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Breathe In: Your 30-Day Mindful Meditation Challenge Is Here

We know: Meditation is intimidating. Like, really intimidating. One study found that people would literally choose to shock themselves with jolts of electricity rather than sit alone with their thoughts. 

But that knee-jerk reluctance may be due to the fact that a lot of people have misconceptions about meditation, says Black Girl In Om founder Lauren Ash. For instance, you can practice mindfulness without doing the whole sit-down-and-om thing most people think of as meditation. (That has benefits too, but it’s not your only option.) “When developing your wellness practice, give yourself permission to ask yourself what you need,” Ash explains. “A lot of us are not used to getting quiet and paying attention to our intuition. Give yourself time to listen.”

Here, Ash has created a 30-day mindful meditation challenge, with the goal of helping you to ease into a routine and to reap all of the benefits of this habit. You don’t need to follow these exercises to the letter. Think of them as suggestions, not rules. “Allow yourself to step into a practice that feels accessible and encouraging, rather than impossible,” Ash says. If going from never meditating to meditating every day feels overwhelming, try meditating once or twice a week. If five minutes feels too long, start with two. It’s not about checking off a task on this list every day, but rather developing a practice that works for you. 

Lauren Ash is the founder of Black Girl In Om.| Check out the exercise component of Clean Slate 2020 here, and the food component here!

WEEK 1


Day 1: Set an intention

“When you begin to develop a practice, take some time to do some stream-of-consciousness writing in a journal,” Ash suggests. “Reflect on where your life is right now: What’s going on with you? How are you feeling? What in your life needs attention? For example, if you realize, I need to grieve the loss of someone important to me, you might decide to take up gratitude journaling, where you offer thanks for what you received from this person. Allow yourself to get clear on what you need, and then let that shape what your wellness practice looks like.”

Day 2: Meditate for five-ish minutes

“When I hear people say that they want to start meditating, they're usually like, Okay, I'm going to meditate for 25 minutes a day, every day,” Ash says. “Believe me when I say that 25 minutes is going to feel like three hours. I now practice Vedic meditation which entails 22 minutes a day, twice a day, but I started my meditation practice committing to five minutes and built from there — it wasn't an overnight thing.” Pick whatever number feels do-able, even if that’s one minute.  

Also, if you want to meditate at night, go for it. “I like meditating in the morning because it sets the tone for the rest of the day, but some people find that adding one more thing to their morning routine is overwhelming, and evening works best for them,” Ash says. “It all depends on the individual and what they have going on.”

At this stage, it’s more important to create a ritual that feels fun. “Light some incense or a candle, turn on some ambient music, and allow yourself to feel good,” Ash says. Lie down if you want to, or prop your back against a wall. “There’s this idea that meditation is sitting perfectly still, with a straight spine and crossed legs. Sure, in certain meditation traditions that’s the case, but for beginners, it’s important to be comfortable.”

As for the nitty-gritty how to? “I’m a big proponent of mindfulness meditation, which allows you to cultivate awareness about what you’re feeling,” Ash says. “To begin, close your eyes and focus on your breath, without changing it. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and your body as you inhale and exhale. From there, shift your awareness to all the sounds in the room, then recognize the thoughts that are in your mind.” And expect your mind to wander. “It isn’t about quieting our minds. Our minds are intended to think and project, and to go back and reflect,” Ash says. “Mindfulness meditation is about allowing yourself to exist above all of your mind’s chatter, and see what is actually going on.” 

Day 3: Write one paragraph in your journal

“It could be bullet points listing what you thought about or learned or realized throughout the day, it could be a gratitude list, or it could be a list of affirmations or desires. The point is to write something down, and consistency is key," Ash says. "I’ve gone through four or five journals this year alone, and I can't emphasize how valuable they’ve been as a means of documenting who I am and who I'm becoming. Journaling doesn't have to take any one form — really allow yourself to make the practice your own.” 

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Day 4: Slow down your morning routine

“You can apply a meditative approach to anything — brush your teeth but instead of rushing, be really mindful of every single stroke,” Ash explains. “It’s the same with washing your face or taking a shower — slow down, love your body, and really feel your being as you wake up.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Write one paragraph in your journal.

Day 5:  Bring in community by opening up to a friend. 

“Community is so important to wellness; we aren’t meant to journey alone. If you feel ready, open up to a friend and share what you need,” Ash says. “This could be something as simple as saying, Hey, I've realized that I really need to start focusing on healing from trauma. Identify who in your community you can share yourself with and practice vulnerability, knowing you needn’t be perfect, scripted, or get anything ‘right.’”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Write one paragraph in your journal.

WEEK 2


Day 1: Lengthen your meditation, if you feel ready. 

Consider adding a minute or two to your meditation, or try meditating twice a day instead of once. “I meditate in both the morning and evening, but it’s really up to each individual to decide what’s best,” Ash says.

Plus: Write one paragraph in your journal.

Day 2: Create a vision board. 

