Many of us at EAT.PRAY.MOVE have experienced profound benefits from the practice of meditation. From stress reduction to healing chronic illness to dealing with injuries, we have all found it a necessary tool in our wellness regime. One of the most passionate advocates for this practice is Jen Carter, a yoga and meditation teacher for the "Mindful Movement" EPM retreats. We sat down with her to demystify meditation and share her experiences.
Jen, how long have you had a meditation practice?
I started meditating about five years ago after an accident. I wasn’t able to work while I was recovering, so I found the practice to be a relief from not only the physical pain, but also the mental “mind chatter” that I experienced when I wasn’t as busy as I had been while working.
Most people don't start a meditation practice without some sort of external motivator, be it stress, illness, etc. What created that need for you?
The accident was definitely the trigger for me to start meditating, but now I view meditation as a necessary part of my daily routine. I would skip brushing my teeth before I would skip meditating for at least a minute in the morning! I often tell my students to try to think about meditation as “cleaning the mind” just like they would think of brushing their teeth before leaving the house.
When you started, what style or form did you use?
When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. I just went on Youtube and found free guided meditations that I would listen to. Once I realized the benefit, I wanted to learn more, so I just googled different ways to meditate. I then enrolled in a meditation teacher training course. That course was the life changer for me. Before that class, I had never meditated in a group, so I didn’t realize the power of the collective consciousness in meditation. Meditating alone is powerful, but meditating in a group is amazing!
What change has it created in your life?
Meditation has created profound changes in my overall happiness, ability to deal with stress, my mood, my cravings, ability to visualize and manifest, the list goes on and on. I seriously can’t imagine how I ever lived without meditation!
What does your practice look like now?
I meditate every morning for at least 30 minutes before I go out into the world. The first thing I do when I get up is have a cup of hot water with lemon. That enables me to quickly use the restroom, so I’m not distracted by the urge during meditation. I also put my little chihuahua in his crate, so he doesn’t come and jump on me. I use a yoga bolster to sit on with my legs crossed. A bolster isn’t necessary for everyone, but I have found that sitting on the bolster helps keep my legs from falling asleep. If you don’t have a bolster, you can always sit in a chair with your feet firmly planted, legs uncrossed. I sit up tall with an elongated spine, so that energy can flow freely up and down the spine.
What kind of meditation do you teach on retreats?
I really try to keep it simple whenever I teach meditation. There are so many styles of meditation, but I have found that whatever works best for the individual is the best form! The most important thing for me to relay when I am teaching meditation is that we do keep it simple, so that we can incorporate it into our life daily. I do like to spoil our guests on the retreats with yoga nidra!
What do you wish people knew about meditation?
My goal in life is to spread the word on the SIMPLICITY of meditation! I often hear that people don’t meditate because they can’t sit still and their mind wanders! The funny thing is that that is pretty much everyone! The whole practice is called a “practice” for a reason. Sometimes my mind will wander for 29 out of the 30 minutes that I am meditating. It is that 29th minute when I notice that my mind is wandering that is the sweet spot. Every time you notice your mind is wandering, you just bring your focus back to the breath! Over time, it will wander less and less as your mind becomes stronger and stronger. Just think about your brain like a muscle you are trying to strengthen. You don’t get a six pack of abs overnight, but with a daily practice of sit-ups, slowly over time, you will get stronger and stronger! When you look back 6 weeks, 6 months, and 6 years later, you will be amazed at the transformation you have made!
Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Jen!
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