I can’t believe it’s already March! Where did the first two and a half months of the year go? I noted last month that a big part of my life lately has consisted of studying and taking certification exams. I’m sad to say I’m still stuck in the worst of it with a big exam coming up in just a few days. Luckily I’ll have a brief respite from testing after this one, but the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t make it any less painful of a slog! To be honest, I’m certain I’ve only survived the grueling cycle of work, housework and studying for this long with the support of my husband (he is a saint!) and because of the habits I’d been working to build up over the last couple years. If I were to pin my sanity on just one factor, though, I would say I owe a lot of the credit to meditation.
Please don’t imagine, though, that I spend an hour each day, eyes closed and legs akimbo, in peaceful contemplation. My days are as full as anyone else’s, so I don’t think an hour a day will ever be realistic, but 5-10 minutes? Too easy! And five minutes is about all it takes for me to really get focused in the morning or get my head straight to settle down in the afternoon.
Now there are all kinds of ways to get into meditation. You could start with the help of an app or a podcast, or even have someone guide you through it in person. Some people like to just focus on emptying their minds, while others prefer repeating a mantra to themselves. Personally I think it can be hard to quiet my mind either way, so I often enlist the help of my favorite meditation aid: a candle!
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting around a campfire or fireplace, you’ve probably noticed that fire has a pretty consuming power to mesmerize. Maybe you’ve lost yourself watching a crackling fire, only to realize you’ve been staring off into space through the flames for quite a while. That’s the mind-clearing power I try to harness in meditation, and so can you–just follow these steps to give it a try.
What You’ll Need:
- Candle and lighter
- A chair or cushion to sit on
- Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes
How to Get Started:
- Set up your meditation space. This can be as easy as lighting a little candle on the coffee table in front of your favorite sofa, or converting that spare closet into a meditation sanctuary with cushions, pillar candles, and some framed DIY or Etsy-procured motivational posters. Whatever works for you, go for it.
- Get yourself comfy. If you’re not already dressed in something comfortable, go ahead and change. If you’re sitting on the floor, you can sit on your feet or with legs crossed; if you’re in a chair, try to keep your feet flat on the floor. Whether you’ve opted for the floor or a chair, sit with your back straight, and shoulders relaxed so that your hands can rest palms-up on your thighs. Good posture is key for meditation because you’ll want plenty of space for your tummy to expand as you breathe deeply.
- Just breath now! I know this might seem weird to include as a step since you’re already always breathing, but you will want to focus on your breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose, completely filling your lungs, and then breathe out just as slowly and evenly through your mouth. With your eyes on the little flame in front of you, keep breathing this way.
- Let go of your thoughts. This can be the hardest part if you have a lot on your mind, but try to clear your mind as you focus on the candle and the sensation of your breaths. If a thought or a worry comes into your mind, don’t be upset or disappointed; just acknowledge that something cross your mind, tell yourself you’ll think about it later, and turn your attention back to the candle, back to your breathing, and back to the present.
Once you make it to the final step, you can feel free to do this for as long as you’d like. More often than not I set a timer on my phone–with calls and texts silenced!–for about five or ten minutes. Afterward my brain feels ready to calmly get through whatever I have in store for the next few hours.
Try this out and tell me what you think. Do you like to meditate? How do you like to refresh your mind on busy days? Let me know in the comments section. 🙂 Until next time!