By Grace Snarr
“Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be evident to all.” ~1 Timothy 4:15
Meditation. It’s a word surrounded by speculation, abnormality, and a little bit of reluctance. Maybe one of our crazy aunts meditates and takes sabbaticals to India, or maybe not. Maybe you haven’t even heard of meditation until now! Even if you have a little idea, or not even a guess, you’re in the right place, (or article, for that matter).
What is meditation? Meditation is a stilling of the mind through breath and “zoning out.” Being still has been revered for millennia as a method of peace and calm. In the Bible, Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know…”
Meditation has been practiced for over 6,000 years in many different cultures, religions, and regions of the world. In fact, almost every different kind of Eastern culture or religion has its own form of meditation. Meditation was first introduced to Western culture about 3,000 years ago, to the Greeks. That original knowledge dwindled soon after, but resurfaced in the late 20th century, specifically in the 1960’s, (You know, when all the hippies started doing their weird hippy thing? ;)). Today, the practice of meditation has yet again caught fire. Many people are seeing the emotional, and very physical, benefits of stilling your mind. Athletes, CEO’s, and moms alike are finding the joy of balancing the mind everyday. Now… As teens, what is our part in this? You’re saying, “Are we supposed to practice meditation?”, “There are SO MANY techniques online! How are we supposed to meditate?” In this article, I’m going to answer each one.
Meditation has awesome emotional benefits. Harvard University did a study into what meditation actually does to your brain and emotions. In the study, the participants were meditating 27 minutes on average each day for 8 weeks. What they found was incredible!
“The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.”
Many others studies have concluded that meditation has a wide variety of emotional benefits, such as:
- Higher focus
- Less anxiety, less depression
- Lessens stress, fear, and loneliness
- Increases happiness, joy, and positivity in general
- Helps develop positive social connections
A consistent, daily practice of meditation can help us emotionally and physically. Meditation can lower depression, boost your immunity, and generally create more positivity in our lives. Um, can you say awesome? So, now that we’ve got the why and the what of meditation, let’s look at the how.
“So, how do we do it? Do we have to sit with our legs in a pretzel and hum for an hour?” No, siree! While this is the cookie-cutter visual for stilling our minds, meditation comes in many forms and varieties. The thing is, we have to find what is right for us. Some of us have crazy, awesome, busy lives to live. Some of us have a more flexible time frame. Then, most of us are usually in between the two extremes. How do we keep up a daily, consistent practice of meditation to receive all of the awesome benefits of doing so?
- You have to want it. If you’re not really interested in being calmer, less stressed, and more happy, than meditation might not be for you. Being fully invested meditation it will allow you to get the tons of goodies.
- You have to set aside time. If you followed the first step, this will happen automatically. Or, if you’re still not on the bandwagon yet, set aside time and fake it ‘till you make it. Believe it or not, you might find some awesome things about meditation that are unique to you. Dip your toes in, and I promise you will want to swim. Find a time in your day when you won’t be interrupted, bothered by loud noise, or jostled by tasks. Even if you don’t have all three checked off, find some space and headphones and sit your butt down on a pillow.
- Change your breath pattern throughout the day, not just when you’re meditating. Our culture is all about busy, rush, and efficiency. We often don’t realize we have been suffocating our bodies this whole time! When you breath in, does your stomach expand or contract? If it contracts, you’ve been doing it wrong. Start by taking a deep breath in, and expanding your stomach while doing so. This opens up your diaphragm, keeps it open, and helps to improve circulation and oxygenation of your body. In meditation, we use this deep breath to restore our minds and bodies. Imagine doing this the whole day!
“Grace… Aren’t you going to tell us HOW to meditate?” Actually, no. I can give you a couple of tips and lessons from what I do in my practice, but your meditation practice will be unique to you. Below, I’m going to share two meditations I use whenever I feel myself getting stressed, angry, or even just sad. These are called “backpack meditations” because you can take them out of your spiritual backpack anytime, anywhere.
Backpack Meditation #1:
Sit: in easy pose (cross-legged on the floor).
Mudra: Left hand near left ear, thumb touching ring finger. Right hand in lap, thumb touching little finger. (Men reverse hands.)
Breath: Long, deep breath for 11 minutes.
Close the meditation: Once you’ve finished your 11-minute meditation, then raise your hands over your head and shake them for three minutes. I suggest shaking them to the Florence + the Machine song, “Shake it Out.” Even just doing 1 minute of this meditation will help you decrease stress and let loose.
Backpack Meditation #2
(Meditation for a Broken Heart)
Posture: Sit in Easy Pose with a straight spine and a light Neck Lock.
Mudra: Palms together, lightly touching. The tip of the Saturn (middle) finger is at the level of the Third Eye Point. The forearms are horizontal to the ground, elbows high. Look within.
Time: Continue for 11, 31, or 62 minutes.
To end: Inhale, exhale, relax the breath, and with clasped hands stretch the arms up for 2 minutes.
These are two meditations I use often. Sometimes, my meditation consists of laying on the floor and breathing deeply for five minutes. That’s it. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a “perfect practice.” There is no such thing. It is surrendering yourself to peace and calm, not whether the incense is lit or not, that matters.
I challenge you to meditate for five minutes a day for 30 days. Write down your anxieties, fears, sadness on one piece of paper before you start the journey. Don’t pull the piece of paper out until the end of your 30 day, and then see what happens.
Meditation has changed my life. It has healed my anxieties, allowed me to get off medication for ADHD, and also has helped me expand my awareness to others. We’re homeschooling teens, which means we have an awesome opportunity to change the world. As Yogi Bhajan said, “If you cannot bless yourself, then nobody can bless you.” Let’s get going!
Be the change,
Grace Snarr is a teen leader and freelance writer who is inspiring teens to achieve their dreams and follow their passions. She has worked with Daniel Blanchard, award-winning speaker, author, and educator. She has also written for Lyndsay Johnson on her popular site. Grace is a sunshine enthusiast, a lover of people, and a passionate writer and leader!
MAIN SITE: thewhitewashchronicles.blogspot.com