The Art of Mediation- What is it actually?
By Sally Head
Have you ever wondered what mediation is actually? Have you heard of Mediation but never tried it? This week I sat down with Elizabeth Ziegler, meditation teacher and co- owner of the Jiiva Center, 2900 Main St, Stratford, to talk about the benefits of meditation and where to start if considering to give mediation a try.
According to Ms. Ziegler, “mediation is actually a ‘practice’ and it is referred to a practice for a reason. It can be very challenging because our minds are so busy. It is difficult to release your thoughts because our minds are busy at work.”
Basically, meditation is a way to relax the mind and calm the nervous system but in order to get there it takes practice. Ms. Ziegler also reminded me that even if your mind wanders, “which it does a lot,” she added, to just acknowledge the thoughts and walk yourself back to your practice. This is a lot easier said then done. So, I thought I would give mediation a try and to see what all the buzz was about.
Jiiva Center offers three meditation classes per week. You do not have to physically go to the center to take the class, they offer hybrid classes where you can either choose to do the class from your own home or take in person. Classes run either 1-hour or up to 75 minutes in length. All classes ask their participants to dress comfortably and if they are at home to turn off any distractions such as TV’s, radios, other conversations. I arrived to class early to gather any props I may need, but I brought my own blanket and blocks just in case. I was warmly greeted by the Elizabeth and her twin sister Margaret, who had me sign my waiver and to either use a chair or to get comfortable sitting on the floor.
“Sit in a comfortable place, either on the floor with feet touching the floor or in a chair,” Ms. Ziegler said in her soft, quiet voice. The center offers chairs to those who prefer a chair. The class will then work on breath work, called Pranayama, and then the instructor will lead them on a guided meditation.
At the end of the class the participants are asked to sit in silence anywhere from 5-45 minutes. Ms. Ziegler chimed that is this silent period that many people have their most struggles. She reminded me that she would never ask anyone who has never down mediation before to sit in silence for a very long time, but would recommend a shorter time frame. She also reminded me that it is ok to move around, fidget, make small adjustments but over time it gets easier. She added, “the goal is to remain in physical stillness, move if you have to move, return to your breath and do your best.” This part was actually very soothing and uplifting. In fact, I felt like I had more energy after I left the class.
In fact, she repeated “do your best” during the class. Knowing it can be challenging to stop the mind from wandering, prevent those sneaky thoughts from entering our brains, she told us to “always go back to the breath.” If you never have tried meditation before you are in for a nice treat. There is some effort, however, to work on the breath and controlling the mind, but over time it improves. I struggled with the second breathing exercise we did was called sama-vritti, which is Sanskrit for “equal breaths/fluctuations”.
According to Ms. Ziegler, “in the beginning there is such a strong effort and probably the most important effort you will ever make because it is so life changing.”
So by now I have hopefully piqued your brain about the benefits of meditation, now what? You don’t need anything fancy, or special equipment to practice mediation, in fact, according to Ms. Ziegler, “even if you practice 5-10 minutes every day you will see and feel the benefits. It is that powerful.” Not ready to head over to Jiiva just yet, then try meditation on your own in the privacy on your home. Here is a great way to simply start a gentle meditation:
1. Find a comfortable place to sit. Preferably something thing that can keep your back and spine nice and tall. Remember you do not want to fall asleep, so it is not recommended that you lie down on your backs. A chair or on the floor is recommended. You can use yoga blocks, pillows or blankets to keep your back supported.
2. While sitting tall, try to relax the belly
3. Close your eyes and count the breath. Do 10 rounds of breaths: inhale for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4 and hold the breath for the count of 4. You can use your fingers for each time you do a round of breath. Keep your eyes closed, face relaxed and breathe both in and out through the nose.
4. “Try doing this for a few minutes each day, especially in the morning will really change your entire day,” Ms. Ziegler added.
Meditation is a simple yet powerful way to calm the body and the nervous system. It helps you to draw awareness deeper within. Take a class and learn how to calm your mind, settle your body and achieve the healing of the mind, body and spirit. Everyone can benefit from meditation and meditation is recommended to anyone and everyone, no matter your age or fitness level. Beginners to practicing meditators will benefit from a class.
If you would like to find out more about how to get started with mediation or would like to try a class, feel free to check out the Jiiva Center, located at 2900 Main Street, Stratford, by calling 203-345-7747 or by visiting www.jiivacenter.com.