Spend an afternoon with a corkboard or poster board, and cover it in images or affirmations that express the energy you want to bring into your life.“I approach vision boarding as more of a mood board. There’s a general vibe and a general direction of what could be, rather than a set list of goals,” Ash explains. “Sometimes I’ll see the specific things that are on my boards come to life, but other times it's more of an energy I’m calling in. It’s about setting a direction.” 

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Write one paragraph in your journal.

Day 3: Try mindful eating

“Instead of either rushing your meal, really allow yourself to savor your food,” Ash says. “Pay attention to every single bite. Think about whether your food contributes to your wellbeing or takes away from it. You might find that you eat more or less. You’re likely going to be able to digest better, because you're going to be chewing all of your food rather than scarfing it down. When I allow myself the space and time to really be present with my food, I eat completely differently than when I’m rushed.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Write one paragraph in your journal.

Day 4: Try restorative yoga

“Right now, there’s a trend in the West towards fast-paced, athletic yoga,” Ash says. “Everyone wants to do splits and put their legs behind their heads. But I’ve found some of the most profound, beautiful moments in restorative yoga. It provides a space for deep reflection, because I’m forced to move slowly. I’m able to see the depth of my breath, and listen to the thoughts that come up while I’m holding a pose.

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write one paragraph in your journal.

Day 5: Bring in community by attending a class 

“There are so many spaces, online and off, that offer classes related to different areas of wellness,” Ash says. “Maybe you find a local yoga studio that has a workshop on forgiveness. It might feel terrifying to actually sign up for it, but you never know who and what is waiting for you on the other side of your decision to support yourself.” You could also try taking a meditation class or attending a panel on wellness.

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write one paragraph in your journal. 

WEEK 3


Day 1: Lengthen your daily meditation.

Again, if you feel ready, add a little more time to your practice.

Plus: Write one paragraph in your journal. 

Day 2: Throughout the day, wait to respond to your phone 

Try applying mindfulness to your tech life. “When someone calls or texts you, allow yourself to actually contemplate whether or not you want to answer it rather than simply reacting immediately,” Ash says. “Ask yourself: Do I have time and space for this interaction?” You could try putting your phone on airplane mode or leaving it in a different room for a while — the idea is to begin to change your relationship so that you’re not at the beck and call of your text notifications.

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 3: Take a nature walk (or run). 

“Nature nourishes me: the fresh air, the proximity to the energy of mountains or ocean or desert, the feeling of the sun,” Ash says. “When I’m home, I begin my day with a run to the ocean. Being in nature helps me find clarity.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.  

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 4: Create an affirmation. 

Affirmations are positive, empowering statements you say out loud to yourself. “I love affirmations. I only speak what I know is in alignment with my journey. Your affirmation will be completely different depending on what you’re journeying through,” Ash says. “But a simple one that I speak every day is I am love. I believe that love is the direct opposite of fear. Saying I am love helps me feel empowered every day.” Other examples include “I am worthy, just as I am” and “I speak and think kindly about myself.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 5: Find an online space you feel comfortable in. 

“Black Girl In Om has a membership experience coming soon for women of color, and there are so many spaces online that offer support,” Ash says. “I love Lalah Delia’s Vibrate Higher Daily, which is a digital platform all about tapping into your inner power. So many people are offering safe spaces — go towards what you need.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

WEEK 4


Day 1: Lengthen your daily meditation. 

If your meditation now feels like it goes by too quickly, try adding on another minute or two.

Plus: Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 2: Evaluate your social media habits

Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself — or just bored. “It's important for us all to assess what is and isn’t healthy about our approach," Ash says. "Is your struggle that you're scrolling and then it's been an hour? Maybe you set a timer. Or is your struggle comparison? Maybe you do a digital detox. I unfollowed everyone on my personal Instagram — I don’t need to be scrolling.” That’s right: although she still posts to her page, Ash now follows zero people, so there's no feed to scroll through.

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 3: Dance 

“It’s highly underrated, but I love putting on some music and dancing. We so easily lose our sense of childhood joy,” Ash says. “Dancing and not taking yourself too seriously can be a lot of fun, and movement is always a form of release from anxiety and stress. Plus, it allows you to tap into your inner child.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time. 

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 4: Try a guided meditation

If you’d like to try a new form of meditation, listen to a guided meditation exercise, a recording in which someone talks you through a meditation, guiding your thoughts and breathing. Here’s one Ash created, but there are many others available online, too.

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Write two paragraphs in your journal.

Day 5: Take a healing bath

On your last day, focus on restoration. “Baths have always been connected to ancestral healing for me, because my grandmother always took baths. It was a kind of ritual release for her. After she passed away, I realized that this was a beautiful way for me to step into my own chapter of rejuvenation,” Ash says. “I go into the bathtub, I allow myself to feel my feelings. I make a conscious prayer or meditation, and release all my sadness and anxiety with the water, down the drain. When I step out of the bath, I feel renewed. A bath like this can help you process challenging emotions.”

Plus: Meditate for your chosen time.

Write two paragraphs in your journal.




from Refinery29

Breathe In: Your 30-Day Mindful Meditation Challenge Is Here Breathe In: Your 30-Day Mindful Meditation Challenge Is Here Reviewed by streakoggi on January 01, 2020 Rating: 5

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