Meditation is one of those things that can really help bring greater abundance into your life. Because when you make decisions from a place of calm centredness, those decisions are much more likely to support your abundance and be in line with your life’s purpose. But regular meditation is not something that everyone finds it easy to stick to…
I’ve been a spiritual seeker for over 25 years, and in all that time I’ve never really sustained a regular sit-down meditation practice for more than a few months at a stretch.
Why not? I’m not sure. I was once brutally attacked as a child while I was sleeping, and I do suffer from PTSD and anxiety related to that incident. So maybe on some deep level I feel the need to keep one eye open?
Whatever the reason, for a long time I considered that not doing regular sit-down meditation was a big failing in my spiritual practice. Now, I choose to focus on what practices I do manage to achieve regularly – that calm my mind and soothe my soul – and I’ve stopped beating myself up for not being a great sit-down meditator.
I know that I’m not alone in finding sit-down meditation to be something that’s hard to sustain on a regular basis. Some people find it difficult or uncomfortable to sit still, physically. Others find it hard to carve out quiet time for it. And for some, the racing of the mind is too strong to be able to sit down and shift straight into a peaceful meditative state.
Sometimes it’s easier to do something first that engages, occupies and calms the mind… and then maybe a few minutes of quiet meditation can be had after that.
Here are some simple ‘non-meditation’ practices that I’ve incorporated into my daily life to help me calm my racing mind…
This is something that I find helps me with my anxiety – I listen to a 12 minute track of music each day that is designed to bring the left and right hemispheres of my brain into sync with each other. The tracks are different each day, because the brain can get used to it and so the tracks are switched up a bit to help ensure that it remains effective.
I’ve mentioned this on my blog before because I’ve noticed that it really helps me with my anxiety levels, and I love it because brainwave entrainment therapy is a non-drug treatment that has some clinical trial science backing it up. I’ve noticed that if I stop doing it for a few days my anxiety starts to ramp up again, and then when I get back on it it backs off quickly. So my personal experience is that it does have a positive effect.
One of the hacks you can use when you’re trying to create a new positive habit, is to tie it to a habit you already have. Things you already do every day like waking up, having a shower or brushing your teeth. So for me, I tend to do my brainwave entrainment as soon as I wake up. I open my eyes, grab my phone and earphones off the bedside table, put on my brainwave entrainment track and lie in bed listening to it for 12 minutes before I do anything else.
I use a membership site called www.revolutioner.com to access brainwave entrainment tracks (I’m not affiliated with that site). I’ve also heard that something called Zen 12 Meditation is designed to have a similar effect, but I haven’t tried it myself: www.zen12.com (I’m not affiliated with them either!)
This is a practice whereby you repeat a specific phrase (mantra), in order to still the mind and induce a vibratory alignment with your spiritual essence.
The mantra is a phrase you use to replace or overwrite the regular chatter of the mind. It’s hard to stop the mind from wanting to chatter. In sit-down meditation the practitioner generally works on diverting focus away from that chatter, and thereby letting it go. With Mantra Japa, the constant repetition of the mantra kind of ‘crowds out’ the chatter of the mind and replaces it with something that has a higher vibratory frequency.
Dr. Wayne Dyer was a great proponent of using “I am” statements as repetitive mantras. Like, “I am love” or “I am light.” Whereas in the yogic traditions Sanskrit mantras like “Om Namah Shivaya” or the Tibetan Buddhist mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” are often used, as it’s believed that their sounds create specific spiritual vibratory frequencies.
For Mantra Japa, you can use japa beads to count the mantras. That’s if you want to measure how many mantras you’re doing per day. But I don’t do that, because it doesn’t motivate me. I just chant my mantra when I remember to, and I try to remember to chant it as much as possible. It is recommended for Mantra Japa that you do at least 108 intentional repetitions per day, with full focus.
I was initiated into a mantra by my spiritual teacher, Amma (sometimes referred to as ‘The Hugging Saint’). I’m so profoundly grateful for the mantra I received from Amma in 1994, because I believe that Mantra Japa is one of the easiest spiritual practices to do, and yet it’s also incredibly powerful.
I can repeat my mantra while I’m in the shower, while I’m driving, while I’m swimming, while I’m walking… even while I’m at the dentist. In fact, situations where I may be prone to experiencing anxiety is when I find my mantra to be particularly helpful. Repeating it over and over in my head helps me to tap into that special vibration and calm down quickly.
Chanting and Kirtan Singing
Chanting is a bit like Mantra Japa, in that it is usually done with mantras. But unlike Mantra Japa – where for best effect the mantra used for japa is always the same – with chanting various mantras are sung along to, with music.
The chanting mantras are not always Sanscrit, either. They might even be in English sometimes. But they are usually quite repetitive. The idea is to engage the mind, and also turn it towards God. So there’s often a devotional aspect to the lyrical meaning of most chants. A bit like a hymn. Sometimes these chants are called ‘bhajans’ or ‘kirtan.’ They are usually sung as ‘call and response’ where the leader of the chant sings a line first, and then everyone else repeats it back. And so on.
Personally, I find that if I’m seeking a meditative style of chanting then simple Sanscrit mantras, repeated over and over to simple tunes have a special effect calming on me. Whereas when I really tap into the devotional meaning of a chant, that’s when my heart opens in a way that I don’t usually experience during either meditation or Mantra Japa. It will often bring me to tears, in a good way.
I also love to move my body, clap and dance around during chanting. So much energy gets trapped in the body and dancing helps to release that stuck energy. Singing also moves energy.
I feel like that stuck energy is sometimes what’s contributing to my mental wheels spinning. If I can release the energy by singing, clapping and moving my body then that helps to quiet my mind. Of course, yogic stretching and many other forms of movement can help with that too. But somehow I find the combined power of the chanting and movement to be particularly effective.
When my mind is very busy – especially at the end of the day – chanting is sometimes the only thing that will help me to quiet it. In fact, in yogic traditions it’s recommended that people chant at sunset because that can be a very energetically disturbing time of day.
I have a playlist I’ve put together for myself on Spotify called “Cool Chants” and I play them pretty much every day. Sometimes they are just providing ambience in the background, and sometimes I dance and sing along.
I love going to kirtan concerts and chanting groups too. A great group kirtan chant will elevate your vibration like nothing else… and after a good chant, then meditation comes so naturally that it seems effortless to drop into a quiet space of non-thought.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned with my spiritual practices, is that whatever works for me is okay. We’re not all the same. I like to follow my flow. Who knows, I may even end up becoming a regular sit-down meditator eventually. I’ve been doing it a bit more this year than I have in the past.
My main goal however is to calm my racing mind, soothe my anxiety, and maintain a strong connection to God by doing practices that my life demonstrates to me are working. So I give myself permission to continue to explore, and find out more about practices that really help me in my day to day spiritual life. Even if they’re not called “meditation.”
As always, let me know in the comments if this post has helped you in any way…
To YOUR Abundance,
Julie Ann Cairns
P.S. A version of this article first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Living Now magazine, which is published quarterly in Australia. www.livingnow.com.au