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Meditation Is Not a One Size Fits All

How to Modify Meditation

Are you a meditator that is constantly approached for meditation advice? Whether you intend to teach or not, you may find yourself guiding someone through meditation. Every and anyone can meditate, but the practice is not a one-size-fits-all.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind for your students.

Every person is on their own spiritual journey. Some may not even be on a spiritual journey or don’t know they are.

· Ask them to share their reason for coming to sit in meditation.

· Honor that reason. Meet them there.

· If they don’t know, can’t articulate why, or don’t want to share, honor that, too.

When someone allows you to guide them through meditation, they’re entrusting you to their physical and mental space. Proceed with respect.

There may be countless motivators that bring a person to sit in silence.

· Focus on the meditation, not the problem, reason, or goal.

· Don’t overpromise.

· Keep the meditation simple.

· Focus on the current meditation, not the lifelong practice.

The benefits of meditation are often-touted. Because of this, some may believe a ten-minute session is all it takes. One can become centered and feel a sense of peace with only ten minutes. However, long-term benefits are realized incrementally. The reason a person meditates (to lower stress, blood pressure, to gain clarity, creativity, etc.) can be achieved­ — but it requires consistent daily practice.

During yoga, instructors offer modifications for each pose. Meditation instructors can do the same. This reinforces meeting the student where they are. Start by modifying your language.

· Are you teaching a Sanskrit mantra? If the meditator is not accustomed to, or not comfortable hearing Sanskrit, the mantra will become more of a distraction than a tool. Translate the mantra to English. Ask them if they have a mantra they use.

· If they are open to Sanskrit, keep the mantra under three words. Assure them that as they repeat it in their mind, the words will eventually flow, become “blurred” and not distinctly pronounced.

· Do they like using certain words as a focal point? Exchange words as necessary: God, energy, source, universe, mystery, law, frequency, hope.

· Skip mantras altogether and just focus on the breath.

· Drop adjectives, labels. If explaining a Buddhist teaching or Sufi breathing, for example, drop the label. Simply explain “a teaching” or “a breathing technique.” Identifying teachings as belonging to, or coming from, a certain philosophy or religion may be a distraction.

· If sitting on the floor cross-legged isn’t comfortable, offer a cushion, a chair; stand or do a walking meditation.

· Are they auditory or visual learners?

· Bring in music or singing bowls to help.

· Is a guided meditation needed to start? Maybe a lit candle is enough.

· Do tactile objects help: mala beads, a blanket over their lap?

· Do certain scents calm or cause lightheadedness? Remove or add essential oils, incenses, candles, or perfumes.

· Debunk the misconception that their mind should be free of all thoughts. Assure them that they will have thoughts! Remind them about “the gap.”

· Give permission to wiggle, move and adjust their body. The duration of meditation is highly dependent on how comfortable one is mentally and physically.

· Allow them to keep their eyes open.

· Allow them to stop a meditation at any time. Keep in mind that the student may have past traumas, fears, or phobias that come up. Respect their desire to end a session. Offer emotional support and closure to that session.


· Meet the meditator where they are on their journey.

· Focus on the meditation, not the problem that brings them to meditate.

· Offer English translations of Sanskrit mantras.

· Don’t overpromise the benefits of meditation during one meditation session.

· Take into account their learning style.

· Give them permission to have thoughts, move their body and to stop a meditation.

By day, Julie Guardado writes and teaches yoga (RYT 200) & meditation (M-CI). By night, she works as a registered nurse in hospice. If you like what you’ve read, click the “follow.” Every follow, clap, and reader is appreciated.

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