Humans pretty much carry the weight of our day and the energy we encounter with us. You might feel it in your back or feel overall physically exhausted and worn out. As a yoga teacher, I try to convince everyone, especially people of color, how awesome and transformative meditation can be. Why POC? The experience of black and brownness can be traumatic. When considering meditation and people of color, it’s important to note the impacts of race-based trauma and the overall effects it has on us as individuals and as a community. Essentially, race-based trauma has seven points of impact on the human experience: depression, anger, intrusion, physical, avoidance, hypervigilance, and low self-esteem. Sound relatable? Because of this, it's important people of color find healthy outlets, coping mechanisms, and self-care routines in dealing with a world and society that is not kind to them.
Meditation helps reduce anxiety, stress, depression, improves cardiovascular health, improves overall bodily functions, aids in sleep and creates a stream of focus and whole body awareness — basically, it’s dope and beneficial.
1. Start slow
- It’s really hard to find stillness in the mind. It can be scary, uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing because we aren’t used to or taught to be still. The mantra today is “go, go GO! Resumé has to be bangin', you have to get out and be different and greater than the older generation, you have to fight EVERYDAY against microaggressions and Caucasian antics, politics, misogyny, police, etc. and somehow keep it together because “that’s what we do.” Hypervigilance is exhausting, burnout is very real. It’s OK to slow down, our minds and bodies appreciate us a lot when we do. One-to-three-minute meditations are excellent! Five minutes can make a whole difference in your day. Guided meditations can also be found easily online and through podcasts.
2. If you fall asleep, it’s OK
- In complete undisturbed relaxation, that’s probably what your body needs in that moment. When I first started meditating, I took a lot of naps and went to bed early. During that time, I also couldn’t remember the last time I had slept for four hours a night, let alone eight. Honoring the physical needs of your body is necessary for creating a positive experience.
- Sometimes getting your mind to focus long enough just doesn’t work right off the bat. Jotting your thoughts or feelings down eases the clutter in your mind and clears space for what’s important. The writing doesn’t even need to make sense, honestly. The only thing that matters is that there are fewer things cluttering your mind and there’s room for better energy.
4. Don’t connect and set an intention
- Thoughts don’t stop just because you want them to. Writing or focusing on an intention (thought, goal, and/or feeling) that you want to manifest or see happen will help the mind focus once you settle into a quiet space. What’s important to remember when meditating is that you don’t stop thinking about things, your mind is just trained to observe the thoughts. Now what is “observing thoughts?” Basically, you acknowledge the thought BUT there is no emotional connection or impulse toward that. In that space, you train the mind to think on an intention or revel in the quietness of the space.
5. Find the right meditation for you
- Sitting in a room and getting Zen isn’t for everyone. The great thing about meditating and finding a quiet space is that it's uniquely yours. No one can take it from you and no one has power in that space but you. Exercising, cooking, reading, gardening, quiet walks, painting etc; if it works for you, go for it.
6. Focus on breathing
- Ever find yourself in a frenzy and feeling anxious? Try inhaling while counting, hold the breath, and then exhale while also counting. Continue to do this in rounds. Regulation of the breath has tremendous power in reducing anxiety and calming the mind. It’s a great way to ease into any meditation. Even if you don’t have time to sit for an extended period of time, one to four rounds of controlled breathing makes the difference in going from stressed and frenzy to calm and unbothered.
Meditation isn’t just for white women in yoga pants, Buddhists or the Earthy artsy types — we can all benefit. One of the best things we can do is take care of our minds. It's very easy and natural to be frustrated with meditating; it’s not an easy or instant process. It can even be annoying at times. It’s a steady and subtle process. We’re conditioned to have active minds and lifestyles, but we as individuals deserve peace; we deserve to honor ourselves with kindness and patience.