I’ve been seeing a lot of memes lately referencing June, 2020 and Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer” and how yes, we are halfway to the end this year. This life-changing year. If any year could send the message to people that taking care of your mental health is important, it’s been 2020. Whether because you’ve been isolating and lonely, been out of a job, have been an essential worker, been demanding change with the Black Lives Matter movement; slowing down, and doing some self-care is important. Part of that can include meditation. I recently sat down to (virtually) talk to Lauren Schuivens, who is based in Bali, a transformational facilitator, Certified Mindfulness and Meditation trainer and founder of the wellness brand, Samavira. We talked on why meditation is important emotionally, the preconceived notions about meditation, and how you can easily practice it.
Imagine sitting on the sand at a beach and watching the water rush towards you, only to be pulled back in. Or sitting here, without looking at your phone, and just watching the water move in and out, in and out. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? Would you believe it that this is meditation – even though there may not be any mantras, or incense, and your eyes are open? According to Lauren, it actually is. Which is probably good news to most of us out there. For many, the idea of meditation has become some sort of an unachievable thing, with lots of prerequisites attached to it. Many of us believe that we must be sitting quietly, eyes closed in a dark room for twenty, thirty minutes, or even longer. Sure, that can be a form of meditation. But as Lauren points out, forcing the mind to do something it doesn’t want to is just another way of pushing ourselves – which we do far too often, anyways.
But it can also be listening to a meditation app for a few minutes. It can be walking outside, or doing something called forest bathing. It can be watching the waves at the beach, or maybe sitting down and listening to some of your favorite music. Meditation isn’t about emptying your mind. According to Lauren, it’s about focusing the mind, and focusing it on one conscious thought. When that happens, the mind is able to slow down. It’s a gradual process, but with more practice, the mind slows down more easily, and for longer periods of time, creating a peaceful mind to exist. Lauren says that meditation is the path back to inner peace.
Because let’s face it: It’s all too true that many people think negative things. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of all thoughts are actually negative. And most are thoughts that you already thought from the day before. Obviously, the mind seems to be filled with darker thoughts more often than not. Add the year 2020 into the mix, and a negative mindset seems even more of a sure thing. Whelp. This in turn has a real impact on how you go about each day, what you believe you’re capable of, and how you practice emotional healing. We essentially are our thoughts. We believe what we tell ourselves, oftentimes victimizing ourselves when things don’t go right. Which ends up trapping us.
Lauren knows how true and powerful this is. She has healed from her experience of being raped and has worked in a war zone in East Africa. These experiences were traumatic and difficult, and took her a long time to heal through them. Changing her mindset and working through it with meditation and mindfulness were instrumental in the healing process by harnessing the power of meditation.
Lauren says meditation is a “tool” in which we can actually become aware of our thoughts. When we do this, according to Lauren, we begin to feel connected to our bodies, and to our mind. There is an inner strength within each of us, and by using meditation, we can either reconnect to that or strengthen the connection. With that connection to our inner strength, working through anxieties, negative thought patterns and mindsets becomes more navigable. This results in a healthier mind, and one better equipped to deal with personal traumas and the year 2020 in general.
If you wish to practice a more traditional approach to meditating, try out this advice from Lauren.
Visualization and mantras during meditation allows the mind to focus on one particular thing, without other thoughts interfering. Recall that when this happens, the mind can relax.
- Sit down and be comfortable, with a straight neck and back, hands on lap. You can be on the floor with legs comfortably crossed, or in a chair with feet flat and grounded.
- Shift attention to your breath. Don’t change anything on the depth, or rhythm. Just observe it.
- Begin to visualize a warm, bright orb or sun. Imagine you are swallowing the sun, allowing it to slip down and deep inside the belly. Don’t worry what this could look like. Instead, focus on what type of sensations this brings.
- If you want, you can begin thinking (just thinking!) of the mantra “clear and bright.” Keep thinking of that sun in your belly, and notice if you feel the vibration of the mantra in your belly.
Why the belly? The belly, or rather the space just above your navel, is the center of the body. With focused attention on this part of the body, the mind-body connection becomes stronger, and the mind becomes more restful.
Another thing about meditation and practicing some self-care is decluttering. Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Take a look around at your space. Is it comfortable? Is it clean? Is it welcoming? Do you have easy access to things you enjoy? Even if you checked off all of these things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all is well with you internally – but it certainly helps. Having your space organized and orderly will eliminate any potential stress when it comes to misplacing things or searching for your car keys. It may even become a sense of pride.
Whatever your method of self-care has been, meditation is powerful. So sit quietly, listen to your favorite tunes, or take a walk out in nature.