Meditation can increase our creativity, happiness and fulfillment, and is known to have many positive effects on the physical body. It is often the foundation of many spiritual practices and teachings, and assists in calming the mind, enhancing intuition and awakening the soul to connect us with our higher self.
Sarah McLean, bestselling author of the book “Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation,” and founder of the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Ariz., joined Elevated Existence Magazine founder, Tammy Mastroberte, to kick off the new year as part of the Living an Elevated Existence Mind, Body and Soul Summit, and revealed her 5 Essentials for meditation, sample mantras to use when first starting out, and so much more.
She started by explaining there are a variety of forms meditation can take, including two overall types – Open Awareness, which is where you focus on sights or sounds – and Focused Meditation, where you use a mantra, or focus on a candle flame, sound you chant or movement. The most highly researched form of meditation is mindfulness meditation, also known as insight meditation or breath awareness meditation, and there is also meditation for transcendence.
“Meditation that allows for transcendence is transcendental meditation, primordial sound meditation or other forms of mantra meditations,” said McLean. “When you start the mantra you are aware of where you are and what you are doing, and then you transcend body awareness and breath awareness. You transcend time and even who you think you are and your ideas about yourself and the world.”
However, meditation only works if you do it and if you choose one that you like to do, she said, explaining there are a number of myths that come along with the practice. The first is looking for a mystical or spiritual experience to happen during meditation.
“When we are looking for an experience like that in meditation, it can really inhibit the natural unfoldment of your spiritual awareness,” she said on the call. “The true mystical and spiritual experiences happen as we are living our lives. When your intuition is so strong and you know that you are suppose to go and talk to that person, or you know you are suppose to take a left and you do and it takes you into a magical experience.”
Another myth is meditation is only done correctly when the mind is totally clear. Meditation does help one to clear the mind, but the benefit of the practice often happens when you are not on the meditation mat, said McLean.
“What we learn to do in meditation is to create a different relationship with our mental activity. We learn that it is going to go on anyway because it’s the nature of your mind to think, just like it’s the nature of your mind to see,” she explained. “Your job in meditation is to shift without too much effort, to the focus of your meditation, whether it’s a mantra, the candle flame or breath awareness, and just keep coming back without judgment. Without adding more thoughts to it. There is a coherence created and a clarity created. Even if you sit down and all you do is have thoughts, as long as you keep coming back and refocusing on your meditation with a gentle awareness, then you transform that reactivity center of the brain.”
There is so much research available now showing the amygdala – the part of the brain that is reactive – is where benefits of meditation can be seen. This part of the brain starts to loosen its hold on us in terms of our reaction, and by retraining the brain to go back to the mantra or the breath, we are creating more spaciousness, she said.
“Sometimes we get an impulse in meditation to get up and send that email or make that phone call or go have some food, but if you sit through it, you are transforming your response, you are changing the habits, the neuronal pathways, so that you shift that reactionary response,” McLean noted.
She also shared her 5 Essentials for Meditation, which are:
1. Treat Yourself Well, and Be Kind to Yourself
2. Have No Expectations about What Should Happen
3. Have a Beginner’s Mind Open to Possibilities
4. Don’t Try Too Hard (less is more in meditation)
5. Don’t Give Up
Stress Relief From Meditation
Often when we are the most restless, we feel the least like sitting to meditate, but often that is when we need it most. And when we are in the midst of a meditation and become restless, this is actually a sign we are releasing stress from the mind and body, said McLean.
“Meditation is the perfect antidote for stress,” she said. “As the mind settles down and the body settles down, you start to create this coherence. What happens is this coherence helps to eliminate any built up stress in the nervous system. There is a purification process that goes on, and impurities start to move out as you are sitting there saying your mantra. They start to generate movement, whether it’s movement of the mind, movement of the body or movement of the emotions.”
One key point to remember is when our mind becomes active with thoughts during a meditation, it is often of our to-do list or current, mundane issues we have to do. But these thoughts have no relationship to the stress we are releasing, said McLean.
“The fact that you are having thoughts, the movement of the thoughts, is an indication you are releasing stress, but the content of the thoughts has no particular correlation to the stress you are releasing,” she explained.
To hear more from Sarah McLean, including simple mantras to get you started, register for the FREE Living an Elevated Existence Summit, and get 4 FREE bonuses just for signing up! You will have access to 26 top experts on a variety of mind, body and spirit topics.