By Devon Combs, Leader of the award-winning Unbridled Retreat
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu
Horses live in the present moment. They aren’t worried about the fight they had with their spouse yesterday, or what the weather will be tomorrow. Because they live in the moment, their natural state is peace and serenity. Horses are great meditation teachers.
Science shows that meditation lowers stress, increases mental clarity, and improves sleep. My favorite benefit of meditation is it quiets the monkey chatter in our mind so we can listen to our intuition.
When we are NOT present, we miss out on the richness of life; the smell of our dog’s fur as we hug him, the way the sun feels on our skin, a smile from a loved one, the flavor of dark chocolate as we savor every bite.
By training our mind to live more in the present moment, we stop seeking peace and serenity, and realize it’s right here, right now. Below is a guide for getting started…
How to Meditate in 7 Simple Steps
1. Sit upright comfortably. If you’re like me and you try to meditate while lying down, you’ll fall asleep. Instead, sit in a comfortable chair with an upright back, get a meditation cushion, or fold a pillow and sit cross-legged on it, which will help support your back.
2. Breathe Deeply. Ah, the breath, the wonderful breath. It’s our ANCHOR to the present moment and a tool available at all times. Start by taking 10 deeps breaths and counting to 5 during each exhale and inhale. Allow your lungs to fill up as you inhale (it feels good to take a deep inhale) and then slowly exhale through your nose, allowing your shoulders to drop. Repeat.
3. Gently close your eyes. If you’re not doing so already, I suggest closing your eyes to help you focus. It’s easy to give our mind an excuse to wander when we are staring at our laundry that needs to be done.
4. Slowly scan your body, and notice any sensations. I love this step because it’s checking in with our body. How many times a day do we ask others, “How are you?” A lot. How many times a day do we ask our body, “How are you?” Hardly ever. It’s an opportunity to check in with your body which is an effective way to bring you into the present moment. Start by focusing on your feet and moving up to the top of your head. Notice if there is tension anywhere, and if there is, consciously send breath in the direction of that body part.
5. Be aware of any thoughts you are having. Do you ever get stuck in overthinking? Here’s a chance to notice your thoughts WITHOUT getting roped in by them. Imagine each thought is like a cloud in the sky and you’re the observer. Notice what thoughts are present, “I need to call my mom, I have to go to the grocery store”. Allow each thought to come up, and pass by, without any judgment or attachment.
6. When your mind wanders, focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, which it will, come home to your breath. Your breath is the the number one tool to help you stay grounded, connected, and focused in the moment. When you focus on your breathing,
your heart rate slows down, your mind begins to quiet, and your body can relax.
7. Gently open your eyes when you are ready. I suggest practicing meditation for 5-10 minutes in the beginning. The best time of day to do it is in the morning, BEFORE having coffee, if you’re a caffeine consumer. Connecting to your breath will set the tone for your day. It’s a positive and empowering tool to practice beyond the pillow, and throughout the day. Even if you don’t have an opportunity to close your eyes, you can practice conscious
breathing during a meeting, in a traffic jam, or in a conversation.