Meditation is a medicine that I am always seeking more of in my life. I am no expert. I started playing and experimenting with meditation back in college, and my history with it has been inconsistent. I would chalk up this variability to a lack of time, but the truth of the matter is that we always have time for what we make time for. It comes down to what we choose to prioritize. As soon as I let go of needing my meditation practice to be what I viewed as correct or right – a quiet space, no noise, at least twenty minutes – I started meditating more. I have found that whenever I choose to make space for meditation, there is a substantial difference in my mood and wellbeing.
I would define meditation as a practice of creating space and relaxing my mind to more deeply connect to my body and to spirit (whether that’s God, the universe, or whatever you wish to name it). Science has proven meditation to have countless benefits including decreasing stress and anxiety, increasing cognitive functions including memory and focus, enhancing self-awareness, encouraging kindness, fighting addictions and improving sleep. Here are a few of the ways it’s benefited me:
- Quiets my mind. I am very cerebral and meditation helps me quiet my mind. At first, I found quieting my thoughts to be very challenging. One strategy I have learned is that when a thought arises in your mind, note it, and let it pass without following the thought. It is key for me to not judge myself when I do find that I have been following thoughts, but continuously let go.
- Gets me in my body. By nature, I am in my head, over thinking and over analyzing, and meditation makes it easier for me to get out of my head and into the moment. I literally feel more at home in my skin and physically present in the material world. This has been key with having babies – I am able to truly be present with them and in my body.
- Breaks negative thought patterns. As I have quieted my mind, I have learned that I am not my thoughts, but my thoughts shape my reality. Creating this separation between my Self and my thoughts has helped me recognize negative thought patterns when they arise. This is a muscle that I have built over time and I am constantly strengthening. The next step is to take the steps necessary to reprogram them to create positive patterns - perhaps I'll go into my tools for this on another post, but if you want to start today here is where I began.
- Makes space for connection. When I meditate, I literally feel space in my mind open up. I can feel my third-eye relax and activate, allowing for a deep connection to my soul and the universe, and messages can come through. You may also call them ideas. For me, these ideas feel different – they are an inner knowing, a bit of wisdom that pops up from being buried deep inside. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does it is magical.
- Increases self-love. As I said, we make time for what we want to make time for. So creating time and space to sit and meditate for even five minutes, it sends out an energetic signal to the universe that you are worthy of that time. You are worthy of that connection, those benefits, that you love yourself enough to create that space. This may be the most powerful part of a meditation practice.
When experimenting with the different apps for this blog post, I realized that I personally prefer an unstructured take on meditation. I like to turn on Theta Waves, do some deep breathing, and then just let go for as long as I can before a baby starts crying. Sometimes I’ll focus on a mantra like Sat Nam, inhaling sat and exhaling nam, which is a Kundalini yogic mantra. Here are some of the meditation apps I have on rotation. (Screenshots of apps pictured above are in order of the list below).
- Simply Being: I have used this app for years. I think it was one of the first out there long before Headspace and Inscape. It is as advertised – very simple – one guided meditation that can be 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes long. It features a female voice with calming music reminding you to “simply be,” letting your thoughts go, and be in the present moment. I still like this super simple meditation years later.
- Theta Waves: Another very simple app, it features a theta wave frequency and you can add nature sounds (i.e. ocean waves, rain, or crickets) and meditative music (i.e. Tibetan or Peace and Tranquility), for a designated period of time (5, 10, 20 minutes and up wards). We exist in a Beta wave state most of our days, Alpha is the state you get to when you close your eyes, and Theta is the next deepest state (4-7Hz) before Delta which is deep, dreamless sleep. Theta is associated with deep relaxation, day dreaming and creativity, and listening to this wavelength helps bring your brain into this state.
- Insight: I am new to this app, but I am enjoying the Timer function. It also features guided meditations by experts that are sorted by topic and rated by users. I clicked on a Tree Meditation that looked interesting and it literally told me “please pause this meditation till you’re able to gain access to a tree,” so I guess I’ll have to try another time! The community aspect is not for me – you can see what people are meditating to, even how long they have left in their meditation, and share your own. As I said, I like to be more free form with my meditations and I enjoy the Timer where you choose a starting bell and your own music – the Moonlight setting is so soothing it almost puts me to sleep.
- Headspace: A very popular app, Headspace is perfect for beginners or someone who likes more structure. They offer themed packages that follow a linear progression, i.e. Basics is a series of 10 meditations that progress from easy to more complex, and then there are additional Basics packages. There are sets for everything, from Stress, Sleep, Sadness, Self-Esteem, to Relationships – there is so much to choose from! It is not my favorite, as I gravitate towards a less structured approach to meditation.
- Inscape: I have begun experimenting with their free content but I have yet to sign up for a subscription to unlock further meditations. I enjoyed the calm voice and simple flow of the guided meditation. The aesthetic of the App is beautiful and well crafted. I like the way the meditations are categorized into Moments like Energetic Morning, Tranquil Evening, and Instant Stress Relief. Next time I find myself in a meditation rut, I think I will subscribe and try it out further!