Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it. – Sharon Salzberg.
April is a time of year for renewal. In the Springtime months, people will often take stock of their current situation, examining their habits and behaviors, and begin to make plans for change or rededication. This is especially true in the domain of self-care. New memberships to gyms, yoga studios & workout classes all see an increase in March and April. Nutritional programs and weight-loss support groups also report an elevated level of participation. And, naturally, in correlation with the better weather, parks, bike paths, running tracks, tennis courts and ball fields are all far more populated with eager activity-seeking enthusiasts. There is a noticeable buzz in the general awareness of health and wellness all around us. Spring fever is in the air.
So this is also an excellent time to consider the essential balance of taking care of your whole self: Not just the body, but also the mind and spirit. And when it comes to taking care of the mind there is probably no better, more universally accessible resource than meditation. Meditation is abundantly available, has an enormously wide range of approaches and traditions, can be done alone or in groups and in fact only requires the willingness of the practitioner. It is as free and natural as the air we breathe and the water with which we replenish if we just take the time to engage in the practice: to spend time, in stillness, with our heart and our mind.
One of the key elements of meditation practice, much like any activity associated with self-care, is to develop some continuity in the engagement. This is why we use the word practice: It’s something that really serves the participant in its regularity. Just as doing a good amount of physical exercise is beneficial mostly if it is done consistently rather than erratically, we will discover the true rewards of meditation when we cultivate some degree of structure surrounding our practice. (But this does not have to mean anything more than a few minutes, on a regular basis. It’s about the quality and the consistency, not the quantity.)
There are many helpful tools and resources that can be incredibly helpful to developing the structure for a regular practice. A key to remember is that a practice of any kind will be far more sustainable when there are support systems in place. Fortunately for the aspiring or re-committing practitioner, there are numerous simple supports that can be accessed easily.
One of the simplest and perhaps most essential tools is to create a meditation space in your living quarters. This can be something as simple as a mindful “refuge area,” with a cushion or blanket—or a chair, if that is more conducive for you—and perhaps a little meditation altar with candles or flowers or pictures or anything that brings to mind for you a sense of tranquility and gentleness. The goal is to create a space that invites you to feel at ease and that you associate with a peaceful, soothing energy.
Another really helpful idea is to create a meditation “mini-sangha.” Sangha is the Sanskrit term for community. So a “meditation community” can be as simple as a fellow practitioner or multiple practitioners with whom you practice or with whom you text or email or call in correlation with your practice. For example, you might just have an arrangement where you and a good friend who also meditates text each other “ I meditated” whenever one of you has completed a five minute (or more) session. The simplicity of this support system is wonderful and the benefits can be enormous in terms of motivation for practice!
Another beneficial tool is to use one or more of the numerous apps now available to support your practice. The great thing about these apps is that they can serve as portable meditation guides, as a kind of “movable refuge” for practicing, and also for documenting and tracking your practice. There are many great applications easily downloadable and most are free. Some apps that are particularly popular now and highly recommended are Insight Timer, Headspace, Omvana, Meditation Timer Pro, and Relax Melodies.
And lastly, it is always useful to consider taking a class or even watching one of the thousands of freely available meditation guides or talks on Youtube. Most yoga studios, such as Jivamukti, Three Jewels, or Integral, offer some meditation instruction and there are many other studios, centers, temples and churches that have meditation in some form that you may connect with.
The beautiful thing to keep in mind is there is no right or wrong way to meditate and there is no better time to begin or recommit to your practice than this present moment.
Written by Gabriel Woodhouse for bodono.
Gabriel Woodhouse is one of the teachers at Three Jewels which offers free meditation classes every weekday morning and on Friday evenings. Three Jewels functions as a Meditation, Yoga, Dharma, and Outreach Center for the community. More info at: threejewels.org