The notion of aligning your chakras and achieving zen can often feel locked up in a new-agey vision of someone sat atop of a misty mountain at dawn, wrapped in on themselves like a pretzel.
If you go to start a meditation practice expecting to be at one with the universe and communing with small woodland creatures from the off, you’re going to end up disappointed. But if you stick with it, you may find it can decrease stress, help lower anxiety levels, improve sleep and give you better focus and clarity – and just maybe, feel more at peace with yourself, and the universe.
We spoke with Luke McLeod, the founder of Soul Alive, Australia’s first dedicated virtual meditation studio, to find out his top tips for meditation noobs. McLeod is a thought-leader with more than 16 years of experience training and practicing in a variety of different meditation techniques including, Vedic, Kundalini, Zen, Vipassana, and Mindfulness.
“When you expect certain results from meditation, this actually works against you,” he tells us. “Meditation is an exercise of release. An almost surrendering process. That's why you might have heard the phrase 'let go' with meditation. If you can do this, as in let go of what you are wanting it to do for you, then you can expect some pretty cool things to happen. Maybe even a conversation with a woodland creature.”
The three golden rules for getting into meditation
Don’t try too hard
I think most people have probably heard the numerous benefits of meditation. How it can decrease stress, help lower anxiety levels, improve sleep and make you focus better. It's often talked about as this wonder drug that will almost fix anything, and although it can certainly deliver on these expectations, what doesn't get spoken about much is how this 'wanting' element can actually hold it back from doing its work. That's why a lot of people get either frustrated with it or feel like they aren't doing it right. They're trying too hard and wanting too much from it. I see mediation as simply an equilibrium exercise. Something that balances me out.
Don’t beat yourself up if your mind wanders off
When your mind wanders off during meditation, most people think that means they're doing it wrong and beat themselves up. When in fact that moment when you notice that you've wandered off, is actually an essential part of meditation. That's a moment of self-awareness, which is the whole objective of meditation: to become more self-aware. Instead, see each time you catch yourself wandering off as a rep for the brain. The more reps you do, the stronger the mind or brain is becoming.
Find what fits
Explore all the different types of meditation until you find a style that you enjoy. Just like with physical exercise, not everyone is into CrossFit, so why would you force yourself to continue to do it if you didn't enjoy it? Meditation is very similar, there are so many different types. Start small and work your way up. Do five to ten minutes and after a few weeks, try doing 20 to 30 minutes. Find the joy in it. If you treat it as something you should do, rather than want to, you won't stick with it. I love meditating. It's like a favourite meal to me. I can't wait to do it. Find the joy in it and you'll stick with it.
It's not so much about emptying your brain as it is filling your mind
Mindfulness is the result of meditation. Meditation opens the door up to a mindful life. That's why it's called mind-full-ness. Your mind is full and operating at its peak. Your senors are firing and have this feeling of fulfillment. Your body is a storage and processing container, and therefore needs regular servicing and cleaning out.
If you vibe with McLeod's ethos, then you might find that Soul Alive is for you. “Soul Alive came about as I felt there was a gap in what was being offered in the meditation space,” he told us. “On one hand, you had these meditation apps which only offered prerecorded meditations to listen to. Although very convenient, they lacked guidance, support and community. On the other hand, you would have to go to a yoga studio or retreat of some type. These often have great guidance and support but aren't very convenient or are quite costly. Soul Alive is the meeting point of these two services. You receive the guidance, support and community as every meditation taught is a livestreamed class with an experienced guide. Plus, is really affordable and can all be accessed from your lounge room. It's a win-win.”
A Soul Alive prescription is $9 a week or $29 a month. Find out more and start a free one-week trial here.