Meditation is the practice of calming the mind, departing from ones of own thoughts and feelings, and inducing a mode of consciousness that provides the basis for new realizations. Despite all the challenges presented by new poses (known as asanas) in a yoga classes, meditating alone is frankly of the one most difficult things to accomplish for a great many people. It requires several things, including the ability to completely let go of the external world. It’s an extremely susceptible state we put ourselves in, as it works against our inner animal nature that screams out about any tick, click, or crash in the distance.

With the challenges in mind, let’s explore some simply ways to encourage both effective and sustained meditation.

1. Make Your Perfect Space

A large part of meditating is taking yourself out of the place your physical body resides in, but that doesn’t mean that space should go unrecognized when preparing to meditate. Setting up a space for meditating can go a long way to help your mind slip into meditation, and keep it relaxed as you sustain the practice. Consider these few points when choosing your perfect space to meditate:

  • Remove yourself from distractions and choose a quite area
  • Choose a space away from where you work, eat, or sleep
  • Provide yourself with a good cushion or ground to sit on
  • Create open space around the body
  • Make sure the temperature is comfortable
  • Provide an ambiance with candles and lighting, but not in a distracting manner

If your space is anything like the above, you should feel relaxed as soon as you enter it. It should have an aura of freedom, openness, and honesty.

2. Breath and Stretch

Prior to meditating, it’s always wise to fill your body with oxygen through a deep breathing exercise and perform some basic stretches to help providing fluidity in your posture and the activation of your body. Take a few moments to align yourself, come into presence with your body, and feel energy reaching out through body.

3. Japa Mala Beads

Japa mala beads are used in meditation and practicing of mantras to help focus the mind. They come in sets of 27, 54, and 108, and each bead marks a repetition of a mantra (a word, sound, or phrase we think or speak to reinforce a lesson and ultimately direct our minds toward enlightenment).

If you find that focusing the mind is the hardest part of your meditation, consider integrating mala beads and a mantra into your practice. The focus of the mind’s eye after 108 repetitions is recognizably different than when you began.

4. Aromatherapy

Our olfactory, or sense of smell, is one of the most sensitive senses. Smells can either make us cringe or deeply relax us. It is in the latter that you can use aromatherapy in meditation – a sort of sensory shortcut to supporting proper and health meditation. While some will say there are specific scents that guarantee relaxation, a big part of smell is one’s one sensitivity to it. Consider the smells that make you feel most relaxed, then find yourself an oil diffuser or incense to burn while you meditate. Here are some popular scents for relaxation:

  • Chamomile
  • Bergamot
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary sage
  • Frankincense
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Rose
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang

Finding Balance in Meditation

Regardless of the strategies you employ to improve your meditation, remember that it begins with a commitment of the self – the only real way you’ll be able to train your mind to focus is to train your mind, much in the same way you train your body. Make it a formal, recurring practice. Set aside time each day to clear your mind, focus on a thought or no thought at all, and meditate. In time, you may find that the mala beads, scents, and place begin to matter less in your pursuit of mental solace.

We want to hear from you. What do you do to encourage healthy meditation? Tell us in the comments below!