The winter season presents us with shorter, colder days, and with the holiday shopping and planning, stress naturally builds. Deadlines come with the concluding of one year and to-do lists are formed with the beginning of a new one. It’s natural to fall into a winter funk and let things become chaotic. But what if we could take steps to avoid this?
Building a meditation practice can be very useful in creating and maintaining a calm inner world. By stilling our body and slowing down our thoughts, we can be more prepared for what the winter season can bring. This being said, the idea of being still and meditating is very often perceived as an impossible task. With these few tips and tools, meditation can be an obtainable, peaceful practice to incorporate as the winter season proceeds.
My first yoga teacher had wonderful imagery of what building a meditation practice may look like. Imagine a line of ants running across a sidewalk, and each ant represents a thought running through your mind. When a meditation practice is started, those ants are very close together. As we practice, the ants get further and further apart, but they never fully disappear. As we meditate, our goal is not to eliminate our thoughts completely, but to calm our mind and observe our inner landscape.
Here is a simple, attainable method of meditating that I continuously use and recommend to others. To start, find a comfortable seat. This could mean sitting in any kind of chair or even on a pillow or stack of blankets on the floor. Do sit up tall with a nice long spine and find a comfortable placement for your legs. Close your eyes and bring attention to your body and breath. Feel your sit bones on what is beneath you. This is your foundation as you sit, holding you safely in space. Imagine your inhales like water filling your pelvic bowl and your exhales moving down through your sit bones strengthening your foundation. When thoughts from the outer world come, let them, observe them, then let them go. Remember not to place judgement on things that come up. Begin to let your inhales flow up the length of your spine. Exhale and feel the breath move down your spine through your sit bones. Continue like this, inhale to fill and rise, exhale to fall and connect. When you catch yourself dwelling on an outside thought, come back to your foundation and connection to the earth beneath your seat. Every so often consciously release tension around your neck and jaw, letting it melt down your spine as you exhale. To conclude any meditation practice, gently blink your eyes open and slowly bring awareness back to the world around you.
Feel free to meditate without time restrictions. If you do like some boundaries or goals, it is nice to set up an alarm with a gentle bell or chime. Five minutes of quiet meditation can carry a sense of calm through the rest of your busy day. Notice, as you cultivate this practice, that this calm sense of dealing with outside thoughts while meditating can translate into our lives. As stress builds or a stressful situation arises, slow your breath and connect to your foundation, then proceed. During this season of gratitude, we can find space to be grateful for ourselves, our mind, and this body we live in as well as the people around us.