Meditating for Lent
For beginners, even meditating for five minutes is productive.
Yoga can be practiced separately from or in conjunction with any religion. For me, as a United Methodist, I think of meditating as a way to be aware of God’s presence and to guide me. You can also set an intention. Perhaps your intention is to feel grateful, to feel love, to think loving-kindness thoughts about someone you care about, to find peace, to set a goal, etc.
Stilling the body and noticing the breath can also clear your mind and help you focus. Often yoga teachers say that whatever happens on the mat, happens off the mat. For example, if you find yourself in a difficult pose, you should relax, try your best, and breathe. If something is stressful or challenging is happening in your life, relax, try to focus on your breath. I try to remember this when I am teaching and I am thrown off by two children having a conflict or dealing with a child who is making poor choices or being disruptive. I take deep breaths and it helps me react to the situation better.
When I was a kid I used to worry a lot. I would get nervous about school or swim meets or all kinds of things. My mom gave me worry dolls, which were a Native American tradition. There are six little dolls in a box and you pick up each one and think of your worry and you let the doll worry about it for you. Once you’ve gone through your worries with your dolls, you aren’t worried any more. You let go of your worries.
Meditation is like that.
Focusing on the breath helps you live in the present moment. How many thoughts can we have at one time? One. But as soon as that one thought comes in, another one comes. So we are full of thoughts. And with thoughts come feelings. If we worry about the past, we might feel guilt, regret, sadness. If we worry about the future we might feel anxiety, worry, busy, etc. If we live in the present moment, yogis believe, we can reach happiness.
In the west, we care a lot about dental hygiene. My teacher calls meditation “mental hygiene.”: If we can take 5 minutes a day to clean our teeth, we can certainly devote some time to our mind.
Ideas for meditation….
Sit comfortably. Gently close your eyes.
Try to concentrate on one idea at a time. It is natural to have thoughts enter your head but notice them and let them pass, imagine them floating by likes clouds in the sky.
Here are some methods to help you concentrate… Find a comfortable seat or lie down. Turn off your cell phone.
1. Count your breaths backward from 20 to 1. Try to keep track. If you lose count, start over at 20. Think “20 navel in, 20 navel out”. This can be done lying down or sitting comfortably.
2. Find a point of focus. It can be eyes closed and focusing on the area between your eyebrows (your “third eye) or it could be a candle.
3. Find a mantra (man means thinking and tra means tool so it’s a thinking tool!) that you can repeat to yourself in your head. Examples: Breathe in (say “let”) and breathe out (say “go.”) It can be any saying, line from a song or poem, etc.
4.) You can meditate on a spiritual quality like forgiveness, gratitude, or compassion. Remember a time you forgave someone. Remember a time someone forgave you. Imagine forgiving someone who you have yet to forgive. You can think of people, teachers, things that you are grateful for with every breath. You can think about a time someone showed compassion to you, a time you showed someone compassion, and imagine a time when you will show someone compassion within the next week. You can also set goals and imagine yourself reaching them. How will you feel when you have accomplished them?
5.) Go to “the Meditation podcast” with Jesse and Gene Stern for more ideas. These are guided meditations that you can listen to. They have made a world of a difference to me and many friends of mine.