulders tense? Are my arms relaxed? I make sure my legs are floppy and soft. It can take me up to a good minute to get properly comfortable. I bear this in mind when I create my subscriber meditations - the intro is the time for you to truly settle in without missing any of the calming flow. I want to feel a sense of letting go and slowing down into calmness. I want to feel at ease through my back, that my hands are fully relaxed and my feet are cosy. I can’t meditate with cold feet!
Step 4 - Meditation Time
You are essentially taking your mind to a calm and positive place. That’s what mediation is.
I tend to meditate three times a day. Morning meditations are so valuable; they set you up for the day ahead and align your energy. Midday meditations are a treat especially, if I have the luxury of doing them when at home. I absolutely love my night time meditations for a restful sleep and gratitude ritual. You can meditate at any time and, combining it with affirmations is a highly effective way for a personal ‘mini-moment’ on the go. Pick a time that works for you that you can stick to. Keep it the same where possible - meditation loves routine. I like to meditate for about 30 mins and then 15 mins journaling. Anything less than 10 mins feels way too quick. I’m just getting started at 7 mins in!!!
Step 5 - Meditation
Our breathing changes how we feel. I always start meditation with my breath. I take a few cleansing breaths in and gentle breaths out. I like to think of it as breathing in courage and breathing out love. Our breathing is linked to the nervous system and essentially it’s what calms us down. If someone is having a panic attack, the first thing they are taught is to control their breath. Once I’m in the flow, I’m fully immersed. My mind doesn’t wander as much anymore because I've practised meditating for so long now. It feels like a gentle way to feel less stressed and more in control of my thoughts, which in turn affects how I feel.
When I finish Meditating - I feel great! I love feeling like that.
You’re refreshed, energised and renewed for the next part of your day or task. My meditation time sets me up nicely. It transports me to another place where all is calm and peaceful. When I’ve finished, I feel phenomenal. I feel like I’m on top of the world and that I can push through anything...in an easy-breezy kinda way 😊 My body feels relaxed, not sleepy, but calm. My mind is so much clearer and less foggy. It boosts me from the inside out. I love it! And in the times when I haven’t meditated, I really notice the difference in my mental chatter, my mood and overall well being. Something definitely feels off when I don’t do it. It’s like my best friend.
Here are my top 3 meditation tips to get you started....
Be in the mood - Have a go (at meditation) whenever you’re in the mood to relax, not when you’re feeling stressed or have lots going on. If you’re finding it a challenge to unwind, the experience will be frustrating and off-putting. Give it a try after a chilled morning or a relaxing afternoon. You might find it’s a better time than attempting to meditate first thing in the morning, when your mind is racing or eager to get on with your day. Meditating at a regular set time will get easier, but for now starting with a calm lead-up is best to build your practice.
Start small - Begin with a 1 minute meditation, then a 3 minute one next time, then 5 minutes, work up to 7 minutes and so on. Like anything, it takes time to adjust. I can happily meditate for an hour now, but in the beginning I couldn't do more than five minutes. I increased my practice gradually over time. You will know when it's time to increase your meditation time. When you feel it is too short, it’s time to add on a few minutes and see how you go. I listen to my body, if I'm too fidgety to do an hour I may choose a 15 minute session.
Begin with a visual focus - Like your breath or parts of your body. This will help you to stay present and in the moment. Rather than diving into a meditation for anxiety or stress - which are quite heavy going when you're starting out - use physical or visual imagery is an easier way to help you switch off. HLB’s 3-2-1 technique is a short 3 minute meditation you can try for an uplifting taster. Sign up here to our newsletter and put 321 in the message box for your free download.
Meditation helps you switch off from a racing mind, stressful thoughts and unhelpful chatter in an instant. And did you know the effects last longer the more often you meditate? Yes! The more you do, you are training your brain to be resilient and self-restoring in everyday life. Because life is always going to throw something at us right?
Got a few minutes? Great! Get Your Meditation Here
If you’re like me and you struggle to keep focus in absolute quiet, then you may want to try my technique too. I call them ‘Mini Moments’ Meditations. A soothing audio experience that is guided throughout, to help keep you present. Subscribe to the HLB mailing list, grab a new meditation in each issue, and get access to the entire meditation catalogue available free and exclusively to all my subscribers.