Today is the fall equinox – a beautiful time to take stock in what we want to release, nurture and nourish. A day associated with balance and equanimity, daylight will be as long as the night. With the flow of nature, the days will begin to get shorter, the temps cooler, and our activities will slow and move indoors as we’re gently encouraged to transition with the season. Tuning into the deeper essence of the autumnal equinox, it's also an opportunity turn our minds internal, trusting our intuitive capacity to listen to our needs and calm our overactive minds. Because let’s face it – after a year like this, we could all use a little bit of a mental break.
One of the best ways to help navigate our inner worlds is through mindful meditation. By paying attention to our breath, we are reminded how to achieve emotional and physical balance, releasing stress and anxiety with our exhalation and bringing awareness to the present moment with our inhalation.
Incorporating a daily practice of meditation can actually help our bodies produce a relaxation response, yielding such biomedical benefits as a decreasing our heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen intake and stress hormones. It can also improve our immune system function, reduce inflammation, regulate our glucose response, promote DNA repair mechanisms, increase our white blood cell count and natural killer cells, and improve our physical and emotional well-being.
So, how do we meditate? It’s easy – really.
Thanks to technology, there are a handful of guided meditation apps to try. Or we can simply sit comfortably in an upright position, either cross legged or in a chair with our feet firmly on the ground, close our eyes and begin breathing. Start by taking a deep breath through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. Become aware of the room––our breath and sensations in the body – and anchor through the root chakra. The goal is to stay focused on the breath, silence and stillness and to avoid active thinking, but if our mind wanders (and most likely it will), we can gently (without judgment) bring it back to the breath.
Seems easy, right? Ah, we all know it's much harder than it sounds! Some tricks for an active or “monkey mind" is to inhale for five seconds, hold the breath in for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, hold the breath out for five seconds, and repeat. For some, it's easier to stay present by reciting a silent mantra. This could be a prayer, a feeling we want to cultivate or words that simply make us feel at peace. If we're still having a difficult time focusing, it's important to be gentle with ourselves and not critical. Eventually, finding a silent place in our mind and body will become easier.
Once we have completed our meditation, it's nice to take a few minutes to gradually open our eyes and acclimate back into our surroundings. And then we can offer gratitude to ourself for setting aside the time to practice mindfulness.
Meditating for as little as ten to fifteen minutes a day can have a significant impact on our health – physical, mental, and emotional – as well as deepen our personal awareness and sense of self. By training ourselves to be more open to what lies inside, we will ultimately become more balanced and resilient to whatever comes our way. Here's to a new season filled with hope, commitment and grace.
"Be conscious of yourself as consciousness alone, watch all the thoughts come and go. Come to the conclusion, by direct experience, that you are really consciousness itself, not its ephemeral contents." – Annamalai Swami