In the age of social media, coronavirus, and a global push for racial equity, sitting still might seem impossible. But if there’s one powerful reason to at least try, it’s that research shows meditation, or the practice of achieving a mental state of calm, can improve mental and physical health. If you’re new to meditating or simply wish to improve your practice, take note of the following tips from @dora_kamau, a psychiatric nurse turned meditation teacher who hosts guided practices that awaken the soul, including reclaiming joy and practicing presence. Below Kamau shares how to meditate, why to practice mindfulness, her favorite meditation accounts, and more.
The physiological benefits of meditation include: reducing and controlling our stress in a more healthier way, increasing our focus and concentration, and decreasing blood pressure.
Scientifically, it’s been proven and shown in studies that meditation can change brain activity and structures in the brain.
However, the scientific benefits can really overshadow the emotional, spiritual, and mental benefits that are equally or more beneficial than science.
In my time as a meditation teacher & guide, I’ve found the biggest misconception is that meditation is the practice of “thinking about nothing.” Which it’s not, because that in itself is still a thought.
Setting Up Your Meditation Space
- Find a time that works best for you. I prefer the mornings because I feel like my mind is ripe and the quietness of mornings is something so beautiful to experience.
- You can stay in bed or set up a sacred space/altar for you to practice. I like to create a space that has the 5 senses reflected in each item to really ground myself. So find items that serve your sight, scent, taste, touch, and hearing.
- For beginners, just focusing on breathing into your belly is a great practice to start with. Many of us breathe into our chest which stimulates our fight or flight response, but by breathing into our bellies, we stimulate the vagus nerve that signals to our body to relax.
- Another beginners' breath is the box breath, so breathing in for 4, holding for 4 on the inhale, breathing out for 4, and holding for 4 on the exhale.
- Start with bite-sized practices! So maybe you start to practice for 3 minutes one week and the next week, you practice for 5 minutes. Meditation is a practice, building that mind muscle over time, so it’s best to build that muscle with daily reps!
You can focus on your breathing, do chanting, or listen to a guided meditation. Really find what works best for you, because this is your experience!
How Often to Meditate
It really depends on the individual that's practicing meditation. For me, I find practicing first thing in the morning every day for 10 minutes is helpful and supportive. However, I recognize this looks different for everyone.
Start with one day for 5 minutes in the morning, if you’re new and continue that momentum! If it doesn’t feel right for you, then decrease the time of your practice and find a time of day that works best for you.
Finding Your Zen When You Live with Other People
As weird as it sounds, the only place we really have privacy in our homes is in the bathroom. So if you don’t have access to a quiet space in your home, you can turn your showers into a place of mindfulness.
- Taking time to breathe before you enter into the shower.
- Playing music that makes you feel and look good.
- Adding essential oils or sacred scents into a bath or shower.
- Having candles in the washroom as well, and turning off the lights.
- Also just setting boundaries with family, excusing yourself, asking for a few minutes for alone time.
- Lying in bed for a few extra moments after you wake up can also be really beneficial.
Fitting Meditation Into a Busy Schedule
- Create a routine or ritual around your practice.
- Try setting a reminder or an alarm on your phone that even just reminds you to breathe.
- Check your priorities–what else are you prioritizing in your day over your well-being?
Do you have any favorite meditation apps, books, or podcasts?
My favourite meditation app is Insight Timer, hands down, because it has such a vast collection of meditation practices for you to try and it’s free!
My favourite book on meditation and mindfulness would have to be Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Sharon Salzberg.
Favorite Instagram accounts?
My favourite accounts are:
I know there’s so many more, but just to name a few!
Mindfulness is also a word that gets used a lot when discussing meditation. What are some ways people can practice mindfulness in their everyday lives?
Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in what you’re doing so in our day to day lives, really just being present. So if you’re washing your dishes, being fully present in that experience where you feel the soap suds on your hands connecting to the plate you’re washing, you notice the temperature of the water on your skin, you’re aware of your bodily sensations as you dry your plates.
Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, and that just requires us to be present in the moment.
Your next Beyond Wellness Retreat is scheduled for August. Can you explain the purpose of these retreats?
I’m a firm believer that you can’t heal in the same environment that made you sick. So, with our Beyond Wellness Retreats, we invite others to heal in an environment that is supportive of re-nourishing and re-connecting you mind, body, and soul. We offer mindfulness, meditation, yoga, sound healing, herbal healing, and lectures on various life topics. We get to explore the beautiful island of St. Lucia and connect with other like-minded beings from all over the world.
The idea isn’t to retreat from your life or escape from the life you’ve created for yourself, but to be equipped with tools and knowledge that can allow you to find the beauty in where you are.
What inspired you to become a meditation teacher?
We all become healers through either interest or initiation. For me, I was initiated from the time I was born to be a testimony. And to be that testimony, I had to withstand a few very difficult life tests.
Meditation was one of the medicines that allowed me to heal myself and I wanted to also share this healing with others. So here I am.
Follow @dora_kamau for more meditation tips and guided practices